Between the Lines

"Of all unimportant subjects, football is the most important" – Pope John Paul II

A new way to beat the bookies?

Posted by hakanrylander on August 6, 2009

A study published in the new issue of Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports tries to find a statistical measurement to predict the winners of international football tournaments. Ferda Halicioglu at the Yeditepe University in Istanbul argues that there exists a positive relationship between the competitive balance in domestic football leagues and success in international football.  Competitive balance is measured as the seasonal coefficients of variation (CV) of the end of season points. The CV lies between 0 and 1, with 0 indicating a perfectly balanced competition. A high degree of competitive balance means that the league members have relatively equal playing strength.

Halicioglu then goes on to rank the finalists of the Euro2008 tournament according to the competitiveness of the domestic leagues in the mid-term, i.e. the last six years.  The country with the most competitive league was France followed by Spain, Germany and Sweden. Well, Spain won the trophy beating Germany in the final, but both France and Sweden were eliminated at the group stage. The evidence looks somewhat inconclusive so far.

 Unfortunately the report, at least the version that I’ve managed to get hold of, is very vague when it comes to pinpointing the statistical evidence. It doesn’t get much further than to conclude that the analysis “suggests that the CV ranking could be used as a supplementary variable” to predict the winners.  Not enough to beat the bookies I’m afraid.

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