David Kendix is the man behind the INF World Rankings system. A mathematician and actuary, Kendix introduced netball’s system in 2008, after successfully devising a system for world cricket.
It’s now ten years since the netball system came into play, and during that time the number of teams with a ranking has nearly doubled, rising from 22 to 40. Nikki Richardson asks him how the rankings are shaping up after a decade in action…
“The impact of 40 teams coming in is very good”, says Kendix. “A good proportion of the Members play ranked matches – that’s impressive.”
Back in 2008 the INF recognised that, outside of the major tournaments, there was no broader recognition or context for all the other matches being played around the world. By introducing a ranking system, countries could move up the rankings and plot aiming points and goals, giving them an independent way of showing progress.
“I do believe that countries have been motivated by getting a ranking” says Kendix: “Once a country has it, they don’t want to drop off the table. If you look across the ten-year period, I believe that the world rankings have acted as an incentive for some countries to play more than they would otherwise have done – which must be good for the game as a whole.
“Countries were able to set objective targets which were measurable, good from a governance and management perspective, and I think made it potentially easier to get investment, whether from sponsors or government funding. It gave more context to matches throughout, it gave countries a higher profile, and a better story to tell.”
Each July, the oldest year of results drop out of the ratings and the weightings are redistributed. This is the one annual occasion when the rankings list can alter, other than through a match being played.
“Rankings play a crucial part in determining qualification for major events such as Commonwealth Games”, says Kendix. “On a given date, July 1, it is the top 12 eligible countries who go through. If you are around the cut-off area, and you’ve got a Commonwealth Games spot at stake, then it certainly focuses the mind. To that extent, the rankings system is more than just general interest, it’s become part of the infrastructure of the sport, in so far as the rankings are driving qualification.”
His advice to countries is to ensure they play enough matches, so they are protected from the next annual update. If a country has played eight matches but three of them are in the oldest year, then when it comes to the first of July and the next update, those three old ones will go.
“If countries want to avoid disappointment, they should reflect on how many matches they need to play by 30th June to ensure that they don’t lose their place on the rankings on that date. It is always worth thinking ahead, a year in advance of your fixtures”, says Kendix.
He also points out that the rankings are not biased to playing more games – if you play more games you need to win more games.
“The rankings themselves don’t reward you for playing more often. A rating is essentially an average, it’s your total points divided by total games. So, if you get 1000 points from ten games, you get a rating of a 100, and if you get 2000 points in 20 games, you still have a rating of a 100. If playing more often means you become more skilled, then that’s secondary effect.”
One message Kendix says needs to be made very clear is that if you win a game you will always improve your rating, and if you lose a game you will always worsen your rating – but you can never be better off not playing.
So what has been the best example of a team climbing the rankings over the last decade?
“Uganda is a great story, in how they’ve improved and risen over the years”, says Kendix.
“For sport to be meaningful you need to have surprises and upsets, you need to have teams that are getting to the top and others that are moving down, you need to have that fluidity to keep sport interesting. Uganda’s rise has been a great achievement.”
Please find more information about the rankings here.