The Question of Regionalisation

Josh CK looks at some concerns voiced about the 2014 UKU Regionals…

[Edit – this post contains views expressed by writers that are not necessarily that of The Showgame. Our aim here is to generate a fair and intelligent discussion – please see and add to the comments below for continued discussion as well as a further elucidation of many, if not all of the points brought up. JCK]

    This year’s Regionals and Nationals were not without their share of controversy. Nationals was a formerly an event that looked very much like a final tour event, held in order to find a national champion on an annual basis as well as acting as qualifiers for the European championships. The regional qualification process for the Open division was debuted in 2010 to ‘a mostly positive response’. With a lighter 16 team knockout, the new Nationals also featured a permanent site in Southampton, featuring a show pitch with live streaming. With broad changes made with long-term plans in mind (increase in competition at Regionals and Nationals, the creation of ‘the UKU’s primary “showcase” event’*), a certain amount of adaptation is arguably to be expected. However, certain decisions (specifically in the London region) have both caused confusion and incited some strongly voiced concerns. Matt Dathan writes:
    Nationals comes on the back of a controversial Regionals this year, with Clapham given a bye at London qualifiers and only having to play two games to decide their seed. This meant they rocked up at 2pm in the afternoon to play their two games, in contrast to their eventual opponents, Ka-pow and Fire of London, who both had to turn up five hours earlier and play three games before playing a fresh Clapham team.
    Fire and Ka-pow understandably issued a complaint to the UKU about this baffling contradiction of fair play. In response the UKU justified the decision in terms of logistics, claiming a 9-team tournament would have been too complicated to organise.
    Even without going into the duller arguments of the many ways a 9-team qualifying tournament could work, to sacrifice fair play for the sake of logistics is a very dangerous road to go down. UKU said they were “utterly confident that clapham wouldn’t finish lower than fifth”. Yes – you heard it – a governing body deciding where teams will finish before a disc has been thrown. This undermines the very nature of sport, not just fair play, that the outcome, however predictable it may be, is not known beforehand.
    It also emerged that UKU were actually “more worried” that Clapham would send a weakened team and therefore not take first seed at Nationals (in the Midlands region, Cambridge sent a weakened team, but were they given a bye to Nationals? No.)
    Proof, if ever we needed it, that UK ultimate is organised to suit the interests of the top teams. If a team does badly at qualifiers – regardless of who they are – they must take the consequences, otherwise there is absolutely no point in holding qualifying and the UKU may as well use seeding and qualifying from tour (which would be a huge shame).
    This happened of course last year when Manchester beat a weakened Chevron team, but the UKU still decided that they had to meddle to ensure the top teams are given their familiar route to the final.
    Maybe that’s why this year they’ve changed the seeding format (without telling us why). Traditionally, Nationals seedings are based on the previous year’s tournament, but this year they’ve changed the format and an (unelected) body has decided themselves where teams should be seeded, again undermining the credibility of having a clearly defined, automatic system of deciding seeds (as mainstream sports do). It has led to a few strange seedings at Nationals, but rest-assured, the top two haven’t been tinkered with.
    The decision to give Clapham a bye not only does it compromise the principle of fair play, but it also further distances the sport’s grassroots from its elite. Regionals is the only time amateur players get the chance to test themselves against the best – ultimate’s equivalent to the FA Cup – and the only time elite players will have to put up with playing amateur teams.
    Another new invention for this year’s Nationals is the decision to charge player fees rather than team fees. With each individual having to pay £20 each, and considering the average team size in the Open division is around 17 players, the revenue for hosting the tournament has risen significantly on last year. Unless costs have jumped equally as high, it means more money going into the pockets of a few at the expense of the many in the ultimate community.
    The sport already struggles to attract a diverse proportion of society, but the ballooning cost of playing the sport (and it’s not only Nationals) will make it even more of a white, middle class hobby than it already is.
    It is a shame that the sport seems to be floating away from principles that it has always regarded very highly. Greater accountability must be imposed on decisions and a greater say must be given to the players (and payers) of the sport. There will be much more written on this subject in the coming months.
    Dale Walker also took issue with the London Regionals schedule, and writes of a sense of the lacklustre at this year’s Northern Regionals.
    In principle, the UKU move to a regional/national/Euros structure is a smart move. It is a far more relatable structure to the US system of many years of Sectionals / Regionals / Nationals and allows for tournaments to be played on a local scale with weighted bids from each region reflecting that region’s strength (based on Tour). In theory, it should provide a tournament that isn’t too far of a commute to make and replaces the need to schedule in a round earlier in the Tour for lower ranked teams to play their more illustrious contemporaries. However, something still isn’t quite right.
    Northern Regionals saw a predictable finish with Chevron meeting Manchester in the final after both teams eased past the remaining field. However, in a theme that appears to be translated across the country, Northern Regionals saw a relative lack of engagement from many teams who saw little point in attending a tournament with no realistic opportunity to progress to the Open division. This must be considered a real area of concern for the UKU – with the shift to a regional structure, the UKU aimed to provide an opportunity for lower ranked teams to play the country’s best but this hasn’t translated into attendance yet. In the Northern region, even established powers like LeedsLeedsLeeds and The Brown didn’t attend despite having a very realistic shot of taking the #3 bid from the region. In some cases, the scheduling doesn’t even allow for the lower ranked teams to play some of the biggest draws the format is supposed to provide – Clapham qualified for Nationals before the first disc was even thrown, which seems almost an admission that some teams are too good to play against lower ranked opposition. The UKU surely cannot promote the tournament as an opportunity to play against the best then double back on themselves through scheduling?
    To further illustrate the issues at hand, Sheffield Steal ended up taking the third bid from the region ahead of Liverpool’s Vision after a convincing win in the 3v4 game to go. Steal featured a large number of LLL & Relentless players who even as a loose pickup team ended up qualifying for Open Nationals. If the regional format is to continue, these events need to become more than just a qualifier as at present too many clubs omit them from their calendar entirely. Perhaps as part of the event the UKU can arrange for the Elite team(s) in each region to provide skills clinics or something similar to create an event that is more than just a qualifier.
    The UKU website presents Regionals as development focused, promoting ‘a one-day tournament, hopefully a couple of hours from home’ which also creates a chance to ‘play against a really top team’. However, it seems there is growing pains as top teams are reluctant to accept Regionals as an important date in their busy diaries, and Regionals is not necessarily providing as much development as it could for the teams and players of UK Ultimate. There is clearly some disagreement with the handling of this year’s events – but is this a turn in the wrong direction or an overreaction to a blip in an otherwise strong transition to a new Nationals structure? Is this an issue with our tournament organising, or one that’s grown out of our player base’s attitudes towards development? Do we, and should we care more about fostering strength on a regional level, even at the expense of our own club? Would strength at a regional level arguably not always lead to longer term club benefits, whether for the elite or grassroots? As always there is no simple answer to a complex issue, but it seems one that is ripe for debate as more and more are concerned with the structuring and development of our sport. Discuss…

35 thoughts on “The Question of Regionalisation”

  1. A small point, but surely £20 for 2 days of Ultimate held at a high quality venue and including streaming etc isn't a huge amount to pay? You'd probably pay £5 to play an hour of 5-a-side and not bat an eyelid. And besides, the UKU needs to generate money to function. Has to come from somewhere.

  2. This has to be the biggest load of shit ever published on this site. You should be embarrassed to publish such a poorly researched and unjustified article.

  3. 1. The FA Cup is interesting and apt analogy – any football team in the UK can win the FA Cup but smaller teams only earn the right to play premier league clubs in the third round proper, i.e. after having emerged from several rounds of qualifying. The don't get to play Chelsea straight away.

    2. Player fees theoretically punishes “big clubs” e.g. Chevron more as they are likely to have more players, and benefits smaller clubs relatively (not paying the same team fee for 12 as a team of 25). But you are right to ask where the extra money is going.

    3. It's not clear why you feel using seeding and qualifying from Tour “would be a huge shame”. It's a three weekend, six day tournament system for determining UK ranking, why is it worse than 1 day regional tournaments with a semi-arbitrary number of nationals slots?

  4. To offer a perspective from the midlands I think regionals works great. We (EMO) get to play teams we don't play all year and the chance to play teams from B and C Tour that don't normally play against as high a standard. This year we played Cambridge 2 and while we won comfortably they commented after the game that they enjoyed it, had learnt things from it and thanked us for taking it seriously, we had a fairly strong side out and understand the benefit of playing teams higher above you. We also played BAF and Cambridge 1, other teams we don't play on a regular basis.
    In terms of the schedule; we had a 9 team schedule which was far from ideal (long gaps between games) but if that's the cost of strengthening our region then I'm happy with that.
    As I understand it Regionals was introduced to find the best teams in the area to go on to nationals – which it did; to give teams the chance to play different opponents – which it does; and also foster greater relationships between teams in the region – again which it did.
    I can see and understand the frustrations with other regions but wanted to say that in the midlands I think it's doing a pretty good job of achieving it's objectives

  5. Meanwhile in Scotland there is only 1 qualifying spot and it was contested by two teams who featured well in A tour, in a Universe point match to go.
    3 bids for the North and a pickup team taking one hardly seams a fair representation of the country's top 16.

  6. Hey Jaimie,

    Thanks for the comment. I'll let Matt and Dale defend their contributions, but I will say in case it isn't clear enough that their writings express their own views and not that of The Showgame. Our intentions in publishing was only to stimulate discussion on an issue that has clearly annoyed a lot of people, whether rightly or wrongly. Would you care to comment with more insight if you so strongly disagree with the views above?

  7. I'm interested as to why you feel this way, would you care to evaluate with specific points and a valid counter-argument?

  8. I'll preface my comment with this: there was no way Clapham weren't going to qualify for Nationals. It was very unlikely that even with a weakened team they would finish any lower than 2nd. 3rd would have needed a huge huge upset.

    Given their performances at Tour with small squads, taking 1st seed regardless was probably still going to happen; especially when Fire were also not fielding their full strength team.

    I had 2 reactions when I saw the schedule. Firstly, that it was a farce. Make a team that is already going to qualify have to give up their day for an awkwardly timed just-after-lunch first game. Then make them travel out to the fields to play 2 games that had no impact on the ultimate outcome; nationals qualification. It was verging on the absurd, the epitome of 'going through the motions'.

    I understand that 9 is terrible to schedule for, and it makes sense that the strongest team should get a bye – it happens in other sports. I think the ridiculous part of it was just the extent of the bye in terms of time and game difference.

    My second reaction was that the team closest to them, the team with arguably the best chance of beating them, was being disadvantaged by the aforementioned 5-hour-earlier start time and 2 extra games, somewhat diminishing their chance of beating Clapham.

    We (Fire) ended up being beaten by probably 5 points (can't remember the exact score), but I can't help but think that spending a whole day in the sun and playing those extra games effectively ended any shot we might have had at beating Clapham.

    Don't get me wrong, we were outclassed by them in Cardiff, but that was exactly that, Cardiff. This was a tournament in its own right where theoretically everyone was starting from the same position.


    On another point, I think the London region now has too many bids for its strength. Tooting and Burro are no longer around, and I'm not sure if Flump and Fire 2 are currently strong enough to earn London a 5th bid.

  9. I completely agree with point 3. Why not have final Tour standings determine regional strength bids. Makes a lot of sense.

  10. There's plenty of justification, maybe you should read the article and think about other people's views before launching a flame war.

    Or are you going to actually explain why you feel the article is “poorly researched and unjustified”? Imagine… you have the ability to change people's minds through eloquence. And as the only named Clapham player to have commented so far, you are not reflecting well on your club.

  11. Hard to know where to start with this. Apologies if it gets long, but…

    Firstly, there are some legitimate concerns about regionals. It's clearly not working as we'd like. We're offering the chance to play locally, and teams are not taking up that option. We're doing something wrong. I think the biggest problem with the regionals this year is that they were organised and announced far too late – clearly we need to do better here. The intention is to have all sorts of casual teams, who may not travel to tour, show up to these events. Clearly we're not succeeding there in most of the regions.

    I confess I'm surprised that so many teams forgo the chance to play locally on the grounds that 'we won't qualify' – teams don't decide not to go to tour because they won't win it – but obviously that is the way these competitions are viewed and we'll need to do a review of what we can change.

    To address some of the specific complaints:
    First the Clapham issue. As explained in the email, poorly paraphrased above, it's not that '9 teams is too complicated to organise'. We ran with nine teams in the Midlands. The issue is that with 9 teams AND 5 qualifying spots it's very hard to get things done in a day, not because it's complicated for us but because it's unfair on the teams. Complication isn't the issue – the issue is that either we have

    – unfair qualification (e.g. finish third in a pool and be knocked out, even though 5 qualify)
    – some teams play too few games (our best 'normal' approach to London risked the bottom seeds playing just twice)
    – some teams have to play too much – e.g potentially 6 or 7 games in a day, or 3 back-to-back, or other unpleasant options

    It turned out that by removing Clapham from the early part of qualification, we could run a more natural 8-team bracket which gives fairer qualification in fewer games, and means teams all play a similar number of games (except Clapham – but we'd far rather give poor value-for-money to Clapham, whose goal is to qualify, than to bottom seeds who are there to play games).

    I agree it's not ideal – but every schedule is a compromise. Anyone who has seen the Worlds results would agree that in practice there's a very very clear case for assuming that Clapham would qualify from that region. Whilst I agree that in principle it's wrong to give them a 'bye', we also have strong principles that say we will give every team a decent tournament and we will give every team a fair shot at qualifying. For a one day tournament, with 9 teams and 5 spots, something has to give.

    To be continued – comments seem to be limited in length…

  12. Continued…

    Perhaps there's a solution that's better – I can't rule it out, even though no-one on the competitions or scheduling committees found it. But I'm comfortable with our reasons for what we did at that event. 'Fair play', as you say, would have been more compromised by preventing some of those teams from 4th to 9th having a fair shot than by giving Clapham – the 5th best team in the world – a free pass into the UK top 16.

    As for the Chevron issue last year, the published schedule was wrong – the TDs made some assumptions that were incorrect – and we fixed it. It's true that we may have been prompted to notice the errors by the fact that Chevron were in a funny place, but nonetheless our response – to leave the seedings as they should, objectively, have been, was made not to protect Chevron but because starting with them in the wrong quarter of the draw had a very real risk of dropping a potential-qualifying team into the bottom 4.

    I don't recall the details, but I think it was something like one of Devon, Ka-pow, Fire and Chevron would have been bumped. To stress again – if that's the way it had fallen, it's doubtful we'd have intervened, but given that there was a clear error in procedure on the published schedule, going back to what it SHOULD have been was a no-brainer. Chevron received no special treatment – if anything, Fire, Kapow and Devon (or whoever it was) received special help; but really all we did was fix an error.

    Now the easy ones – nationals seedings have never been based on last year but on the current tour, with adjustments made to avoid regional rematches only when the impact of those adjustments is believed to be small. If there's doubt about that, then the tour results are used unchanged. Nothing has altered from last year, whatsoever.

    And Nationals has had a player fee for years – you can find various discussions of the reasoning on Britdisc from previous years. The nationals set-up – enough fields so that everyone can play at once, enabling everyone to watch finals; scorers and stats; STREAMING GAMES! – is totally different to Tour from an organisational point of view.

    I hate to have to go through this and sound petty, but it's upsetting to my anal nature to have such obvious errors published. Player fees have been standard for a few years; the seedings haven't altered.

    And on accountability – the Competitions Committee is open to anyone, you can get elected. The Director of Competitions (appointed temporarily when I quit) will be up for election in September, along with a number of other UKU Board positions. What more would can we realistically do?

    Dale's comments are nearer the mark I think. Something isn't working at regionals and we need to work out what it is. The intention was to have a local event, not 'just a qualifier', but that hasn't worked out in the way people view them. As mentioned, I don't agree with Dale's analysis of the Clapham situation, but I do agree that we need to look at the structure of regionals for next year.

    I have no idea at all why the Brown or LLLeeds chose not to attend – that's odd, and needs looking into. I think if you'd asked anyone to predict that, though, they'd have struggled – even hindsight doesn't really tell us how to fix it! We'll have to have a think. If anyone wants to join that conversation, please do try to join one of the committees – really, it's quite fun, and to be honest you don't get complained at like this as much as we used to on Britdisc! Most people are supportive – give it a go!

    And Josh – do me a huge favour and don't publish things like this after work on a friday? That's just mean… I'd better go pay attention to my wife now…

  13. Lots of issues here:

    1) Clapham are definitely going to qualify. We all knew that. But, the point is that there is now a precedent which says “the top team can avoid qualification”. This system has been used in the past too; the old “Tour 0” was a qualifier for A Tour. And in 2008, one of the top 4 teams who weren't required to attend Tour 0 lost every single game at Tour 1, making a farce of that system. It's a baffling decision. No team should be exempt from qualification.

    2) Arbitrarily changing seedings for Nationals is a joke. Nationals format (inc regional seedings) should be set up in advance. While I accept it makes sense to make some *minor* adjustments to avoid regional matchups (note: quarter final matchups see regional re-matches still), what happened last year to switch Manchester & Chevron sends a big message: that regionals is not important.

    3) Are seedings decided from Tour, or from last year's Nationals? It currently seems to be done at the whim of the competitions committee. Chevron were due to play emo in this year's quarter final; this has been changed. If we choose to play a straight-knockout event then we are not guaranteed to find the best teams to send to Europe. Regionals & Nationals alterations are all done to overcome problems with an overly simplistic tournament format. Nationals needs pools.

    4) A lack of local regional teams turning up to regionals is a true concern as it goes away from the long term aim of regionals; the UKU would do well to reach out to those teams who did not attend to find out why. Personal view: perhaps Southampton is not the best place for a permanent home of UKU Nationals, and somewhere more central / logistically easy to reach is appropriate.

    5) Uncoupling Tour from Regionals / Nationals / Euros opens up the possibility of switching players, pickups, etc. We've seen this on several occasions. Not sure what the answer necessarily is… or if it's even a problem. One view: if you get beaten by a pick up team, well… tough. The other view is that allowing pick up teams discourages smaller teams from putting the time and effort into building a sustainable club.

    6) £20 for a weekend of top sport at a high quality venue with lined fields, sideline shade & pitch water is excellent value. Anyone who went to Lecco but complains about this needs a polite slap to the face. Should the UKU make public where it spends the money raised? Perhaps. But the UKU has made it very clear that their priorities are to get ultimate in every school and a coach in every club; if the funds for that come from the most committed players who benefit the most, then so be it.

    7) Bids to Nationals should reflect current strengths; London having 5 teams and Scotland only one is not going to help build ultimate in the regions. This is what Tour results should be used for; aggregated strength bids. A system can easily be created that can compensate if the major teams don't attend (see Iceni / Nice Bristols this year).

    8) No-one pointed out something that bothered me last year; why WUCC qualification was done on Tour results when the Tours are full of teams from Europe (particularly Tour 1, but Ranelagh are regular attendees). If Tour is not being prioritised & attendance at Tour events is not required for Nationals qualification, it seems bizarre to make Tour the decider for winning bids to WUCC.

  14. I must point out that the article has undersold Steal- Yes, it was a small team that hadn't been working specifically towards Regionals, and yes it was a loose mixed squad, but it was comprised of entirely players who had represented the club at Mixed Tour, and had trained all year together for that. By no means top 16 Open, but certainly not a pickup team.

  15. Thanks Brummie. To reply to your points:

    1) I agree it might have looked baffling – hopefully I explained the logic. It was a horrible comrpomise on a horrible schedule, but i still think probably the best. I'm not so sure there's a precedent beyond 'if one team is outrageously strong, AND the qualification procedure is hard to make fair, AND we've got a very limited number of games…' Experience tells me that doesn't happen often

    2) Sounds like we broadly agree. Minor adjustments are all we make. Importantly, last year we DIDN'T switch Manchetser and Chevron. Chevron still came in seeded 10th or 12th or something. The difference was that the published schedule had already been adjusted to prevent two northern teams playing each other (maybe even in the second round, not the first, as I recall), and it turned out that by no means was this a 'minor' change so we had to fix it. What happened was that Chevron played Manchester again at Nationals and reversed the regionals result on the pitch – NOT that we switched them and ignored regionals results.

    3) I don't believe we changed anything about the QFs – it's just the Tour results. Chev and EMO are seeded to meet in semis, just like the tour results had them?

    4) Agreed. I don't know if Southampton's location is a factor. I do know that our 3 year agreement with that venue is now up and we need to decide where to go next year. In fact, it's not completely clear they'd want to do it again – despite how it seems to some of the paying public it has not been particularly worth it financially for those guys. They have provided a brilliant tournament for those who have made the trip and certainly haven't lined any pockets.

    5) The uncoupling is deliberate – we want teams to be able to play at the highest level without being forced to attend lots of weekends if they don't want to. That partly ties into point 8) also – you could qualify through any of Nats, EUCF, and Tour, meaning those who prioritise the EUC series had as much chance as those who played all the tours. (In theory anyway – in practice Clapham hoovered up all the accolades and other places defaulted to Tour results).

    6) Agreed. It's cheap.

    7) This is debatable. Part of the plan was to get away from the idea that Tour rankings should be all that count. If we base it on this year, but then allow some super team to form (as our rules indeed do) we then have either a trciky subjective decision about moving bids around or we have all the regions clamouring that this super team should go somewhere else. Perhaps better to know way in advance that qualification isn't balanced across regions, to accept that team strength will be all over the show with Mixed etc., and for people to know up front that we're not looking for the best 16 teams to be at Nationals.

    But agreed, it's open to debate. We've talked about it a few times. I'm not so sure that 'a system can be easily created' that everyone will accept as fair and reasonable for covering the weirdnesses caused by teams missing tours or super teams forming though.

    And you could argue, as many other sports do (and as the US seem to do) that drama is as important as fairness – watching three of the top few in the world fighting for one or two spots at US Nats from the NW region was pretty good over the years. And whilst it sucks to be a Glasgow player not going to Nationals, there's no doubt that regionals final was exciting to watch.

    I'm not really saying that's the logic behind the way it is – but there's certainly more than one way of looking at it.

  16. Hi Josh,

    I'll be happy to respond in full after the weekend. I should also say that I'm primarily referring to Matt's article as I think Dale had some good points for discussion.

    However, I think you (TSG) need to take editorial responsibility for the content of the articles on your website. Matt's article is in large part hearsay and slander, and there was clearly no attempt to engage the UKU to create a balanced piece. Benji was willing to devote significant time to respond, and Matt or you should have taken the time to get that response prior to publication. Benji has articulated how the article is in large parts completely wrong. If TSG is willing to publish any opinion piece no matter how slanderous just to get comments/traffic then you are demonstrating a willingness to compromise basic journalistic principles. Perhaps you should join the mainstream media?! 😉


  17. I'm quite surprised to hear about the lower number of B and C Tour teams playing Regionals this year. I think it's unlikely that knowing they wouldn't qualify is a big factor, given the opportunity it presents to play the top teams. The location of Nationals might be a factor sometimes – in my old (Northern) team one year, we had a decent shot at Nationals but a lot of players didn't want to go all the way to Southampton, so we only fielded 11 players at Regionals, most of whom weren't very motivated. I was kinda disappointed with that attitude, and considering how well Scotland is always represented at Nationals, seems like a poor excuse. But having Nationals in a more central place might help a bit, although there may not be a venue as good as Wide Lane anywhere else.

    I would suggest a couple of other reasons:

    Firstly, a lot of B and C Tour teams have a substantial number of student players, who study in that city. The Tour season coincides with term time, but when all the students leave for the summer, these teams can't get enough players together for Regionals. I know of 2 teams who didn't enter Regionals this year where that was probably a big factor. Obviously these players don't just disappear in the summer, some may play with teams from their home towns, but they may be less likely to get into a team they haven't been training with, or they might just live in a village with no ultimate.

    Secondly, Regionals is in the summer (so's Tour 3 I guess, but not quite as deep into the summer, and maybe before school holidays), so it's competing with festivals, holidays, getting pissed and sunburned in the park etc. It's harder for people to fit it into their schedules, especially if it isn't seen as quite so important, or if they're not even sure their team will be able to get enough players together anyway. If what someone said above is true, that the date is also announced a bit late, this doesn't help matters either.

    I think Regionals is fantastic, not only because it's nice to have regional tournaments and have more chance of playing your local rivals, but because, as everyone seems to agree, it's a great opportunity for weaker teams to have a go at the top teams. The value of this can't be understated. I can think of many players who've been playing for a while at uni and in B/C Tour, training all the time and playing as much as they can, following Nationals and Worlds and US tournaments and all that, and maybe can't break into the A Tour because there isn't a strong team in their area, or there is but they don't have a second team, or they're just not quite good enough. And they would absolutely love to be able to have a go at one of the best teams in the country – nay, in Europe. Or even the 5th best team in the world that just took Revolver to sudden death. Apart from just being an amazing experience, they will also learn a lot from that tournament that they can't learn in B or C Tour, and it will help them develop and contribute towards increasing competition in the country.

    So everyone should be trying to get more teams to enter Regionals – ideally actual teams, but a team of pickups or two merged teams if that's all that can be done. And noone should be above Regionals. Not even Clapham. I think it's pretty obvious they would have won anyway. But if I was in the London region I'd be pretty disappointed at not getting the opportunity to play them, and pretty pissed that they or the UKU didn't think it was worth having that match.

  18. Hi Josh,

    I'll be happy to respond in full after the weekend. I should also say that I'm primarily referring to Matt's article as I think Dale had some good points for discussion.

    However, I think you (TSG) need to take editorial responsibility for the content of the articles on your website. Matt's article is in large part hearsay and slander, and there was clearly no attempt to engage the UKU to create a balanced piece. Benji was willing to devote significant time to respond, and Matt or you should have taken the time to get that response prior to publication. Benji has articulated how the article is in large parts completely wrong. If TSG is willing to publish any opinion piece no matter how slanderous just to get comments/traffic then you are demonstrating a willingness to compromise basic journalistic principles. Perhaps you should join the mainstream media?! 😉


  19. “to leave the seedings as they should, objectively, have been, was made not to protect Chevron but because starting with them in the wrong quarter of the draw had a very real risk of dropping a potential-qualifying team into the bottom 4. “

    Surely, this is the very point of regionals? Manchester took that spot. So, tough luck on Chevron. Si Hill made it very clear that the format of Regional + Nationals are as though they are a single event (i.e. losing a game at Regionals can have a huge impact on your Nationals placing). Yet, this doesn't seem to be the case in this example.

  20. In your original response to the article, you stated:

    “…nationals seedings have never been based on last year but on the current tour, with adjustments made…”

    and in this comment you said (with reference to importance of Tour)

    “The uncoupling is deliberate – we want teams to be able to play at the highest level without being forced to attend lots of weekends if they don't want to.”

    This seems like a huge contradiction to me. If Tour results are used to generate seedings for Nationals, then are they really uncoupled? No, they are not. To continue to claim that the Tour has been uncoupled from the Regionals / Nationals / EUCF programme is a falsehood.

    “What happened was that Chevron played Manchester again at Nationals…”

    Surely more effort should be made to avoid regional rematches? This is routinely done at USAU Nationals. You'd expect Chevron (seeded 10th initially) to play one of the top 4 after taking 7th seed, but explicitly NOT the team they've already played in this series; otherwise, quite frankly, what's the point in having the first game? It's a better test of your tournament format for one team to play as many other teams as possible than to have several games against the same opponent; I could quite rightly and logically say “perhaps Manchester would have beaten Chevron again, had they had the chance to meet them again”. Essentially, if we're going to allow re-matches (something explicitly removed from the triple-elimination format used at Uni regionals), then why two? Why not allow 3, 4, or any other arbitrary number?

    Personally, I hate the Nationals format. I think it does not show the best for our sport, and does not give the teams what they want either. Pools and power pools should be reconsidered; hopefully a move to a new venue that is open to the idea of a 3 day Nationals would make this logistically feasible.

    “…drama is as important as fairness…”

    No doubt about it. Hopefully every elimination game is exciting, be it at Regionals, Nationals or EUCF. But I think you're avoiding the issue. There are clearly two strong teams in Scotland (based on average points per event, two in the top 16), and worth two spots to Nationals. Meanwhile, there is ZERO justification based on Tour results for having 5 spots from London; we have Clapham, Fire & Ka-pow in the top 11, and you have to go as far as seed 21 to find the 5th London team.

    If you're going to use Tour results to seed Nationals, then why not use Tour results to assign strength bids to regions too? Your current system is inconsistent and (quite evidently) the cause of many concerns.

  21. Hey Brummie – I think we're at cross purposes a bit. Here's what happened (from memory, but close enough). North earned 2nd and 10th seed at Nats. That meant that there was a possible 2v7 QF if they both won, so the organisers swapped North 2 down to 11th to avoid this. This was wrong, and was shown to be very wrong when Chevron ended up in that spot. It's clearly not a low-impact switch to have Chevron bump the 6th seed (by starting 11th) in the 1-16 round instead of 7th seed (by starting 10th) – so that switch was undone. It was an obvious error.

    Chevron went in as 10, beat 7, and then beat Manchester in the QF. Manchester's reward for winning regionals was to get an easy 1-16 game from 2nd seed, but unfortunately for them they still had to face Chevvy in the QFs. The published switch to avoid that happening was obviously an error and obviously unfair on other teams.

    That's really all there is to it. We didn't ignore regional results and seed Chevvy in the top 4 – they came in 10th – we just chose not to make an arbitrary switch that had been published in error. Make sense?

  22. I think your concern for integrity is very fair, and I'm sorry that it seemed that we fell short here. I was of course aware of the antagonistic and unbalanced tone of Matt's writing, but took the decision to publish it framed within (although, I concede, perhaps not clearly enough) a larger discussion to do with Regionals. If the intention of the piece was to simply suggest 'how things are' and leave it at that then I would agree with your dig about journalistic principles. However, the aim here (with 'Discussion' posts) is and always has been to have subsequent responses that engage with the various viewpoints. As aggressive as Matt's approach is, I know that it brings up concerns shared by a lot of other people. Benji and others have quickly and rightly corrected many points – and I'll agree with you and him that we (tSG) could have put more work in to reduce the need for these corrections. Finally, traffic and engagement are both important to us, but only because they signal involvement of the community. The blog is totally unmonetised, and we will be transparent if this ever changes. It's a corny line, but it is true that everyone involved in The Showgame loves the sport and wants nothing but to see it grow and improve in the best way possible. I hope our readers don't doubt this, and I of course hope that going forward we can help to do this without giving rise to suspicion of otherwise!

  23. Benji – many thanks for taking the time to explain the above in such depth, and please see my response to Jaimie above for reasonings for the post! I will add an edit to clarify the purpose of the piece as well as a signal to the interesting conversations happening down here now.

  24. You make some good points. I don'y completely disagree with a lot of it, but I'm going to play devil's advocate to show that these decisions aren't as simple as they might look.

    I agree that it's messy seeding from tour. The basic point is that we need an objective system for seeding nationals, so we happen to use Tour. It doesn't really matter what we use in some ways, as they're all inaccurate – teams can form for regionals, or lose players to mixed, or whatever, so Nationals seeding will always be messy. Either we do it subjectively and try to work out which teams are strongest, or we choose a somewhat arbitrary seeding method such as tour. We'll inevitably get some funny ones every year, but that's better than some committee somewhere deciding that you're going to play Clapham in the QFs – subjectivity is madness.

    The competitions are uncoupled in that you aren't obliged to attend tour to perform well at Nats. But nevertheless the Tour results are, for now, the best seeding indication we have (even though they will obviously have flaws). Any other method of seeding is even more flawed.

    The Chevron thing and regional rematches – how do we do that? If Chevvy come in 10th, we have to choose to make them either 9th or 11th to avoid a rematch. We could write a bunch of objective rules for that which would be really complicated (if moving team x down a space creates another rematch with the swapped team in QFs, then jump to rule 4.5… etc.) or we could do it subjectively. Perhaps we should write those rules, I dunno. But it's not an obviously simple task. Trying to organise Junior Indoors so that teams from the same school don't play each other is a nightmare, and often results in teams moving as many as 3 seeds up or down; objective rules for doing that would, honestly, be insanely complex. We'd probably find when we came to apply them to some complex situation that we'd made an error in the published rules – then we'd really be in a heap of subjective trouble.

    Also, by the way, rematches happen all the time at Uni regionals. We had to beat Stirling 3 times in one tournament, for two tournament in a row, a few years ago. The only game that's not replayed is a 2v3 repeat of a semi – games that happened in pools are always replayed, and the 3v4 game-to-go is always played.

    On the last bit – I agree it's inconsistent. Perhaps we should use Tour results from this year instead of last year. I think one reason we started a year behind was because of the short turnaround between tour 3 and regionals and the need to know what qualifying spots would be available. Perhaps now that we're slightly better staffed we can cope with that. I dunno.

    And the 3 days thing? I agree, it would be awesome. But on the other hand, the things that nationals offers are, as we've said, expensive. Another day is pretty close to 50% more cash, for everyone. I think we'd need to do some surveying about whether that's what everyone would like. Certainly when it's been proposed in the past, we did receieve some very negative responses.

    Thanks for the debate – all this is worth talking about!

  25. “…there was a possible 2v7 QF if they both won, so the organisers swapped North 2 down to 11th to avoid this. This was wrong, and was shown to be very wrong when Chevron ended up in that spot.”

    I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. I think if Chevron end up 11th then that's their problem. I don't follow the “unfair” argument; it's like saying that it's “unfair” on the 5th seed if the 8th seed knocks out the 1st seed in quarter finals and as a result the 5th seed doesn't go to EUCF. It's not unfair at all, it's part of competition. And if you want to run a tournament that relies on straight elimination, then the only way to avoid problems like this is to keep meddling every year. It's this meddling that is the truly “unfair” aspect.

  26. “The Chevron thing and regional rematches – how do we do that?”

    Pools 🙂 The USAU seem to have a sensible system to eliminate regional rematches; teams have the ability to shift around within their pool to alter their quarter final matches. Of course, to have the best system requires power pools, and that's a 3 day event.

    “Certainly when it's been proposed in the past, we did receieve some very negative responses.”

    There are always going to be some negative responses. Did they explain what the drawbacks would be, other than £10 per head? (I can't believe we're seriously discussing whether £10 for a DAY of top class sport is considered too expensive!!) Do what's right for the sport. I'd love to see Nationals as a the showcase event of the sport. And if you're not going to go to a 3 day Nationals, please free up the Bank Holiday weekend 😉

    [off topic]

    “The only game that's not replayed is a 2v3 repeat of a semi – games that happened in pools are always replayed, and the 3v4 game-to-go is always played. “

    Things have clearly changed since I was there. What exactly is the point of replaying a 3v4 game to go if you're already lost to the same team in an elimination game on the same day? It's *retarded*. Teams should be encouraged to win the tournament, not to rest legs for the game to go.

  27. The point is, Chevron didn't 'end up' 11th – they were put there by an error which deviated from our procedures. There's a difference between a correctly-applied objective method – which was pretty harsh on 7th, as it turns out – and a misapplied rule.

    Drawing a tough matchup in the FA Cup is one thing; finding out that a team was left out of the pot and then got shoved in half way through the draw is very different. There'd be uproar. Even though the result was arbitrary and could have happened either way, it's MORE unfair if procedure isn't followed.

    Both 10th and 11th were 'bad' places for Chevvy to be – but only one of them followed the correct procedure. That's the whole story. UKU procedure is to only make switches that have low impact; the Nationals organisers wanted to publish things early so made an incorrect assumption; we fixed it.

  28. We've really taken over this comment thread! Chortle.

    On Pools – I disagree, but the reasons are dull and schedule-y. Everyone else stop reading if you want.

    Pools are mathematically, demonstrably, less efficient than knockouts. A pool of 4 takes 6 games, whereas semis/finals (plus possibly a 2v3 if unplayed) will correctly rank the teams in either 4 or 5 games. The missing game is 1v4 – which is only relevant if you're in a three way tie situation, and most people won't see that as an advantage of pools (actually I do, but that's another story).

    If we assume transitivity – if A beats B and B beats C then A should beat C – then brackets are more efficient than pools. And if we don't assume that, then EVERY schedule is pointless; we can ONLY run a full round robin of however many teams there are.

    If we have one quarter of the draw with Chev, Fire, Kapow, Devon in it, then whether that is played as a pool or as a bracket, one of those teams is going to end up in the bottom 4. The bracket just saves us a game. The answer to these mis-seeding issues is more games in general, not more pools – pools are less efficient than what we have.

    So yeah, we need 3 days to do this better. And I agree it's not a big expense and we should probably do it. But some people do disagree. And making what we fully believe to be the right decision, against the wishes of some of the players, is exactly what we're getting pilloried for in the original, poorly researched article. It's not so easy as all that…

    I spent a lot of years on the other end of this, complaining loudly (much more loudly than anyone nowadays probably!) about how obvious it was that UKU should do that or this. But when you actually have that responsibility, you have to be careful of what people think. UK Ultimate Ltd literally IS it's members – we all literally, legally own it, and would be liable for precisely one pound each if it went bust – so we're obliged to do sometimes what people want and not what you or I might think is right.

    And on the replays – I agree with you. There is a problem though – in the game-before-an-unreplayed-game, you can have situations where one team knows they will not replay, and the other knows they will replay, because e.g. one of the finalists has played 3rd but the other hasn't. So only one team is able to fully commit their starting 7 to winning the game.

    We generally have to play 3v4 alongside the final at these events so that the finalsists don't know yet who 3 is and can't use that information. That solves that bit of it. But now we know who 3 is at the start of the 2v3 gameslot, because it isn't played. So those teams in the 4v5 game, which has to be scheduled in the same slot as 2v3 to solve the above problem, will potentially know, before that game starts, that only one of them will have a shot at 3rd. What's the point of playing 4v5 when only one team is still fighting for qualification?

    Like I said, I fully agree in principle, but in practice there can be unfairness from not replaying too – not just rested v unrested, but also misaligned incentives.

    My own preferred solution is to replay carrying the score – e.g. if you win 15-10 and later replay, you start at 5-0 up. That's a 'fair' solution – you earned that lead – but it doesn't sit very well with most people. They don't want to watch a final where someone starts 5-0 up…

  29. “If we assume transitivity – if A beats B and B beats C then A should beat C – then brackets are more efficient than pools.”

    3 of the initial 12 pools from WUCC (Open division) ended with a 3 way tie. I'm not sure if 25% is enough to persuade you that brackets are not the right way of doing things.

    “And if we don't assume that, then EVERY schedule is pointless…”

    Erm, no. There is something to be said for having to win when it counts – you've said as much yourself, and I know that Si Hill feels that way.

    So why pools? I like pools because they help to eliminate the issues with seeding, and I think I've established already that the seedings for Nationals are largely arbitrary. Arbitrary seedings works fine when the format is flexible enough to deal with lots of movement. I also like the fact that the top seed in the pool MUST defend themselves in more than one elimination game; this is something that I've been going on and on and on about for years now. The “straight to semis” format used at Tour is *only* liked by the top 4, because (guess what), they get a game off. And that's it.

    Clapham may be so strong at the moment that it is easy to justify a tournament format that assumes they will win games – much like the issues seen at regionals and discussed above – but I'd like to think that we are able to come up with a format that means more than 4 games are required to win a National championship. NEO played 6 games. emo played 5. Losing in the 2nd part of the 3rd place playoff means + 1 game; so should teams plan for 4 games or 6? If they throw everything they have at semis and lose, it's not impossible to see a team collapse as they run out of legs / get injured, etc. If emo had lost to Brighton, they'd have played 3 games on Sunday compared to Chevy's 1… you're adding a new variable into the equation which may well mean that a team *abandons* its semi final in order to save legs for another (potential) 3 games. Do we really want that? Some people might want value for money, some teams might just want a medal. You claim that winning 4 games makes you the rightful champion. Maybe at the moment it does. But I think if the teams were closer in strength, then you'd struggle to justify both your seedings and your format.

    I should point out that I don't expect seedings to be perfect – if they were, why bother playing? – but I do expect a format to be able to create genuine excitement. Perhaps the reason teams don't want to come to Nationals is because it's boring. Or because they don't get to sit and watch the final because they are playing for 5th. Or because Southampton is a pain for the vast majority of players to attend (and no longer has a thriving club team playing at Nationals level). Or maybe a myriad of other reasons. And yes, I know it's hard to be the guy making the decisions. Believe me Benji, I know. And of course you need to take feedback while knowing when to stick to your beliefs. One of my beliefs is that ultimate tournament formats are not a mathematical formula that needs to be solved. There are tonnes of other issues that alter performance; you touch on some yourself, so why the apparent contradiction?

    “What's the point of playing 4v5 when only one team is still fighting for qualification?”

    What's the point in playing at all? Some teams will play because they want to win a title; truth be told, I don't think that UKU Nationals has seen a tightly contested final since 2007. Some teams want to go to Europe. Some teams just want to play ultimate, or want to finish on a high, or maybe get revenge on a team that beat them previously, or they are just chuffed they made nationals. Let's not make assumptions about why teams are there. Even at the biggest sporting events in the world (Olympics, World Cup, etc), some people are there for gold and some are there because being there is the achievement.

  30. I guess I don't follow why North 1 & North 2 are in the same side of the draw at all (last year), and this year London 1 & 2, North 1 & 2, Midlands 1 & 2, etc. It adds a lot of legitimacy to regionals to know that you can only replay that same team (from regional finals) again in the national finals.

  31. Dammit, I just wrote a long response to this but the damn thing deleted it when I tried to sign in to post it. Short answer – you're wrong about pools, and I'll tell you why next time I see you.

    And think again about that last point – it's almost like you're wilfully misunderstanding on that one. Yes, teams have different reasons for playing, but in that 4v5 game at Uni they definitely both want to go to div 1. If team A wins, they play 3v4 for that chance. If team B wins, and we have a rule that games are never replayed, they don't get a shot as they've already played 3. So B has far less incentive to win 4v5 than A does, which is clearly unfair.

    It's possible to argue that replaying is MORE unfair; but you have to admit that choosing to never replay can lead to unfairness itself. It's not a no-brainer to remove all repeat games.

  32. We've been through this – we can;'t easily do that because it's arbitrary how we move a team to the other side of the draw, and arbitrary is bad. Objective rules are good. Please see earlier comments for that argument.

    It's not possible to say “North 2 should be in the other side of the draw” without saying whether that means 9th or 11th. We are subjectively deciding who plays who. As explained already, we COULD write very long rules to try and cover every possible switch, but it's a huge task and we'd probably mess it up.

    Also – some chap called 'Brummie' said this earlier in the discussion…”Arbitrarily changing seedings for Nationals is a joke. Nationals format (inc regional seedings) should be set up in advance. While I accept it makes sense to make some *minor* adjustments to avoid regional matchups…”

    There's nothing minor about your suggestion to never allow regionals 1&2 to play before the final. If for example Clapham and Fire were the 2nd and 3rd best teams in the country, then even if we did the seedings before regionals there is nothing 'minor' about moving one of them to avoid that semi – someone has to play them, and we arbitrarily decide whom.

    Worse.. if we release full seedings like that before regionals, then perhaps when someone sees their likely QF or SF opponent they might choose to lose the regional final to get into the other half of the draw instead… That's just not good.

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