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The Perverse Incentive of the AFL Draft: Rationally Uncompetitive

On February 19th, the Australian Football League (AFL) handed down the third biggest fine in its history of $500,000 to the Melbourne Football Club. The fine was the result of a seven  month investigation into allegations the club took deliberate action to lose matches toward the end of the 2009 season. This was done to guarantee priority draft picks under the draft arrangement that favours poorly-performing teams. Two coaches found to have been complicit were also handed down lengthy suspensions. Deliberately losing games is colloquially called ‘tanking’, and has been a subject of discussion for AFL pundits for nearly a decade. The football community has reacted to these sanctions with bemusement, and rightly so. The club is being heavily penalised for what is ultimately a rational response to the perverse incentive the AFL unwittingly designed.

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