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Wait, Is It Bad To Draw Last in the Grand Final? Written by on March 14, 2023 | 1 Comment

The United Kingdom will close the Eurovision Grand Final in Liverpool. Will this hometown crescendo give a boost to the UK on the final scoreboard? Ben Robertson tries to do the mathematics.

The Heads of Delegation meeting is taking place in Liverpool before this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. This is the time when the boss of each country’s delegation has to formally submit all their broadcasters’ plans for how they want to stage their three minutes on stage and of course the all important song. Changes after this date need approval.

However one of the quirks of this event is that it is here where the host nation sees their start order revealed for the Grand Final. This year the co-production from the BBC and Suspilne means both the United Kingdom and Ukraine see their running order slots randomly drawn. This year each delegation drew the running order position of their co-production competitor.

It so happens that both of them have received great running order draws according to common theory. Ukraine draw out slot 19 and the United Kingdom’s uptempo crowd pleaser ‘I Wrote A Song‘ will compete in position 26 (you can watch the draw here).

This running order slot has got the British Eurovision community significantly excited that a victory might actually be possible, or at least more likely. The idea is that songs at the end of the show are more likely to be remembered and also more likely to have people watching them. Data from the 2022 contest shows that viewing figures in Spain peaked for Estonia’s show closer, a good 80% more than saw the Czechia’s opener.

Viewing figures in Spain during the 2022 Eurovision Grand Final


But Estonia didn’t win the Eurovision Song Contest last year. In fact, Stefan didn’t particularly come close, finishing tenth with televoting and 15th with juries to end up in 13th, and those Spanish viewers ranked Stefan 15th in the public vote.

Other show closers in recent times have an equally less impressive record. San Marino was 22nd (jury 18th/televote 21st) with Senhit and Flo Rida. Spain was also 22nd (jury 25th/televote 14th) in 2019. Voices in the community have been abound that the show is too long and that by song 26 those viewers who are looking to vote have already started making their minds up.

Evidence for that is patchy at best. If I take a televote only look at the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Finals from 1998 to today (see footnote 1), the average position of the song drawn last is 11.8, which is better than the average around 12.5. A small but notable nod in the correct direction. Some quick statistics show that 10 of these 24 songs placed in the top one third of placings, with 7 out of 24 placing in the middle and bottom sections respectively. One can over analyse this to suggest that the running order position last is a high-risk, high-reward running order position. There may be a slight advantage but that only works if you convince viewers to vote for you.

It is though a relatively modern trend that has experienced this stigma that last place in the running order has been a poor slot. What has changed about the Eurovision Song Contest since 2013 is that the song selected to sing last has been decided by the producers. This in itself creates its own bias, as the general trend of producer-selected running orders has been to have an up-tempo crowd-pleasing number that competitively is expected to do well but not be in winning contention.

There have been exceptions to this, with ‘Grande Amore’ ending the show in 2015 and being an oh-too-perfect closing crescendo that massed a televote landslide, but on the whole in recent years last place in the show is tracks like ‘Hope’, ‘La Venda’, ‘Only Love Survives’, which all share this gently rousing up tempo feel to end the Song Contest on a gentle high. Looking at the statistics only from the producer-led running order era suggests that last in the Grand Final is still good though, with an average placing of 11.2 compared to the expected average of 13.0.

Comparing Semi Finals To Finals

But do these mid-table bangers do better when they are drawn last? We can compare when we have songs that competed in both the Semi Final and the Grand Final to the other nine qualifiers. For example In 2022 Estonia ranked 7th in televotes in the Semi Final, but with the same 10 countries saw their ranking increase to 4th as others dropped away (notably Czechia which was drawn last in the Semi Final, but opened the Grand Final). If we do this for all the Semi Final qualifiers drawn last from 2004 onwards we see the following table.

Year Televote ranking in Semi Final Televote ranking in Grand Final compared to the same countries as Semi Final
2022 7th 4th
2021 9th 10th
2016 4th 2nd
2013 5th 6th
2012 7th 6th
2011 5th 4th
2010 4th 2nd
2008 4th 4th
2007 10th 7th
2006 6th 6th

In six of these ten cases we see that the song drawn last did better with televoting than one would suspect based on the rankings from the Semi Final, with only two occasions on the record where the ranking is worse (see footnote 2). This is evidence to suggest that a draw last in the running order is generally an advantage to otherwise.

The Month Of Mae

There is nothing obvious to fear in a running order position of last, and indeed the evidence suggests that last place is a better running order place than one middling in the show. What we do see though is that the effects are not universal every year and there are blips some years where songs take a step backwards on the scoreboard. Stats are like that and one would be concerned if the pattern was uniform and running order had such a strong effect.

But the difference here is that this is the United Kingdom. The host nation. One of the big 5 (and thus a performance not yet seen by the masses). A track that is surely going to get tons of radio airplay in the next two months and hit the Liverpool Arena to a wave of (ahem) euphoria. The last time a host country has drawn last in the Grand Final was 2001, and you should all take a moment to listen to how the crowd in Parken roared home their hometown favourite to a 2nd place finish.

The Eurovision Song Contest is more than statistics and data, it’s emotions and feelings that decide how people vote. What’s more important about drawing last in the show for the United Kingdom isn’t the position itself, but the feeling of hope. That is only going to start this wave of irrational joy that will culminate in three of the most anticipated minutes of the entire 2023 Eurovision Song Contest. You can’t buy that. Running order in this producer-led age creates a narrative for the show and with this random placing the dramatic finale has already been written.

Game on.


*To ensure this article is out in good time after the running order reveal, I have not removed for jury only votes in the contest from this date, nor have I changed the methodology for when average rankings were used to reveal the televote position rather than points (as in 2013). The exact numbers may not be perfect but the general conclusions would be unlikely to change with a more detailed analysis. 

**A more fair analysis of this would be to look at the relative rankings of the televote in each nation, using the full statistics the EBU published from 2014 onwards, and only comparing for those countries that voted in both shows. However, that would take too long to complete if we want to publish this in close proximity to the United Kingdom running order draw being revealed, and furthermore that data is only available from 2014 onwards. 

About The Author: Ben Robertson

Ben Robertson has attended 23 National Finals in the world of Eurovision. With that experience behind him he writes for ESC Insight with his analysis and opinions about anything and everything Eurovision Song Contest that is worth telling.

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One response to “Wait, Is It Bad To Draw Last in the Grand Final?”

  1. Marc says:

    I know it was a different era, but two of the last three contests staged in the UK (1977 & 1982) were won by those who sang last.

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