The Last Will Be First? Eurovision and the Luck of the Draw

Adrian Kavanagh, 21st May 2012

Song and performance matters in terms of ultimate Eurovision success, but as previous posts have shown “diaspora” and “friends and neighbours” voting can also help a country’s prospects of doing well in the contest, though of course not in themselves proving sufficient to win the contest for that country. But another key factor that can shape a country’s hopes of winning the contest is the draw position they get to perform in, with the usual rule of thumb suggesting that a late draw position significantly helps a country’s hopes of doing well in the contest.

 

Eurovision wins and draw position in the 2000s 

Finals
Year Winning Country Draw Position
2011 Azerbaijan 19
2010 Germany 22
2009 Norway 20
2008 Russia 24
2007 Serbia 17
2006 Finland 17
2005 Greece 19
2004 Ukraine 10
2003 Turkey 4
2002 Latvia 23
2001 Estonia 20
2000 Denmark 14
Semi Finals    
Year Winning Country Draw Position
2011 SF 2 Sweden 8
2011 SF1 Greece 19L
2010 SF 2 Turkey 17L
2010 SF1 Belgium 10
2009 SF 2 Norway 6
2009 SF1 Iceland 12
2008 SF 2 Ukraine 4
2008 SF1 Greece 19L
2007 SF Serbia 15
2006 SF Finland 16
2005 SF Romania 14
2004 SF Serbia and Montenegro 20

Table 1: Draw position of winning Eurovision acts in both finals and semi-finals during the 2000s

As Table 1 shows, the countries that have won Eurovision Finals over the past decade have tended to enjoy the advantages of a late draw position with the exceptions of 2003 when Turkey managed to narrowly win the contest while performing 4th (on the night of what was (up to 2012) the biggest ever Final night in Eurovision history with 26 acts performing) and 2004 when Ukraine’s Wild Dances won the contest while performing in 10th position on Final night. Since Ukraine’s 2004 win, none of the winning acts in Eurovision Finals have performed any earlier than 17th on Final night, meaning that the winners of the last seven finals have come exclusively from the last third of the draw.

In the semi finals with fewer countries competing (especially since the reintroduction of the two semi finals system in 2008) there has been a tendency for more wins by acts drawn to perform earlier in the show, but there is also still an obvious advantage here towards acts performing later in the show with three of these semi finals being won by acts drawn to perform from last position in the show (Greece in 2008 and 2011, Turkey in 2010).

(There is also an interesting pattern here where a number of the acts that went on to win the contest are shown not to have won their preceding semi final, including Azerbaijan in 2011, Russia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2004.)

Draw position and the Eurovision semi finals

Figure 1: Average points by draw position in Eurovision semi finals, 2004-11

Average points by draw position in Eurovision semi finals, 2004-11

As Figure 1 shows, there is a general tendency here for acts drawn to perform in the latter part of the semi finals to do better than those drawn to perform earlier on the night and the best draw position to get statistically in a semi final is to be drawn to perform in last position on the night. There is not a straight-forward relationship here with certain  mid-contest draw positions (10th, 13th and 14th) proving to be more advantageous draw positions than some of the later positions. Similarly performing in first is not statistically the worst position to be drawn to perform in (and this is actually a draw position that can work well for certain types of entries, especially the more uptempo numbers) – instead the worst draw positions to be in statistically are 2nd and 3rd positions. 3rd position is statistically the worst position to be drawn to perform in for a semi final, while 2nd position emerges (as will be shown below) as the worst draw position to get in a final. Being drawn in 2nd position is traditionally the real Eurovision “draw of death” – no entry performed from 2nd place has ever won the competition or a semi final, while “Rock and Roll Kids” in 1994 is the only ever entry to have ever won the contest while performing on the night from 3rd position. In 2009 Sinéad Mulvey and Black Daisy unluckily missed out on the final after having attained the cursed 2nd draw position – and they were even better than the Czech Republic’s entrants who attained the dreaded nil points after being drawn to perform second in the other semi-final.  The 2010 Oslo final saw the poison chalice of performing second in the final fall to Spain, but luckily for them their act was intruded on by an “over-enthusiastic” attention seeker fan andSpain were invited to perform again at the end of the show, thus attaining a more desired draw position by default!

If Ireland had been drawn to perform second in the second semi final in Baku, then I’m sure Louis Walsh would not have resorted to a stage invasion to get a similar result to Spain in the 2010 Final, but then again… Fortunately such tactics are not necessary, as for the second year in a row Jedward have been drawn to perform last in the second semi-final (this time thanks to Ireland winning thewild cardin the position allocation draw. This has to be seen as a very good draw again for Jedward and the last position last year proved crucial to them in their semi final, given how relatively close they came to not making it out of that semi final (finishing 15 points ahead of 11th placed Belgium). But it is worth noting that the last position draw does not guarantee qualification and it has been a graveyard position for a number of uptempo acts in the past (Spain in the 2009 final, Slovenia in the 26-country 2003 final, The Netherlands in the second 2009 semi-final) – although this was not the case with the uptempo acts drawn to perform from last place in the 2010 semis, as Turkey won their semi-final and Iceland finished third the other one, while Greece went on to win the other 2011 semi final while performing from last position. There is a general trend alsothat ballad/mid-tempo entries tend to do much better from the last draw position than more uptempo entries do.

As well as draw position, the level of competition offered from the other countries drawn in your semi final can also determine a country’s chances of progressing to the final. Ireland has been unfailingly unlucky in this regard over the past four years (including all the contests held since the second semi-final format was introduced in 2008) and has always ended up in the tougher semi-final; in both 2008 and 2010 seven of the entrants drawn in Ireland’s semi-final made it into the Top 10, while five of the entrants in Ireland’s semi final (including Jedward themselves) made the Top 10 in the 2011 Final. In 2008, even an easy draw position could not have helped the Eurovision prospects of our “effort” but a tough draw in 2009 (the aforementioned 2nd place draw position) did cost us a place Ireland a place in that year’s final. Even Niamh Kavanagh only managed to just about qualify from her 2010 semi-final, which admittedly was probably the toughest ever semi final in the history of Eurovision.  This year, at first glance, Ireland seemed to doing better in this regard. In the allocation draw (usually held a few weeks before the main draw) Ireland’s draw position meant that they ended up avoiding a number of the countries that have dominated Eurovision in the 2000s and which have tended to qualify every time, or most times, from the semi final, including Turkey, Serbia, Norway, Sweden, Ukraine and Bosnia. But just like 2011, this year many of the stronger entrants are coming from countries that have not done well in recent years and between the jigs and the reels, Ireland seem (yet again) to fallen into the stronger of the two semi-finals, although we’re not in the same “group of death” territory that faced Niamh Kavanagh in 2010 in fairness.  We’re in the same semi final as Russia and their high profile grannies act, but also face strong competition in our semi final from a number of contest “dark horses” in Romania, Iceland and Denmark, while other countries such as Greece and Moldova have very good Eurovision semi final qualification records.

Another thing a Eurovision entrant wants to avoid is being drawn too close to a similar style of entry and so Jedward needed to stay apart in the draw from the other pop acts in Semi-Final 1 such as Greece, Romania and Cyprus (which they have managed to do) and also the more high profile novelty acts (such as Russia) which they have been less successful in avoiding with the Austrian tractor-rappers drawn to perform in third-last positon and the attention-attracting Buranovskiye Babushki performing just four positions earlier than Jedward.

Draw position and the Eurovision final

Figure 2: Average points by draw position in Eurovision finals, 2003-11

When it comes to the Eurovision final, a late draw position again offers countries a better chance of success with generally higher average points over the past eight years of finals being associated with those countries that have received later draw positions. It is interesting to note from Figure 2 that being drawn to perform in last place is not the best position statistically to perform from in Eurovision finals, as opposed to the trend noted for the semi finals. The pattern underlined by Figure 2 is somewhat an innocous one given that only one country (Slovenia in 2003) has ever performed in 26th position in a Eurovision final prior to this year’s contest and the Slovene acts attained very few points in that 2003 contest.

Figure 3: Average points by draw position (section of the draw) in Eurovision finals, 2003-11

But Figure 3 above shows that being drawn to perform in third-last position in a final is a better draw position to get statistically than being drawn to perform last or second-last on the night, with the fourth-last draw position being nearly as good a draw position to get as the last draw position.

Although draw positions in the Final have already been allocated to the hosts and the “Big 5” (with United Kingdom performing 1st, France performing 9th, Italy performing 10th, Azerbaijan performing 13th, Spain performing 19th and Germany performing 20th), draw positions for the successful semi-finalists will not be known until after these contests (with these positions usually being drawn at the post-contest press conferences following immediately after these shows). As with the semi finals, a later draw position will generally be expected to help a country’s chances (and it also helps to be drawn before, but not after, the ad break). But performing in last position does not carry the same advantages as in the semi finals and indeed the only act to perform in 26th position in a Eurovision final before 2012 performed poorly. Last year, Jedward were drawn in 6th position in the final, statistically one of the least successful Eurovision draw positions, and close to a number of similar acts; their strong result was very much attained despite, and not due to, this draw position. Statistically the best positions in terms of average points won over past decade would be the 22nd and 18th draw positions. The most wins since 1975 have come from the 17th and 20th draw positions, with these positions accounting for four Irish Eurovision victories (1980, 1987, 1992 and 1996) during this period. The 17th draw position has been especially kind to Ireland (with the unusual execption of case where family acts are involved, which in retrospect may not bode will for the Grimes twins), accounting for three wins, two second places and one fourth place finish.

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6 Responses to “The Last Will Be First? Eurovision and the Luck of the Draw”

  1. Eurovision Song Contest 2012 Betting | sport-alpha.com Says:

    […] for Information, I found this great blog post proving based on the last 10 years that a late draw is an […]

  2. Analysis of the draw for 2013 Eurovision semi finals. What countries does Ireland want to be drawn with or avoid? « Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] each country will be performing in, but it will not be assigning actual draw positions. Based on my earlier analyses being drawn to perform in the second half of a semi final would be desirable for Ireland and […]

  3. Luck of the draw? Importance of position in the running order at Eurovision finals | Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] (A 2011 version of this post, including graphs, can be viewed at: https://adriankavanagh.com/2012/05/21/the-last-will-be-first-eurovision-and-the-luck-of-the-draw/ ) […]

  4. Analysis of the draw for 2014 Eurovision Song Contest semi finals. What countries does Ireland want to be drawn with or avoid? | Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] each country will be performing in, but it will not be assigning actual draw positions. Based on my earlier analyses being drawn to perform in the second half of a semi final would be desirable for Ireland and […]

  5. Analysis of the draw for 2015 Eurovision Song Contest semi finals. What countries does Ireland want to be drawn with or avoid? | Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] each country will be performing in, but it will not be assigning actual draw positions. Based on my earlier analyses, it would bemuch better for Ireland if they were drawn to perform in the second half of a semi […]

  6. Analysis of the draw for 2016 Eurovision Song Contest semi finals. Which countries does Ireland want to be drawn with and which do they need to avoid? | Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] each country will be performing in, but it will not be assigning actual draw positions. Based on my earlier analyses, it would be much better for Ireland if they were drawn to perform in the second half of a semi […]

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