This paper develops a mathematical model of strategic manipulation in complex sports competition formats such as the soccer world cup or the Olympic games. Strategic manipulation refers here to the possibility that a team may lose a match on purpose in order to increase its prospects of winning the competition. In particular, the paper looks at round-robin tournaments where both first- and second-ranked players proceed to the next round. This standard format used in many sports gives rise to the possibility of strategic manipulation, as exhibited recently in the 2012 Olympic games. An impossibility theorem is proved which demonstrates that under a number of reasonable side-constraints, strategy-proofness is impossible to obtain.
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