12th February 2021

Gone to Pot? What works and what does not — by the man who tried to convince UEFA back in 2013

Andrea Agnelli, the president of Juventus and the European Club Association (ECA), is supporting UEFA’s proposals for Champions League reform including what is mistakenly called the ‘Swiss System’ by saying: “It’s a great system because it’s scalable”. But what is the Swiss System and is UEFA really going to adapt it?

A Swiss format, first used in chess and now widely used in esports, is a competition format that uses neither round-robin groups or playoffs (in the first stage). Instead of pre-picking the rivals of each team before the tournament, every succeeding matchday is based on results in the previous matchday.

Hence in each matchday, teams face rivals with matching performances. Thus, the second matchday features matches between all winning teams and matches between all losing teams.

The third matchday features matches between teams who won both their matches, teams who won one match and lost another and teams who lost both games…and so on, until a set maximum of matches has been played and the tournament can move to a regular knockout.

A modified Swiss-System is used in ESL One tournaments, perhaps the biggest esports events today. The last ESL ONE Germany hosted 16 teams from Europe using a modified five-match match first stage, but teams reaching three wins qualified for the playoffs, and teams with three defeats were eliminated.

Flexibility

The ‘real’ Swiss format offers some flexibility in terms of the number of teams and matches and sees all teams placed in one table instead of being divided to groups. However, it seems unlikely UEFA would adopt a format in which clubs know their next rivals at only one or two weeks’ notice.

What UEFA is currently analysing and either mistakenly or mal-intentionally calling the a “Swiss System” is in fact an implementation of the MatchVision Pot System©. Under the Pot System©, teams are divided to different pots, and then each team plays a match against a rival from each pot, including its own pot.

So, for example in a 36 team FIFA World Cup (using today’s FIFA Ranking), Brazil from Pot A would face three rivals, as today: France (Pot A), Switzerland (Pot B) and Japan (Pot C); while Japan would face, besides Brazil (Pot A), Netherlands (Pot B) and Tunisia (Pot C).

All teams would go into one general standing and after the three matchdays, the top 16 would qualify to the Round of 16, with the first place facing the team in the 16th spot, second vs. the 15th, and so on. To make it as simple as possible, and while it is possible to twitch the format to have different settings of matches, Leandro recommends that team plays one team from each Pot, so if UEFA wanted to continue with six matchdays, it could divide the teams into six Pots. If the goal were eight matchdays, then eight Pots, etc.

Presentation to UEFA

I first presented the Pots System© I had developed to senior UEFA official Giorgio Marchetti in 2013, in Tel Aviv, during the UEFA U-21 Euro in Israel, and then talked with UEFA on several occasions about this system. Always the answer was negative, born of an apparent reluctantance to adopt a new format, so the leaked documents were a surprise both because UEFA had been contrary to the idea yet now intended to take them without recognising any intellectual property right.

Also, the reported proposals demonstrate a poor implementation of the idea with many flaws. For example, the system has failed in some tournaments which used an overcomplicated implementation – as UEFA appears to intend with some teams playing more matches against Pot A teams than others.

CONCACAF, the central and north American confederation, used the Pot System© in the Nations League Qualification for 34 teams in four matchdays, but chose not to adopt the tie-breaking system recommended by MatchVision (also developed by the company). That meat that El Salvador who, under the MatchVision tie-breaking system would have qualified to League A, ended up in League B on goal difference.

Years of work

The tie-breaking system, the scheduling of matchdays and other aspects are the product of 14 years’ work by myself and MatchVision, using trials in numerous tournaments in different sports and continents to ensure that correct implementation in a major competition would work smoothly.

A bad implementation could have many bad consequences for everyone:

1.  for fans, who may not understand it and could resist future innovative changes in tournament formats;
2.  for UEFA because of its reputation and economic demands;
3.  for the clubs, because some would be eliminated from the tournament because of implementational flaws and not based on sporting merit;
4. for the media, because instead of focusing on the beauty of football, they may focus on the problems caused by poor implementation; and
5.  for myself, because my intellectual property would not be recognised and my work would not be used appropriately.

• This article was originally published on Keir Radnedge’s internet site on 7 February 2021. Click here for the original.

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