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Between-seasons competitive balance in European football: review of existing and development of specially designed indices

  • Vasileios Manasis EMAIL logo and Ioannis Ntzoufras


Competitive balance is a key issue for any professional sport league substantiated by its effect on demand for league games or other associated products. This work focuses on the measurement of between-seasons competitive balance, the longest time-wise dimension, which captures the relative quality of teams across seasons. The review of the existing indices examines their applicability in the context of European football. Given that domestic championships are multi-prized tournaments, as opposed to the more common North American unitary structure with a single prize, a set of specially designed indices that capture the complex structure of European football are introduced. An empirical investigation, using data from the English Premier League, further elucidates the main features of all appropriate indices by exploring their value and trend. It may be inferred that between-seasons competitive balance in England worsens through seasons mainly due to the very low ranking mobility of the top teams through seasons.

Corresponding author: Vasileios Manasis, Department of Statistics, Athens University of Economics and Business, Patision 76 Athens 10434, Greece, e-mail:

  1. 1

    The seasonal dimension refers to the relative quality of teams in the course of a particular season.

  2. 2

    Even though they do not refer to Haan et al. (2007), Mizak, Neral and Stair (2007) propose the adjusted churn, which is fundamentally the same as the normalised index of dynamics.

  3. 3

    For instance, the first two teams can be equally weighted by replacing DNt,1 by DNt,2 in (19).

  4. 4

    The decline in competitive balance noticed in aG, is attributed to the fact the index is calculated using the number of teams entering the top five positions in a five seasons span.

  5. 5

    A partial index provides information for a few teams, whereas a summary index provides information for all the teams that make up the league.


Empirical results from Bundesliga and the French League 1 further elucidate the key points addressed on the paper.

From Figure 3A and B, it can be verified that most of the partial indices display high values indicative of unbalanced tournaments across seasons in both Bundesliga and League 1. There is a concern about the champion’s dynamic domination especially in League 1 during the last decade. On the other hand, the effectiveness of the promotion-relegation rule as a regulatory mechanism is not as notable as in the Premier League. Based on the comprehensive SDNt,KI index, a significant trend of third degree is found only for Bundesliga in which competitive balance declines during the last decade in a similar pattern as in the Premier League.

Figure 3 (A) Moving averages of lag five for partial indices in Bundesliga from 1963/1964 to 2008/2009.(B) Moving averages of lag five for partial indices in League 1 from 1959/1960 to 2008/2009.
Figure 3

(A) Moving averages of lag five for partial indices in Bundesliga from 1963/1964 to 2008/2009.

(B) Moving averages of lag five for partial indices in League 1 from 1959/1960 to 2008/2009.


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Published Online: 2014-6-17
Published in Print: 2014-6-1

©2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston

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