Showing posts from August, 2016

A History of Home Advantage

Home advantage is a much studied topic, and many people have offered suggestions as to where it originates: the motivational effect of playing in front of your own fans, the comfort of a familiar environment and match day routine, the possible influence of home fans on the referee (something that I want to come back to in a later post), the wearying effect of away team travel, or simply a higher expectation of home team success. It is present in many sports (see here), in many countries (see here).

In future posts I’d like to take a more detailed look at some of the factors that might contribute to the home advantage effect, but first let’s start with some basic statistics: how big is the home advantage, how does it compare across the top four divisions in England, and how has it varied since the birth of organised football?

Home Advantage 101
The table below shows the percentage of games won by the home team, away team and drawn in the last 21 years of the top four divisions of Engl…

The General Decline of the Underdog

In my first blog I argued that Leicester’s astonishing 40 point improvement last season (over the previous season) was an achievement unrivalled not just in the premier league era, but since the second world war. However, the achievements of three other teams went unmentioned: Spurs in 1950/51, Ipswich in 1961/62 and Nottingham Forest in 1977/78.

On the face of it, these three teams went one better than Leicester – winning the top division in their first season following promotion from the second tier of English football. I didn’t include them in my analysis as I only looked at points accumulated over two consecutive seasons in the top division; newly promoted teams were therefore not accounted for.

In recent years we’ve become used to a familiar story: newly promoted clubs face an uphill struggle for survival and often make an immediate return to the division below[1]. If a club were to win the EPL in their very first season this would surely represent an even greater shock than Leices…
Was Leicester’s achievement last season unprecedented?
On 25th May 2016, Leicester City were crowned premier league champions for the first time in their 132-year history. A team that had only just escaped relegation the previous year had achieved a seemingly impossible feat. At the start of last season many bookmakers in the UK were offering odds of up to 5000/1 for Leicester to win the league; it’s very hard to find odds longer than 5000-1 offered on anything.
For me, the most striking statistic was that Leicester accumulated 40 more points in the 2015/16 season than the previous season, enough to take them from nearly relegated to champions. How unlikely was this?
The formation of the EPL in 1992 is generally viewed as a watershed moment for top flight football. Billions of pounds in TV money were pumped in, and the image of the sport altered from that of a male-dominated, largely working class pastime to a more family-friendly pursuit for the middle classes. The grittier, more rugge…

Welcome to my blog!

I've created this blog to combine two things that I spend a substantial amount of my time doing: analyzing data and following football (soccer).

I'm an astrophysicist by training, receiving my PhD from Cambridge University in 2006 and spending six years as postdoctoral researcher in Canada and the USA, first at McGill University and then Yale. I returned to the UK to work as a quantitative researcher at London-based hedge fund, before moving to then Fiscal Policy team at HM Treasury.

I've been a Manchester United fan for more than 25 years. Yes, I was born in Manchester. I don't remember the pre-Ferguson years, but I do remember the 1991-92 season very well, and the disappointment of losing out to Leeds United. Fortunately, things quickly began to get better.

I grew up in a household equally split between United and Liverpool (and a football-hating mother). There was consequently much football 'debate', with lots of random football 'statistics' being lo…