It’s over two and half years since I wrote the following article on the change in the losing bonus points rule in France’s Top 14 rugby competition. To re-cap quickly, since the beginning of the 2014/15 season, a losing team must be within 5 points rather than 7 in order to get a losing bonus point. The argument was that such a change would promote more positive play in the closing stages of games if teams had to do more to get a losing bonus point. For example if a team was 10 points behind in a game they would need only a penalty or drop goal in the old scenario, whereas now they need a try.
Given that close to three seasons has passed since its introduction it is opportune to examine the initial effects of the rule change. Figure 1 below plots the average losing bonus points per game in the Top 14 league as well as comparable data from the Pro 12 Celtic League and the English Premiership. As can be seen in the figure the average number of losing bonus points has actually fallen in France since the 2014/15 season while values in the other two leagues have remained relatively stable.
Another point of relevance is whether the rule change has created an inequality between the top teams and the bottom teams. That is, the fact that teams have to work harder to get a losing bonus point may be a greater disadvantage to the teams at the bottom of the league. Figure 2 breaks down the Top 14 data in figure 1 into the top 7 and bottom 7 teams as per finishing position in each season. Prior to the rule change (using seasons 2007/08 to 2013/14) the top 7 teams won 0.37 losing bonus point on average while the bottom 7 teams won 0.46. After the rule change (using seasons 2014/15 to 2016/17) the figures were 0.30 and 0.32 respectively. So there is perhaps some evidence to suggest that rule change has had a disproportionate effect on lower ranked teams.