The rise of football analytics

26/07/2015 | By | Reply More

Back in the late eigthies and early nineties when I was trying to win the football pools, nobody really understood what was going through my head.

Not interested

I remember writing to a football magazine and explaining to them how I carefully mapped out what happens during a match. I carefully laid out an extensive document talking about how the time of the goal influences the outcome of a match and how a red card can significantly alter that match outcome. It included a summary of key statistics surrounding a football match and some interesting insight into how I felt individual events would affect the outcome of the match and the chance of a draw.

I remember receiving a letter back from the editor of the magazine, his comments were along the lines of “I have no idea why anybody would be interested in this sort of stuff”. I sort of understood that as it was rather arcane and obscure, but to me it was very interesting. It just seemed that at that moment in time it wasn’t very interesting to anybody else!

Analytics in the modern age

Wind forward to today though and there are thousands of blogs, articles and other information surrounding the mechanics of how football matches played out. And now millions being spent a year by football clubs to get a tiny edge against all of their rivals. I’m guessing I was just a little ahead of my time and perhaps if I had more perseverance, I may have made some of these ideas stick.

The interesting thing about football analytics from a trading perspective, is that there is now a plethora of information available on each individual match. This data could be before the matches started or as the match is under-way and this gives us significant insight that I couldn’t have dreamt of a few years ago. Now of course people are trying to give insight from a number of perspectives but the practical upshot from a trading perspective, is that the data available is a very high quality and can have pretty profound implications for the way in which you choose to trade a match.

It’s amazing how deep some of the analysis goes and how a lot of people don’t realise the value of some of the analysis that they are┬ádoing. It can give valuable insight into certain aspects of a match or other team or of a player, or many other aspects.

The fact that most of its available for free in the hope that people may place a bet, is quite amusing. I’ve often considered offering more detailed analysis of individual matches. But to be honest a lot of the information is out there is more than adequate and sufficient to be able to get good insight as to what’s actually happening during the match. The funny thing is as more information becomes available, especially to individual teams, it becomes less valuable.

Analytics, the pop concert and the drunk

Imagine going to a music festival  to watch a band and the guy in front of you stands on his tiptoes to get a better view. In turn you will stand in your tiptoes to improve your view and that forces the person behind you to stand on their tiptoes. This is the situation that a lot of clubs find themselves in. They feel the need to get involved in analytics but the benefit of doing so is only relative to what other teams are doing. And of course all the other teams are now doing analytics and that nullifies the effect of getting good analytics. It becomes a battle of who has the best analytics or ideas.

I’ve been involved in advising on the use of analytics and often I’m questioned why I should be offering advice. But of course I have a very good answer, I don’t have a degree in statistics. You would think that would work against me, but very often it works very well for me. This is because I can see things very clearly and the best qualification I have of being able to advise is quite simple. If you’re betting or trading using information and its profitable, you definitely know more than other people do, that’s very valuable!

So my advice to you would be yes, use analytics. But don’t use them like a drunk uses a lamppost, for support rather than illumination!

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Category: Football trading strategies

About the Author ()

I left a good job in the consumer technology industry to go a trade on Betfair for a living way back in June 2000. I've been here ever since pushing very boundaries of what's possible on betting exchanges and loved every minute of it.

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