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October 12, 2018

Working it out: the CONIFA World Rankings

With the CONIFA World Rankings being updated this week, we thought it would be a good idea to try to explain how the system works! So, if you’d like to know more about how CONIFA ranks its teams across the globe, buckle up and enjoy…

It Takes a Lot of Maths

CONIFA’s General Secretary Sascha Düerkop is a mathematician, and the one who developed the ranking system. In 2014 he took a week off work to tackle the challenge.

“The system is based on an ‘Elo’ rating system, which is usually used in chess. The system predicts the most likely result of a match between A and B,” Düerkop explains.

Obviously, teams get points for beating other teams that are ranked higher than them but – as they say in the adverts – wait, there’s more!

“If the best-ranked team wins 1-0 against the worst-ranked team, this might be worse than the prediction. Thus, the winner might lose points, and the loser might win points in this case. The thinking behind this is that the teams seem to be ‘closer to each other’ than the ranking reflected pre-match, thus the better team must be corrected down, and the worse team corrected up.”

Read more about the Elo rating system.

There’s a difference between competitive matches and friendlies

Let’s tackle the next element of the ranking. How do the various matches affect things? Is there a difference between friendlies and, for example, World Football Cup matches?

“We do make a difference between competitive matches and friendlies,” explains Düerkop. “Competitive matches are only those within a tournament (WFC, EFC, etc), while all other matches are treated as friendlies. The competitive matches do count for double. The CONIFA Executive Committee though has just decided that we will further differentiate between ‘friendlies’, ‘non-CONIFA competitive’ (like the Island Games or Europeada), and ‘CONIFA competitive’, with a weighting of 1, 2 and 3 respectively.”

Do All Matches Count?

Düerkop tells us: “We do count all matches that we know of. Thus, the teams have to report matches to us, so they can be considered. The World Football Cup qualifier point system is different to the ranking and we only consider properly documented matches for the qualification process for that competition.”

Teams are also given a ‘penalty’ for not having played international football for a while. This period counts from the last World Cup qualification period, which started on 1st January 2016, until today. Those members were deducted 100 points from their tally. Eight CONIFA members received that deduction.

In Summary

So, to sum it all up for you:

If Team A does better than expected, they will win points. If they do worse, they will lose points. The prediction takes into consideration the opponent’s CONIFA ranking and the advantage of playing at home. The points lost or won are then adjusted based on the importance of the match and the win/loss margin.

Got that? Phew! Now you can go and check out who is topping the CONIFA rankings!

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By Robin Toal

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