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Serie A has a plan to decide the final table with math if necessary

Emergency backup plans are generally not ideal, but as they go, this one isn’t too bad.

Büros Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

As we motor towards the resumption of calcio, the possibility of a second wave of coronavirus putting a halt to Serie A is something we may not want to think about. The league, however, has considered this possibility at length. If the season is shut down again, the matter of assigning the scudetto, the European places, and relegation will fall into the hands of the nerds. No, that’s not the people who run this website; we mean that there is a mathematical formula that will settle things. Ready?

pt(x) + 0.90[(mpc t(x) x c t(z-x)) +(mpf t(x) x f t(z-x))]+ 0.10[(iag x Δr t(x))]

Okay, did you get that? No? Jeez, you must have struggled in math. That’s fine, though, because we’ll break it down for you using our massive science brains, by which we mean this really excellent guide from the fantastic Calcio e Finanza. Let’s get through this sucker. We’ll start by explaining what every variable represents.

pt(x) is the number of points that a team has earned in the season up to the moment that play is cancelled.

mpc t(x) is the average number of points earned per home match.

c t(z-x) is the number of home matches yet to be played.

mpf t(x) is the average number of points earned away per away match.

f t(x) is the number of away matches yet to be played.

iag is the team’s number of goals divided by its total points in the table, both up to the moment that play is cancelled.

Δr t(x) is the team’s goal difference in the games played.

Going with that, the way the table would look right now if this formula was applied would be pretty close to where it is now. Juve would win. Lecce, SPAL, and Brescia would go down. The only differences are that AC Milan would drop out of the European spots (lol), falling two spots to end behind Hellas and Verona and Parma, and that Cagliari and Sassuolo would switch spots. While the Rossoneri shrieking would be annoying, it wouldn’t make much difference.

  1. Juventus 91,2 (=)
  2. Lazio 90,8 (=)
  3. Inter Milan 81,4 (=)
  4. Atalanta 75,4 (=)
  5. AS Roma 65,5 (=)
  6. Napoli 55,7 (=)
  7. Hellas Verona 52,1 (+1)
  8. Parma 51,4 (+1)
  9. Milan 50,5 (-2)
  10. Bologna 47,7 (=)
  11. Cagliari 47,1 (+1)
  12. Sassuolo 47 (-1)
  13. Fiorentina 42 (=)
  14. Udinese 38,4 (=)
  15. Torino 38 (=)
  16. Sampdoria 36 (=)
  17. Genoa 33,7 (=)
  18. Lecce 32,4 (=)
  19. SPAL 22,7 (=)
  20. Brescia 18,9 (=)

Right, with all that settled, this is probably simplest way that this formula could have been designed. Should it come into use, teams that have had very difficult first-half schedules will have a valid complaint that their results will be hurt by the fixture list more than by any sporting merit. For example, Atalanta has a very backloaded schedule, having only played 1 other club in the European places in the back half of the season, while Juventus have already played 3 of those; the former’s easier set of games could inflate their numbers, the Bianconeri might argue. This being Serie A, though, we’re confident that nobody will grouse about skulduggery.

Really, though, that’s the only serious issue I can foresee with the use of the formula. While it would be fun to see, say, a group of PhD candidates in mathematics come up with an algorithm that would get a lot more detailed, making it reasonably easy for everyone to follow is the best way to avoid allegations of corruption (whether it’s the best way to avoid corruption, of course, is a whole different conversation).

Anyways, let’s be honest: there’s no way that assigning places in the table in any manner besides playing the matches will satisfy anyone. That said, if things get so bad as to require the use of a formula to decide things, soccer will be very, very small potatoes indeed.

For Fiorentina, this doesn’t really mean very much. The Viola have settled firmly into the midtable this season since Giuseppe Iachini took over, and there’s not a formula in the world that will change that. We all knew that this would be a rebuilding season last summer. Next year should be a different story but for right now, the only thing that could be affected in Florence is performance clauses in player contracts.

Ideally, this formula won’t even be used. We’re all hoping for a clean and flawless resumption of play that results in zero injuries and lets Serie A begin the 2020-2021 season as seamlessly as possible. If that’s what we get, then this formula will serve as nothing but an obscure punchline.