Recently Liam Lenten and Graham Kendall published "Scholarly sports: Influence of social science academe on sports rules and policy" in the Journal of the Operational Research Society. The duo had previously collaborated in 2017 in the European Journal of Operational Research with "When sports rules go awry". The latter paper provides a really nice overview of rule changes, made across a wide variety of sports, that resulted in unintended consequences.
Something related to this is at play in English football. Next weekend sees the first domestic silverware presented - the Carabao Cup Final. Manchester United will go head-to-head with Newcastle United. While the Red Devils are experiencing a trophy drought by their standards (the last success was the Europa League under Jose Mourinho back in 2017), Newcastle have not won a major trophy since 1995.
The interesting dynamic this weekend, centres on Newcastle United goalkeeper Martin Dúbravka. The Slovakian international was first choice goalkeeper at Newcastle from 2018 to 2022. At the start of the 2022/23 season he lost his place to Nick Pope. Rather than sit on the bench for Newcastle, Dúbravka decided to go out on loan. He destination - none other than Manchester United.
His move had the same result. The subs bench. But this time for Man United. However, he did make two appearances for United, both in the Carabao Cup.
League rules stipulate that players cannot represent more than one club in the competition. When Dúbravka returned to Newcastle in January, following the end of his loan agreement with United, he was aware he could not represent Newcastle in the competition. Little did he know the clubs would meet in the final.
At full-time on Sunday, the winners (whoever that will be) will receive 30 medals. 19 are for players and 11 for staff. Dúbravka who will be part of the Newcastle group (he cannot be named in the squad) is eligible for a winners medal...but only if Manchester United win. So his medal haul can be added to, but only if his current club lose.
The man himself has made the situation clear however. He said yesterday "I played two games for Manchester United, so I knew that I can't play in the final...It’s a very strange situation for me...It will be very difficult to watch this game. I’ve been asked about it a lot, but of course I want Newcastle to win because I’ve spent so many years here and I’m very grateful for the chance the club gave me in English football".