6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Statistics is not the Greek left back.
Andrew Lang once opined "An unsophisticated forecaster uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts - for support rather than for illumination", while Mark Twain said "Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable." That said this updated version of "Why England Lose " by sportswriter Simon Kuper and economist Stefan Szymanski makes some very interesting and...
Published 17 months ago by russell clarke
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars American market version of "Why England Lose: and Other Curious Phenomena Explained"
This is the US version of "Why England Lose: and Other Curious Phenomena Explained", with some small differences; the chapter on the FA Cup is replaced by one comparing Association Football with American Football, and the language is americanised. Anyway here's my review based on the English version.
I've read quite a bit of S&K's work as part of my MSc and...
Published 17 months ago by Fraser the Frank Fish
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars American market version of "Why England Lose: and Other Curious Phenomena Explained",
I've read quite a bit of S&K's work as part of my MSc and although I don't necessarily always, or indeed often, agree with their reasoning, they do make interesting points. "Why England Lose..." is a departure into the mainstream from their early, more academic work and judging from the jaunty tone of the book they had great fun writing it, and aimed at rattling some cages along the way.
However, to appeal to a wider audience much of the academic rigour which I would normal associate with S&K is abandoned and conclusions are reached on some rather shallow arguments. A reader not familiar with the use and misuse of statistics should bear in mind that correlation does not constitute causality, and that if at first your stats don't support your hypothesis you can normally rummage around for some that do. This is not knocking S&K in any way and I wouldn't suggest that S&K have done this at all, but academic bias is a common phenomenon and often hard to resist.
Two chapters of the books were particularly interesting - one, regarding the nature of fandom, for its mythbusting and the second, regarding the inherent racism in the game, for perpetuating a flawed myth.
In drawing attention to the nature of a fan and the churn of fans at particular clubs, S&K have aimed a strong, square kick at the goolies of one of the game's sacred cows, and about time too. I'm fed up being told by people how they've followed Chelsea/Man Utd since before they were good. I was also once told by someone at West Ham that they had had a particular seat for 30 odd years. Strange, as when I went back in the 80s that area was standing!
As regards the inherent racism argument I do feel that S&K let themselves down a bit. Yes, Asians are proportionally underrepresented both in the crowd and on the pitch, but get yourselves down to the Emirates and you'll see how the local young Asian community have embraced Arsenal.
Similarly, the lack of Asian players on the pitch may be striking, but is their proportional underrepresentation any greater than the underrepresentation of young, white, working class males in the ranks of doctors, lawyers etc? Indeed, you will find that the Asian community is overrepresented in careers such as doctors, dentist, pharmacists etc, not for any racial reason but rather for cultural and generational considerations. The generation under debate will normally be sons of immigrants who have worked hard to create opportunities for their children. The emphasis put on education and discipline for this generation favoured academic achievement over sporting excellence, as a respectable profession to support the family was the objective. The subsequent, current generation have different views and that can be seen at clubs such as Arsenal. I've no doubt that this generation will be more willing to encourage their children to embrace sport and we will see an increase in the number of Asian players in the next 15 years.
A more valid point for discussion would be how a club should cope with changing demographics in their catchment area, this is particularly crucial for smaller club who find it hard to attract fans in competition with the big glamour clubs. Clubs like Orient, for example, find themselves in an area which has undergone great demographic change and appear to be left in a locale where the new residents show little interest in the club as theh have no historical ties to the area and are often transient. How can a low profile, relatively unsuccessful club connect with its neighbourhood?
The above whinge aside, S&K have made a good effort at plugging a gap in the market, with an accessible approach to football's problems. It is a bit dumbed down, and certainly more Ant & Dec than Einstein & Oppenheimer, but it's still well worth a read. Just bear in mind that if a problem is complex, it is complex; by making simpler you necessarily ignore some of the issues. As I said at the top, a good introduction and hopefully it will encourage people to read further.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Statistics is not the Greek left back.,
This book uses the concepts and approaches discussed in Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game as well as Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything and transfers ( on a Bosman free no doubt ) them over to the world of football. And thus they come to the conclusion that wages more than transfers dictate whether a teams is successful or not. That mangers have little impact on a teams performance , that penalties have little impact on results ( try telling that to England ) and that the nation most obsessed with Football is ahem( spoiler here folks ) Norway.
The book also casts a more predictive global eye on the game and predicts that future super powers of the game may not come from where we expect. It also explains brilliantly how Spain have come to rule the football roost.
There is also some startling data that shows that given certain criteria ( Population , income per head and experience ) that the England football team are actually overachieving slightly .Ohh and they perform better under foreign managers than under English ones, with Fabio Capello top of the list which puts some of the glee when he resigned/ was sacked into context. And the authors come to the conclusion that England perform so badly at tournament football because they are knackered ,which watching Scott Parker in the Euros, who looked knackered singing the National anthem, might just be the case.
Statistics can prove many things but they do not always tells the whole truth. The authors assertion about changing managers having no real effect, other than a short term fillip which could be equally due to luck or something equally amorphous look flawed when you take into account how Chelsea performed after sacking A.V.B. And the lack of importance of penalties clearly hasn't filtered through to Ashley Young who dived so blatantly to win two penalties in the latter stages of last season. Maybe if he had practised his ball retention instead of his fosbury flop he would not have had such a wretched time in the Euros?
But then that's one of the many great things about football .Football is still a game of intangibles that usually make a difference. And you can number crunch till the cows come home ( usually just after England are knocked out on penalties )but you will never really solve the impenetrable mysteries dramas and vagaries of the sport.
That said i repeat, i would still highly recommend reading Soccernomics , just for the issues it raises that are truly worth thinking about. Like the fact that we might soon see a sizable shift in the power base of both club and international football. Goodness knows, plenty of people involved with English football could do with thinking more about the game.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Football's Moneyball,Why England Lose Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski use statistics and other econometric techniques to try and find out. In true moneyball style they aim to answer the questions of when should you buy a player, can penalty shootouts be controlled and which country has the most fans.
Whether you are a football fan or not this book is definitely an interesting read. While the Americanisation does feel bolted on to the end of chapters in places, the references to the most recent large football competitions and definitely welcome as they bring it bang up to date. The book is well written throughout, in a journalistic but informative style, with enough to keep the most serious football fan entertained while not alienating those less informed about the sport. The tables and statistics are presented in a non-technical and well explained manner keeping it accessible to those without an numerical background. Overall definitely one for football fans and also for anyone with an interest in sport.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic myth-squasher,
Right, with that out of the way - what a fantastic book. A rational and statistical look at various facets of the most wonderful game in the world (I'll let "Soccernomics" ride, because "Footballnomics" just doesn't look right). It seeks to correct many "truths" that we think we all know about the game - for example, statistical evidence proves that it's not all about how much you spend on transfer fees, it's more about wages. It covers a variety of elements of the game - why some managers always flop and yet still get given jobs, why transfers fail and how to run an effective transfer policy, and why certain countries always outperform others. The section on penalties is wonderful, and should be taken on board by every Englishman (especially after another quarter-final exit after a penalty shoot-out). It is, essentially, football's version of "Moneyball". It is also essential.
4.0 out of 5 stars Super book .,
This review is from: Soccernomics (Kindle Edition)This is a must book for any true football fan . Who just watches to enjoy the game . The book makes a lot of sense and will enhance any true fans understanding of the game .
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read but narrow analysis of statistics,
5.0 out of 5 stars astonishing!,
This review is from: Soccernomics (Kindle Edition)Really enjoyed this book. A complete revelation. One I'd recommend to others even if only to reduce the number of blond players being signed!
5.0 out of 5 stars Changes the way you think about football,
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but stats can get mindnumbing,
4.0 out of 5 stars The Unseen Side of Sport - an Economic Examination,
As opposed to being limited to that one idea, Kuper and Szymanski challenge multiple areas of the game, asking the unaskable questions, and investigating the economic consequences by the actions of football clubs, fans and personnel alike.
In fact, it's entirely the sort of investigation we expect to come from Kuper. A man with healthy links to many countries such as South Africa, Netherlands, the United States, Germany, France and United Kingdom, we've come to assume this cultural and social examination from Kuper due to his mass experience, interpretation and perception of all that he has seen in the world of sport.
The economics part is where Szymanski comes in: A relatively anonymous figure in the world of economic writing, the Polish-born man has combined his talents in economics and football to join forces with Kuper in publishing this book. The two use stats, facts, history and graphs, as well as much-needed human instinct to remove any robotic feeling to the text, and portray their observations beyond what the average fan can see.
It's that was gives the book an edge above all overs of its kind: Not only does it look on the link between a teams' economic strength and their eventual success, but it also analyses the more emotional aspect of the sport, such as the happiness of the fans, and how the passion levels dictate a team performance.
Yet whilst the phenomena are investigated, Kuper and Szymanski bring everything back to the simple world of economic supply and demand, whilst keeping the link within the sporting arena. A pertinent example of this is the transfer situation, as the duo explain that the price of a single player is massively over-inflated due to him (or perhaps her) being a demand of just that one player, and a specific work-force being needed.
What's also investigated is the way in which football clubs seem to survive despite the masses of losses that are made annually, with minimal exceptions. The demand for football has been around for centuries, and will be around forever more unless a divine intervention occurs. Yet, despite the heavy rivalries, football teams are reliant on each other to get the numbers through the gates - a concept further developed in Soccernomics.
However, one thing to note is that this is more of a book for sport's fans looking into the economical aspect, rather than the economist looking into sport. The technical jargon of the economist's world may have been eradicated, but the footballing lexis still remains, with teams, personnel and terms in place to flummox a reader devoid of knowledge that is of a standard with a quiz book.
This `compulsive read' goes on to talk further about the financial implications of the sport, discussing how the richest of past-times can be played with poverty and international poorness - a subject covered in the AS Economics syllabus - being write on its doorstep. Furthermore to that, the gap between work and leisure is also bridged is explored in the financial aspects - a void long broken by the masses of fortunes that can be `earned', whilst fans scrape together their wages to enjoy this is a leisure activity.
These and many other moral, emotional and statistical thought-provoking hypotheses are explored in Kuper and Szymanski's latest epic, broken down into sub-sections to ease the burden of a potentially over-bearing statistical minefield.
For economics students, it's more of a humorous aside to the syllabus rather than something that should be taken gospel, with football arguably an anomaly to most economic theory anyway, although the simple theory of supply and demand is clearly evident in Soccernomics. Retailed at £8.99, it represents good value for any reader, although a background footballing knowledge is more than helpful to be able to ascertain any references to the modern day sport.
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Soccernomics by Stefan Szymanski