Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Not all sports are first past the post

By Bob Moran in The Guardian 19 April 2011

The above cartoon in this mornings Guardian was to some up the two cross party events yesterday by the Yes and No campaigns in the AV referendum. However, it also draws to mind the No2AV literature which starting arriving on people doormats yesterday morning as well. There were three sportsmen from three different sports featured inside.

The first was Amir Khan the boxer, the timing of his appearance in this literature couldn't have been worse timed. At the weekend Khan retained his title when a doctor stepped in to controversially say that a cut above Khan's opponent eye was too bad for the fight to continue. The thing is in boxing there such event do occur, on Saturday Khan was ahead on points at the time the doctor intervened, but there have been occasions when the boxer leading on the judges score cards has been deemed unable to continue because of a cut. Sometimes such cuts are also the result of illegal actions earlier in the fight like a boxer using the thumb of his glove, or rubbing heads together. Even if the referee has giving warnings or point deductions for such activity if this results in the other boxer eventually bleeding, the fight could be stopped and given to the opponent who may have cheated and may have been trailing to get that far.

The second was Olympic rower Sir Steve Redgrave. Redgrave took part in one of the events that has a strange route to getting to the finals of an event the repechage. This is a way that the rowers who didn't quite qualify for the final as of right in their heats have a second race in which to do this. Redgrave himself is not superhuman and has had off days that have necessitated going through a repechage to get to a final. He's even come through a repechage and gone on to win gold at World Championships. If he'd been trying to qualify for a USA or Kenyan position in a Olympic team athletics event there would have been no repechage no second change, the top three only get to go to the Olympics there is no discretion for the selectors. Yet Redgrave and other rowers do benefit from having that second change within their sport at the highest levels.

The final choice is Sir Bobby Moore the captain of the 1966 England World Cup football sq. Yet in football we now have the misnomer of a Champions League, when in some cases the team that has come 4th in their national championship can go on to lift the title, unlike in the old European Cup where the national champions and the holders fought it out over knockouts from the start. Even as a Liverpool fan I have to admit that our 5th title in 2005 was achieved from just such a position, champions of Europe despite not being champions of England since 1990. Or teams can lose out on aggregate to a team in the various group stages and then go on to win the trophy. There has even been cases of teams being unbeaten on the way through losing out to a team that had lost in the group stages going out on away goals after two draws in the knock out stages.

Football like boxing or rowing is a game where the team that is leading at the first stage isn't always the winner at the end. As Kris Akabushi said when he appeared at a Yes2AV event even in the 100m at the Olympics there are the first and second round and semi-finals. It is rare that the eventual champion will have won every round of that race. What is important is that they win on the final round. Just like Alternative Vote it is getting over the final line, the one that is set at 50%, the one that doesn't move that is important. That will lead to more competitive elections where you are the IPPR report said yesterday.

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