English Premier League 2013-14: Should we bother playing, or just see who can open their wallet widest?

Twenty teams kicked off in the English Premier League’s 22nd season last weekend, but only a handful of them have a realistic chance of finishing on top of the pile next May. The reason? In a league without a salary cap, some clubs have piles of Russian / American / Emarati cash to spend on players. Others get headlines like this.

In the race to keep up with the foreign big spenders, smaller clubs made some risky choices and ended up trying to overcome their debts by taking leftover merchandise to Cash Converters. The upshot of it all is a whole range of new restrictions on club spending.

These mechanisms appear intended to prevent teams from going out of business rather than produce competitive parity; if they end up doing a little of both, that would be just fine with UEFA – and many might share UEFA’s feelings, given the strong correlation between wage spending and accumulation of premiership points in the EPL. Continue reading


Anyone can win it!

Good news! If you, me and every other reader of thenewstatsman formed a soccer team and got ourselves entered in the African Cup of Nations, we’re just as likely to win the tournament as any other team, according to Firdose Moonda. (She doesn’t mention any reduction in the odds if there are less than 11 readers.)

The bad news is that the competition ended a month ago, and the only reason I’m writing about it is that the research for the posting promised last week is proving to be quite time-consuming.

However, I’m just as interested in writing about these minor – and obvious – misdemeanours as I am about seemingly plausible sports-maths that is, on deeper examination, misleading. If you see something silly that warrants a wrist-slap for the journo concerned, or a bit lengthier that demands analysis, or even something quite reasonable (like a table of AFL full-forwards with their goals-per-game average) where you sense the orthodoxy needs challenging, please leave a comment.

Meanwhile, suffice it to say I disagree with Firdose and agree with commenter jmjm1973 (because he is me), who writes: “ ‘There is only a 37.5% chance that the team who lifts the 29th African Nations’ Cup on February 10 will be a new winner…’ …. that is, if the winner is selected randomly from the competing teams. I suppose if Brazil played St Kitts, they’d each have a 50% chance of winning?”