Cheerleading at WRTC2022

By Rusty Epps, W6OAT

[This was originally published on the WRTC2022 email reflector on July 23, 2023 at 02:14z UTC.]

“Cheerleading” is widely understood to occur when supporters make QSOs with only a favored team or exclusively spot that team on the DX-cluster. In a multi-band, multi-mode competition like WRTC, cheerleading also occurs when supporters make an excessive number of QSOs with their favored team when compared with the number of QSOs they make with other teams.

Cheerleading is not illegal. However, because it gives an advantage to the favored team, it is considered unsportsmanlike and the use of cheerleading is highly discouraged. In formulating the rules for WRTC-2022, the Italian Organizing Committee actively sought to minimize cheerleading, specifically stating in Section 12 of the Rules that:

“12.7 The WRTC Contest is the equivalent of the Ham Radio Olympic Games. To maintain the spirit and credibility that this name implies, it should take a high level stand about how the teams should behave on the air. The Judging Committee may disqualify a team that commits any of (but not limited to) the following actions:
● Violation of the rules of the contest.
● Unsportsmanlike conduct.
● Taking credit for excessive unverifiable QSOs or unverifiable multipliers.

12.8 WRTC stations should not encourage “cheerleading”, i.e. QSOs in which supporters make QSOs with only a favored team or exclusively spot that team on the DX-cluster. Cheerleading should be actively discouraged by the competitors and abuses through the use of cheerleading may result in QSOs being removed from logs as deemed necessary to assure a fair competition.”

WRTC 2022 Rules

One of the duties assigned to the WRTC-2022 Judging Committee, of which I served as Chairman, was to review the Team logs looking for cheerleading and to determine the impact it might have on the final Team rankings. We knew whatever we did had to be impartial and fair to all the competing Teams. Thus, at the start of the contest before we knew how the Teams were doing, we asked ourselves two questions. First, what would constitute cheerleading, and second, if we found cheerleading in a log, what would we do about it. We wrote down on paper our answers to those two questions to ensure that our process would not be influenced by subsequent events.

As to what would constitute cheerleading, we decided we would look for an excessive number of QSOs with stations from a competitor’s home country or from a country with which a competitor was known to have a significant relationship. Also, the number of cheerleading QSOs needed to be substantial, i.e., not just a few but enough to make a meaningful impact on the Team’s score.

We next decided if we found a log which benefited from cheerleading, then a penalty was in order as a measure of fairness to the other teams who did not get such a benefit. The penalty we decided upon was to reduce the QSO Points used by the offending Team to calculate its final score. The formula we used was to count in the Team’s log the total number of QSOs with the cheerleading country, and from that number subtract the average number of QSOs all the WRTC Teams made with the cheerleading nation. The difference is the number of penalty QSOs we assessed against the Team. For Europe-to-Europe contacts, we valued those penalty QSOs at 2.5 points each (because some were CW QSOs worth 2 points and some were SSB QSOs worth 3 points). The total number of QSO Points deducted as cheerleading penalties is shown in the column labeled “Deduct” in the final score spreadsheet published on the WRTC-2022 website. For convenience, I have attached that spreadsheet hereto.

One issue really needs to be emphasized here. Just because the Judging Committee determined that a Team’s log benefited from cheerleading does NOT mean that the competitors themselves did anything wrong. It is quite foreseeable that the cheerleading originated entirely from within the cheerleading nation with absolutely no involvement of the Team members themselves. The penalty applied for cheerleading is meant to level the playing field to make it fair for the other Teams which did not benefit from unsportsmanlike behavior.

I’ve attached hereto a workbook which contains a master spreadsheet (CTYDIST) which lists each of the 58 WRTC teams in Column A and shows who the individual operators were in Column B. The remaining columns list every nation with which at least one competitor (in Column B) has a significant relationship. The numbers in those columns are the number of QSOs each Team made with stations in those nations. The other spreadsheets in the workbook take the nations one at a time and are sorted in descending order to show more easily which Teams made the most to the least number of contacts with that nation.

So what did the Judging Committee find in the logs? We found that most of the logs showed no signs of cheerleading at all and that’s what we wanted. A few logs (see I41D, I42D, I44B, I44C, I47M and I47O) suggest there might be some cheerleading but the number of QSOs involved is insignificant and does not meet the criteria set for penalty points to apply. Finally, three logs (see I42F, I43Z and I44W) did have points deducted for cheerleading.

The numbers and analysis presented here are by no means perfect. The Judging Committee had to give the Organizing Committee the list of Team rankings by mid-day on Monday so that plaques and awards could be prepared in time to be handed out at the Awards Banquet on Monday night. When the time came to freeze our database, scores were slightly changing because additional logs for the IARU HF Contest were still dribbling in and each new log received had the potential to impact the score of one or more of the WRTC Teams. Nonetheless, the Committee is confident that our rankings, and particularly the rankings of the top three Teams, are correct.

Although cheerleading has been condemned in previous WRTCs, WRTC-2022 is the first to actually levy penalties for cheerleading against specific Teams. In two cases the penalties caused Teams to drop in the overall ranking; in the other case it wasn’t enough to cause a change in ranking but it did significantly reduce the margin between that Team’s score and the one ranked just below it. The important point, though, is that there now are penalties for cheerleading. Maybe this finally will get the word out to “the folks back home” that their cheerleading could actually end up hurting their favored team, and that they should just work every WRTC team they hear on as many bands and on as many modes as possible.