Editorials & Opinion

Analysing the patterns among 13 years of Eurovision semi-final draw allocation pots

Just how has the make-up of the Eurovision semi-final draw allocation pots changed over the last 12 years?

This is an updated version of an article published on 26 January 2019

With a Eurovision Song Contest that was getting increasingly popular year on year, the one semi-final introduced in 2004 had already become unsustainable by 2007. In Helsinki, 28 countries battled it out for just ten places in the final. On the other hand, ten countries were granted automatic qualification no matter how popular their entry was in 2007.

The introduction of two semi-finals in 2008 meant that every entry, with the exception of the Big Four and the host nation, would start on a level playing field. Yet, the EBU decided to make that playing field even leveller. Step forward, the draw allocation pots…

That 28 country semi-final…

With two semi-finals now in place after the battle royale in the 2007 semi-final, the EBU had to conduct a draw in order to allocate countries to each semi-final. Prior to the allocation draw, the countries were separated into six pots which grouped together countries who had a tendency to award points more often to each other than to other participants.

By doing this, it would ensure that so-called “voting blocs” would be split evenly between the two semi-finals, thus reducing their voting power. The idea was deemed a success. Indeed, the pot system remains in place for Tuesday’s 2020 allocation draw in Rotterdam. This makes the 2020 contest the thirteenth consecutive contest to have used pots in its semi-final allocation draw.

From Belgrade to Rotterdam

In nine of the thirteen years so far, semi-finalists were allocated to six pots. In 2010, 2013, 2015 and 2020, five pots were used. Nevertheless, ever since 2008, four of those pots have consistently tended to include countries from four distinct regions:

  • Balkans: Nations from the Balkan region consisting primarily of former Yugoslav states.
  • Nordics: Nations from the Nordic region, sometimes featuring Baltic nations.
  • Soviets: Nations from Eastern Europe, consisting primarily of former Soviet Union states.
  • Southeastern Europeans: Nations south-east of former Yugoslavia, with Greece and Cyprus at its centre.

The other one or two pots usually include countries that tend to have a varied voting history with no more than one significant voting partner. Therefore, to look into this deeper, let’s take it pot-by-pot, region-by-region and bloc-by-bloc…


Since the introduction of the pot system, eight Eurovision nations have spent more time in the “Balkan” pot than in any other. The former Yugoslav states of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, F.Y.R. Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia have all appeared in the same Balkan pot together on every occasion they’ve participated without exception. Albania has also appeared in the Balkan pot on every occasion.

However, Slovenia has twice been separated from their former Yugoslav neighbours. This would suggest Slovenia is the most distant former Yugoslav nation, with Albania being deemed as more indispensable to the Balkan bloc. Switzerland is the final nation to spend most of its time in the Balkan bloc, no doubt due to its significant Balkan diaspora resulting in above average televoting scores to nations in this region.

When the Balkan pot is full to the brim, particularly in 2009, 2012 and 2016 where all of the Balkan nations took part, either Slovenia or Switzerland were cast aside into one of the miscellaneous “other” pots. This suggests neither have stronger ties anywhere else. No other country has even found itself in the Balkan pot except for Malta and Austria. Malta’s move to the Balkan pot came in 2015 when two Balkan absences from Bosnia & Herzegovina and Croatia but only five allocation pots meant there was a space that had to be filled. The same occurred in 2020, when Austria moved to the Balkan pot due to a return to only five allocation pots and absences from Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro

The withdrawal of Bulgaria in 2019 caused pot 1, the Balkan pot, to be shrunk from seven to six in order to create six equal pots of six countries. Once again it was Switzerland, the nation with the weakest ties to this group who found itself moved to one of the “other” pots.


The Nordic pot is arguably the most solid and inflexible of them all. On all possible occasions, the core group of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden have always been assigned to the Nordic pot. Interestingly, for the first time ever Estonia left the Nordic pot in 2018 to swap places with Ireland in one of the “other” pots. However, for the 2019 draw, the two have swapped back to their normal homes.

Over the years, four other nations have appeared in this pot. Latvia has been present on five occasions, Lithuania three times, Ireland twice and, for the first time in 2020, Australia. The only time Ireland, Latvia and Lithuania appeared in the Nordic pot together was in 2013. On this occasion, only five pots existing meant six places had to be filled. Nevertheless, Denmark and Norway were already pre-allocated to semi-finals and Sweden was an automatic qualifier. Therefore, all three were shifted from the “other” pot they shared in 2012 to the Nordics in 2013.

With Australia making their debut in the Nordic pot in 2020, this suggests that there is now enough voting data to suggest Australia tends to align its votes with the Nordic countries more than any other. Also, due to the decrease from six to five pots in 2020, the decision to move Australia into the Nordic pot rather than the previously-used Ireland, Latvia or Lithuania suggests that Australia’s ties to the Nordics are now among the strongest of any country outside of the core Nordic group.

Our analysis continues on the next page, click here to continue!

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Ryan Cobb

My first memory of watching the Eurovision Song Contest was back in 2001 and, over the years, my passion and enthusiasm for the contest has very much turned into an obsession. I adore music and I love geography, so this contest is a natural fit for me. If la la loving Eurovision was a crime, I'd certainly be a criminal!

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