By Robbie Butler
Last November I wrote about a special issue in the Journal of Sports Economics that mapped that first twenty years of the journal. During the course of this summer I was again researching the history of the subject and some of the most prominent papers in the field. It got me thinking more about the most widely cited and best known papers to date, and is the inspiration for what is below. (A warning - there may be omissions that I did not consider).
From my searching, there are a very limited number of papers in the field that have now broken the magical 1,000 citation count on Google Scholar, as of August 2022. The names of the authors will be familiar to all those working in the area.
The (top) five that I found are:
In ascending order, both Scully (1974) and Fort and Quirk (1995) have been cited just under 1,100 to date. The second paper ever in sports economics - Neale (1964) - is then third on the list with a total of 1,353. In second place, quite an achievement for a paper written as late as 2003 is "The Economic Design of Sporting Contests" by Stefan Szymanski. First, as one would probably expect, is Simon Rottenberg's "The Economic Design of Sporting Contests". As the original paper in the field, it is often cited across the literature and is just shy of 2,000 citations to date - presently on 1,984.
It should be noted a number of very recent papers on Covid-19 are rapidly gaining citations across economics, other social science and health fields, and might in the not too distant future, join this elite group.
By John Considine
What’s wrong with soccer? That was the provocative question posed and answered by Mitchell Berman in a 2011 paper published in the Georgetown Law Journal. In the context of a law journal, Berman did not need to add the words “laws of” before “soccer” in his question. What's wrong with the laws of soccer?
Anyone watching a broadcast of an English Premier League game over the last few days might think that the answer to Berman’s question is not the laws of soccer but the referees’ implementation of those same laws. TV commentators were repeatedly told viewers that referees were issued with new guidelines on how to implement the laws of the game when it came to contact. The new guidelines encouraged the referees to let the game flow or, to use the title of Berman’s paper, “let ‘em play”.
One game commentator noted that goalkeepers were the main culprits in slowing down the game by flouting the six-second law for holding the ball in their hands. A 2019 Frontiers in Psychology paper examined the issue. Otto Kolbinger and Michael Stockl found that goalkeepers violated the six-second rule 38% of the time and that none of these violations were published. None.
Kolbinger and Stockl label the violations “trivial”. Should referees turn a blind-eye to trivial violations of the rules? What are “trivial” violations? Should “trivial” violations be treated differently by referees depending on the stage of the game? It was the latter question that prompted Berman’s paper. In the introduction of the paper, Berman considered the outburst directed at an umpire in the 2009 US Open by Serena Williams. Many commentators and supporters argued that the umpire should not have called a foot-fault as the match drew to a close. The popular cry is “let ‘em play”.
Now back to Berman’s question about soccer. Berman argues that the problem with soccer is not with the penalisation of trivial violations that occur late in the game but the penalisation of serious violations that occur early in the game. According to Berman, the problem with soccer is the red card that reduces the number of players on the offending team for the remainder of the game. The same foul has a bigger impact if it is committed and sanctioned in the first minute compared to the last minute of a game. Berman suggests that referees/umpires might vary the way they approach to some of their “duties” depending on the time of the game.
Instead of using the 2009 US Open example, Berman could have used an example from the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Early in the game, the referee decided to issue a yellow card, instead of a red card, for a foul tackle (see accompanying picture above). Like in the 2009 US Open the official was loudly criticised. Since then, there has been a change to allow technology assist referees to review such decisions. If a similar event occurs in this year’s FIFA World Cup there will be less discretion for the referee. The recent direction to Premier League referees is another move in this direction. Even in 2011, Berman's answer to his question was "Not a whole lot."
By Ed Valentine
Across the coming week the top 5 leagues in Europe will kick off for another season of action. While some clubs’ balance sheets are only just about emerging from Covid, there have been big money transfers across Europe. The standout deals have been taking place at the Camp Nou where Lewandowski and Raphina among others have moved despite Barcelona apparently having a liquidity problem.
There hasn’t been problem with this blog’s liquidity however as we attempt to, for the first time across a full season, make a profit on bets placed on match outcomes across the top 5 European football leagues.
The previous attempt at this saw some excellent early profits before some shock results at Stamford Bridge caused a downward spiral of losses. Surely things will be different this time?
It’s quite simple - a fantasy €50 each match day to be placed on match outcomes and in game scenarios. Where as before only bets were placed upon the result, this iteration of the experiment will see more granular betting on specific in game events. This should widen the scope of profitability. There is no intended strategy at play however there will be biases towards the big clubs.
Not all leagues kick off this weekend so appearing on the 1st bet slip of the project will be the Premier League and Ligue 1. This week’s selections are below.
Up this week are relegation candidates and the teams aiming for the title. A fiery encounter at Goodison Park is expected with both clubs having a player booked being priced at 1.45 which represents excellent value.
By Robbie Butler
The return of this blog coincides with an early return of the English Premier League. That also means a return of the Fantasy Premier League on Friday night, when Crystal Place host Arsenal. I have addressed this issue a number of times in the past, most recently here in 2017.
The game is a great lesson in opportunity cost. A budget constraint of £100 million pounds is applied to all players as they seek to maximize the impact of their spending. The graphics below present the most and least expensive teams available at the start of the 2022/23 season. The latter costs just £64 million, while the former is unobtainable, costing £129 million.
These selections as based on price and points scored. The team on the left are the most expensive players, based on points accumulated during the 2021/22 season. Ederson does not make the team, even though he also costs £5.5 million because he accumulated fewer points than Allison or Lloris during 2021/22.
The team on the right is the least expensive team, with the highest points during the 2021/22 season. For example, Brandon Williams is just £4 million but score the most points for a £4 million pound defender during 2021/22. All 15 players scored at least 1 point during 2021/22. Of course, the trick of the game is to try and get as close to the team on the left, with a budget constraint of £100 million.
Every season highly productive players emerge that are great value for money. Selecting these early in the season is often the difference between a good and poor league campaign. It will be interesting to compare these teams in May 2023. No doubt some of those on the left will prove to be inefficient while some of those on the right could prove to be valuable assets.
This website was founded in July 2013.