Pot Luck? Pot Lucked Out! The Draw that Ireland Needed to Get in Tonight’s Eurovision Semi Final Allocation Draw… And Didn’t!

Adrian Kavanagh, 31st January 2023

Tonight the semi-final allocation draw for the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Liverpool. This will tell us what countries (out of the 31 countries that do not qualify directly for the Final) will take part in Semi Final 1 (on Tuesday 9 May) or Semi Final 2 (on Thursday 11 May), which semi-final will be allocated to the “Big 5″/Host countries (Ukraine, United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Italy and France) to vote in, and whether a country gets to vote in the first half or second half of the semi-final that they have been drawn into.

Figure 1: Countries assigned to different “pots” for the semi-final allocation draw for Eurovision Song Contest 2023 (Australia will be in Pot 2)

For tonight’s semi-final allocation draw, the 31 countries that will be taking part in the semi-finals have been allocated to one of five pots. In previous years six pots were involved, so this overall reduction in the numbers of pots does reflect the overall drop in the number of countries taking part in Eurovision over the past few years – 43 countries took part in the 2018 contest in Lisbon, for instance. The pots are drawn up on the basis of post voting trends in order to, as the official Eurovision website puts it, “reduce the chance of so-called neighbourly voting and increase suspense in the Semi-Finals”.

In the past, some pots have been relatively consistent in terms of their membership – the Nordic/Viking Bloc pot, which usually includes Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland, the Former Soviet Bloc pot, which usually included Russia and Belarus (before those countries’ disqualification from the contest), as well as Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, and the Former Yugoslav Bloc pot, which usually includes Serbia and Croatia, as well as having included Montenegro, North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in past contests. Other pots have, by contrast, tended to be more fluid and some countries, with Ireland being probably a very good example here, have tended to migrate between pots.

So, with Ireland assigned to Pot 4 (see Figure 1 above), they will be in the same semi-final as two other countries from that pot, as well as three other countries from Pots 1, 3 and 5 and either three or four countries from Pot 2.

What does Ireland want to get, and maybe in some instances NEED to get, from tonight’s draw.

First of all, Ireland NEEDS to be allocated to the Second Half of whatever semi-final they get in the draw. As previous analyses on this website have shown, a later position in a contest running order will significantly improve a country’s chances of doing well in a semi-final, and, untimately, improve their chances of qualifying. This is especially the case with countries that do not have very strong qualification records, such as Ireland. Indeed, over the past decade and a half, Ireland has only qualified for the Eurovision Final when the Irish act gets drawn to perform in the second-half of the semi-final. In 2010, Niamh Kavanagh performed in position 12 (out of 17 countries) in the running order for her semi-final. In 2011 and 2012 Jedward got the last position in the semi-final running order – statistically the best position to get – in the two semi-finals they competed in. Ryan Dolan performed in position 13 (out of 16 countries) when he qualified out of the first semi-final in 2013. And Ryan O’Shaughnessy got the second last position in the semi-final running order – statistically the second best position to get – in the first semi-final of 2018. Indeed, since the semi-final system was introduced back in 2004, only one Irish act has qualified for the Eurovision Final after being drawn to perform in the first half of a semi-final, that being Brian Kennedy in 2006, after having performed in position 8 in a semi-final involving 23 countries. By contrast, over the past decade and a half, those Irish acts, who have been drawn to, or allocated to, early positions in the running order, have ultimately failed to qualify for the Final – even though Brooke was drawn for the second half of her semi-final in 2022, the decision by the show producers to allocate her to the earliest possible position in the second half running order (position 10) ultimately meant she was effectively performing in the middle section of that contest, not the latter part.

The Draw: Well, this did not go well. Ireland will perform in the first half of Semi Final 1. With just seven countries in this half of the semi-final, this means Ireland cannot perform any later than Position 7 in that semi -final. If we do qualify, it will break a precedent, as – as noted above – no Irish act has qualified for the Final from a running order position earlier than Position 8 up to now. On the positive note, we are in the smaller semi-final, with just 15 countries taking part in this, and this includes a few countries that have similarly unlucky qualification records to Ireland’s (Croatia, Latvia, Malta, Czech Republic), while it also includes countries that might struggle due to the introducton (or re-introduction) of the 100% Televote rule for the Eurovision semi-finals (Azerbaijan, Malta, Switzerland).

Second of all, Ireland NEEDs to have the United Kingdom voting in our semi-final – as noted in the previous post, our most consistent source of Eurovison points over the past few decades has been the United Kingdom televote. And on the basis of the trends seen over the past six or seven years, Ireland also NEEDS to have Spain voting in our semi-final, given that Spain has ranked second only to the United Kingdom in terms of the countries most likely to award televotes points to Ireland, as discussed in the aforementioned post. Given that the points for the semi-finals this year will be solely based on the televote, Ireland will not want a scenario in which France, Italy and Ukraine prove to be the “Big 5″/Host countries voting in our semi-final, so on that basis Germany would be an ideal third country to be assigned to vote in Ireland’s semi-final, alongside Spain and the United Kingdom. But, ultimately, Ireland will be doing well if they get the United Kingdom and Spain to vote in our semi-final, irrespective of the other country that gets allocated also to this semi-final.

The Draw: Could not have got any worse. Spain and the United Kingdom are voting in the other semi-final (Semi Final 2) and Italy and France will be voting in our semi-final. One slight…very slight…positive is that Germany, and not Ukraine, is voting in Semi Funal 1.

Figure 2: Eurovision Song Contest 2023 – Semi Final Allocation Draw results

Pot 1 – The Former Yugoslave Pot – Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Albania, Austria, Switzerland: With Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Montegro all having withdrawn from the contest in recent years, only half of the countries in this pot now are countries that once formed part of Yugoslavia. But Austria and Switzerland, due to migration trends, often tend to award high televote point levels to some of the Former Yugoslav countries, but especially Serbia. In the 2022 Final (and remember, the vast majority of voting countries were awarding their 12 points to Ukraine in that Final), for instance, Serbia got 12 points from the televotes of Switzerland, Slovenia and Croatia (and also North Macedonia and Montenegro) and 10 points from Austria. Based on voting trends in recent years, and also on qualification trends over past contests, Ireland would NEED to avoid Serbia in this pot – we don’t do well (to put it mildly) with Serbia’s televote and Serbia has the best qualification record out of the countries in this pot. Ireland would NEED, by contrast, to have Austria as one of the countries that get drawn from this pot to be in the same semi-final as Ireland. On the basis of statistics, there is very little to choose from between Albania, Croatia and Switzerland in terms of which of these countries would be the most likely to vote for Ireland (in the televote), but Ireland has not won any televote points from Slovenia. So the ideal draw here would be for Ireland to end up in the same semi-final as Austria and any two from Switzerland, Croatia and Albania, but, ultimately, it would be a very good result for Ireland so long as we get Austria and avoid Serbia.

The Draw: So…we got Serbia and avoided Austria. Another disaster here to be honest. On a slightly positive note, it’s not a bad thing,, however, to have Switzerland and Croatia in our semi-final.

Pot 2 – The Viking Bloc Pot – Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Australia: In the early 2010s, Ireland would probably have been the seventh country in this pot – the largest of the five pots for this year’s semi-final allocation draw – but this slot has been assigned instead to Australia, even though the other countries in this pot are geographically the furthest away from Australia. With this being the only pot with seven countries in it, it means that the countries in this pot will be the only ones to have three countries from the same pot – and three countries that, statistically, would be likely to award higher televote points to the other countries in this pot – voting in their semi-final. On the basis of voting trends over the past few years (see the previous post) and also on past qualification records, Ireland would NEED to avoid Sweden and Norway, but also would NEED to have Australia voting in this semi-final. As well as Australia, Denmark and Estonia have been associated with higher than average televote point scores for Ireland in recent contests, so a good result in the draw would see Ireland end up in the same semi-final as these three countries. Given that the televote score trends from Iceland and Finland have not been unhealthy over the same time period, it would not be the end of the world if one, or both, of these countries ended up in Ireland’s semi-final along with Australia instead, or in addition to Denmark or Estonia. Normally, it would be better for Ireland to be in the smaller of the two Eurovision semi-finals – obviously you have a slightly better chance of qualifying in a 15-country semi-final as opposed to a 16-country semi-final – but a scenario in which Ireland ends up in the 16-country semi-final, but with Australia, Denmark, Estonia and either Iceland or Finland as the Pot 2 countries in that semi-final, would not be a bad one.

The Draw: It’s the semi-final draw that keeps giving…grief. Sweden and Norway will be in our semi-final. Australia and Denmark will not, and neither will Iceland or Estonia.. Ireland could be really needing a big vote from Finland in our semi-final, based on this. .

Pot 3 – The Former Soviet Bloc Pot – Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Israel: Ireland has never expected to win many points in the televote from countries in the Former Soviet Bloc pot in the past, and this remains to be the case this year. Azerbaijan, Armenia, Israel and Lithuania have had the best qualification records of the countries in this pot in recent years, so this might be a good basis for arguing that these could be the countries to avoid in this pot. Lithuania, Israel and Azerbaijan, by contrast, have been the three countries most likely to vote for Ireland (based on televote patterns) in recent years, while Ireland failed to win any televote points from Armenia or Georgia over the last few years. Latvia traditionally were one of Ireland’s best “friends” at Eurovision in the 2000s and early 2010s, but votes have dried up for Ireland from the Latvia televote in recent years. Ireland’s qualification chances are unlikely to be made, or broken, based on the coutries from this pot that end up in the Irish semi-final, but it would probably be a good thing if Ireland could avoid Armenia, at least, and maybe end up in the same semi-final as Lithuania.

The Draw: I guess we did avoid Armenia, so not all bad, but can we expect to win many points from Azerbaijan, Israel and Latvia? We’ll really be hoping that Latvia returns to it’s 2000s/early 2010s patterns of fairly strong televote scores for Irish acts.

Pot 4 – The Southern Europe, with added Ireland, Pot – Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Malta, San Marino, Ireland: The last two pots are less coherent than the first three, but to some degree this pot does make sense – involving five countries from Southern Europe – or at least would make sense if Ireland was not added in here. Ireland can only be drawn alongside two other countries from this pot – the country we want to get here (based on recent televote trends) is Portugal and the country we want to avoid is Cyprus. Of the other three countries in this pot, Greece actually has had the higher of the average televote levels when it comes to voting for Ireland, but Greece’s qualification record is also significantly stronger than any of the other countries in this pot, so it might actually be better for Ireland to get paired with Portugal in this semi-final and either Malta or San Marino.

The Draw: OK, this worked out pretty well for us, in fairness. We probably couldn’t have done better in terms of who got drawn into Semi Final 1, along with us, from this pot. We avoid Greece and Cyprus and we get Portugal and Malta.

Pot 5 – The Western Europe/Dispora Pot – Belgium, The Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic, Moldova, Romania: As opposed to Pots 1, 2 and 3, there isn’t an especially strong level of coherence to this pot, apart from the fact that two of the countries are western states, which contain large Diaspora populations, and some of the other countries this pot are based in the more eastern part of the European continent and have large Diaspora populations that are resident in other western European countries. Given the lack of coherence to this pot, it is perhaps not suprising that there are countries that it would be much better to get drawn into Ireland’s semi-final, while there are also countries that Ireland would want to, and probably NEED to, avoid. On the basis of televote trends across the last few years, it would be ideal for Ireland to end up in the same semi-final as the Czech Republic and Belgium, and probably also The Netherlands. By contrast, Ireland would NEED to avoid Moldova – a country that has awarded no televote points to Ireland in recent years and which has a solid qualification record, and ideally also avoid Poland and Romania, although it would not be the end of the world if, say, Ireland got Belgium, the Czech Republic and Poland.

The Draw: Some more bad news here, as did not avoid Moldova, whole Belgium got assigned to the other semi-final. In fairness, it’s not all Running Order/Big 5/Hosts/Pot 1/Pot 2 style bad news here, as we did get the Czech Republic and The Netherlands, and did avoid Romania and Poland. Ireland will probably need a healthy tally of televote points from these two countries if we are to have any chance of qualifying for the Final.


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