The League Table: Eurovision Success in the Televote Era

Any Eurovision Song Contest fan of substance knows that Ireland has won the Contest a record seven times. However, with Sweden’s victory in 2015, the most successful of the Scandinavian nations is merely one win away from tying the Irish for most overall wins.

Sweden has participated longer than Ireland; they have, with one exception, appeared in every Grand Final. During its shorter tenure Ireland has missed several Grand Finals and been relegated entirely once. Ireland’s seven wins between 1970 and 1996 means even wins over 27 years, a remarkable record. Sweden’s six wins have been between 1974 and 2015, a period of 41 years. And of course had the current rules been in place, the 1991 winner would have been France (Amina’s Le dernier qui a parlé) rather than Sweden (Carola’s Fangad av em stormvind) on the countback. Let’s not go there…

However…Ireland’s success has been entirely thanks to national juries. Since televoting was introduced in Birmingham (1997), Ireland has managed only five top ten results: in fact, as more countries moved away from juries, Ireland’s results continued to drop. Meanwhile Sweden has won three of their victories thanks to televoters: one almost entirely (1999) and two with a combined jury/televote. Arguably Mans Zemerlow’s victory with Heroes is more of a jury victory: unlike Loreen’s Euphoria—which romped to a massive victory with televoters and juries—Mans was only ranked third with televoters, but a massive first with juries.

We should not be surprised if Sweden draws even with Ireland in the near future. But should winning the most titles be equated with being the most successful? We think not—and here’s our argument.

Method

Stealing liberally from the “league table” from Keith Mill’s All Kinds of Everything website (to the faithful departed), we have converted rankings in Grand Finals to points. Our league table focuses upon:

  • Top 5 finishers each year
  • 5 points allocated for winning
  • 4 points allocated for the runner-up, continuing through to
  • 1 point for fifth place
  • Only the years from 1997 to 2015, where televoting played some role in the scoring system

These data were entered in Excel; we used basic Excel functions to aggregate a total league table score for each country that appears. We have not looked at aggregate score versus number of appearances during this period. We have day jobs; we also have a number of other analyses coming down the 58points.com widget line. As in previous 58points.com analyses, we have not drilled down to compare the various ways in which televote and jury rankings are combined or weighted against one another.

Results

Using this system, 28 countries make an appearance in our league table, of which only two (Albania 2012, Hungary 2014) earned a single point. Here’s the table:

Year First Points Second Points Third Points Fourth Points Fifth Points
1997 UK 5 Ireland 4 Turkey 3 Italy 2 Cyprus 1
1998 Israel 5 UK 4 Malta 3 Netherlands 2 Croatia 1
1999 Sweden 5 Iceland 4 Germany 3 Croatia 2 Israel 1
2000 Denmark 5 Russia 4 Latvia 3 Estonia 2 Germany 1
2001 Estonia 5 Denmark 4 Greece 3 France 2 Sweden 1
2002 Latvia 5 Malta 4 UK 3 Estonia 2 France 1
2003 Turkey 5 Belgium 4 Russia 3 Norway 2 Sweden 1
2004 Ukraine 5 Serbia & Montenegro 4 Greece 3 Turkey 2 Cyprus 1
2005 Greece 5 Malta 4 Romania 3 Israel 2 Latvia 1
2006 Finland 5 Russia 4 Bosnia & Hercegovina 3 Romania 2 Sweden 1
2007 Serbia 5 Ukraine 4 Russia 3 Turkey 2 Bulgaria 1
2008 Russia 5 Ukraine 4 Greece 3 Armenia 2 Norway 1
2009 Norway 5 Iceland 4 Azerbaijan 3 Turkey 2 UK 1
2010 Germany 5 Turkey 4 Romania 3 Denmark 2 Azerbaijan 1
2011 Azerbaijan 5 Italy 4 Sweden 3 Ukraine 2 Denmark 1
2012 Sweden 5 Russia 4 Serbia 3 Azerbaijan 2 Albania 1
2013 Denmark 5 Azerbaijan 4 Ukraine 3 Norway 2 Russia 1
2014 Austria 5 Netherlands 4 Sweden 3 Armenia 2 Hungary 1
2015 Sweden 5 Russia 4 Italy 3 Belgium 2 Australia 1

From this we calculated a top ten across these 19 Contests.

Results

As happened in 1991 we ended with a tie—actually two ties! Most interestingly we had a cluster of four countries vying for 9th and 10th places. The difference between 4th and 5th places was also sorted via countback: most wins, most runners-up, etc., until the tie was broken. Even so, we ended up with equal 9ths rather than 9th and 10th placings.

Just missing out on the top ten we have Italy (9 points, no wins) and Estonia (9 points, one win, one 4th place).

Note: In the table below, we have only added notes where a tiebreak was implemented. The rankings from 9th to 6th are:

Rank Country Total Notes
9 Latvia 9 One win, one 3rd, one fifth
9 Germany 9 One win, one 3rd, one fifth
8 Norway 10
7 Greece 14
6 Azerbaijan 15

Worst. Winner. Ever.

Next we have another tie: both Ukraine and Turkey ended up on 18 points. However, Ukraine has finished second twice, which is slightly better than Turkey:

Rank Country Total Notes
5 Turkey 18 One win, one second
4 Ukraine 18 One win, two seconds

Best. Non-Winner. Ever.

Next we have two members of the Scandi bloc doing very well—good enough, in fact, for bronze and silver in our league table:

Rank Country Total Notes
3 Denmark 21
2 Sweden 23

Best. Winner. Of. The. Decade.

Both Sweden has three victories in the televote era; Denmark two. But even Sweden’s recent results, while strong, are not quite strong enough to top the table.

They’re Our Only One

Despite only one win (2008), the overall champion beats back both countries with multiple wins. Being runner-up four times (2000, 2006, 2012, 2015), third twice (2003, 2007), and fifth once (2013) seals the deal.

A million votes. Probably several millions.

On 28 points it is Russia that tops the table as most successful country in the televote era. Here’s the full table:

Rank Country Total Notes
1 Russia 28
2 Sweden 23
3 Denmark 21
4 Ukraine 18 One win, two seconds
5 Turkey 18 One win, one second
6 Azerbaijan 15
7 Greece 14
8 Norway 10
9 Latvia 9 One win, one 3rd, one fifth
9 Germany 9 One win, one 3rd, one fifth

An Eye on 2016

This year is viewed by many fans to be wide open, with both Sweden and Russia fancied in some circles has a potential victor in Stockholm. If Sweden wins and Russia does not finish in the top 5, we will have a new league champion. However, if Russia wins, even if Sweden is second, they will retain the crown. What is perhaps most striking from the table is that only one country in the top 10 9 is not either part of a voting bloc or reliant on diasporic support: Germany. Das ist toll!

Tempting as it might be to characterise the televote era victories as being somewhat more credible, the combined system current in use is also not wholly representative of “the people”: it endeavours to strike a balance between populism and taste, imperfect as this system may be.

If 2016 repeats what we saw in 2015—a song whose jury support was so heavily skewed it skewed the overall result in one entry’s favour—do not be surprised if there are clamours for yet another tweak.

Meet back here on 13 May (or thereafter)?

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