How One Mans Bad Math Helped Ruin Decades Of English Soccer

In the latest installment in our documentary podcast series Ahead Of Their Time, we look at Charles Reep, the father of soccer analytics — and a guy who made one big, glaring mistake that changed the course of English soccer for the worse. But in order to arrive at his very wrong conclusion, he first had to radically transform the way people thought about consuming a soccer match.There was no Opta back in 1950, no Total Shots Ratio, no Expected Goals. But there was Reep, who took it upon himself to attend every Swindon Town F.C. match that season — sometimes with a miner’s helmet on his head to better illuminate his notes — and meticulously scribble down play-by-play diagrams of how everything went down. More than 60 years before player-tracking cameras became all the rage in pro sports, Reep was mapping out primitive spatial data the old-fashioned way, by hand.Poring over all the scraps of data he’d collected, Reep eventually came to a realization: Most goals in soccer come off of plays that were preceded by three passes or fewer. And in Reep’s mind, this basic truth of the game should dictate how teams play. The key to winning more matches seemed to be as simple as cutting down on your passing and possession time, and getting the ball downfield as quickly as possible instead. The long ball was Reep’s secret weapon.“Not more than three passes,” Reep admonished during a 1993 interview with the BBC. “If a team tries to play football and keeps it down to not more than three passes, it will have a much higher chance of winning matches. Passing for the sake of passing can be disastrous.”This was it: Maybe the first case in history of an actionable sports strategy derived from next-level data collection, such as it was. And Reep got more than a few important folks to listen to his ideas, too. It took him a few decades of preaching, but Reep’s recommended playing style was adopted to instant success by Wimbledon F.C. in the 1980s, and then reached the highest echelons of English soccer — channeled as it was through the combination of England manager Graham Taylor and Football Association coaching director Charles Hughes, each of whom believed in hoofing the ball up the pitch and chasing it down (and now seemed to have the data to back up their intuition). The long ball was suddenly England’s official footballing policy.The trouble was, Reep’s theory was based on a fatally flawed premise. As I wrote two years ago, when discussing Reep’s influence on soccer analytics:Reep’s mistake was to fixate on the percentage of goals generated by passing sequences of various lengths. Instead, he should have flipped things around, focusing on the probability that a given sequence would produce a goal. Yes, a large proportion of goals are generated on short possessions, but soccer is also fundamentally a game of short possessions and frequent turnovers. If you account for how often each sequence length occurs during the flow of play, of course more goals are going to come off of smaller sequences — after all, they’re easily the most common type of sequence. But that doesn’t mean a small sequence has a higher probability of leading to a goal.To the contrary, a team’s probability of scoring goes up as it strings together more successful passes. The implication of this statistical about-face is that maintaining possession is important in soccer. There’s a good relationship between a team’s time spent in control of the ball and its ability to generate shots on target, which in turn is hugely predictive of a team’s scoring rate and, consequently, its placement in the league table. While there’s less rhyme or reason to the rate at which teams convert those scoring chances into goals, modern analysis has ascertained that possession plays a big role in creating offensive opportunities, and that effective short passing — fueled largely by having pass targets move to soft spots in the defense before ever receiving the ball — is strongly associated with building and maintaining possession. Here at FiveThirtyEight, we tend to think statistics can add to our understanding of sports. (What a surprise!) From the more mature sabermetric movements of baseball and basketball to growing ones in soccer and hockey, evidence-based examination has led to new thoughts and ideas about the games we love.But there can also be a dark side to analytics. Among other potential pitfalls, interpreting the numbers incorrectly can lead to terrible decisions or encourage habits that are hard to break, particularly given the added weight that conclusions carry if they appear to emerge from hard data. For an example, look no further than the state of English soccer after it began using what appeared to be a scientific strategy. By Joe Sykes and Neil Paine More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS It probably wasn’t entirely Reep’s fault when England flamed out at Euro 1992, or when they failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. But it couldn’t have helped that they were playing a misguided style, informed by well-meaning but faulty statistical principles.Ultimately, Reep was a cautionary tale of the damage that can be done when stats go wrong. But he was also light-years ahead of his time for tracking stats in the first place. Even though his conclusions were wrong, his instincts were right. Now, national and club teams across the globe pay for massive amounts of data that, in one way or another, come out of the tradition of soccer analytics that Charles Reep helped start. As far as legacies in the game go, you could do worse.This is part of our new podcast series “Ahead Of Their Time,” profiling players and managers in various sports who were underappreciated in their era. read more

Scale Back Your Corporate Network

first_img Register Now » 4 min read Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. February 12, 2009 Paul KorzeniowskiThe R word has permeated the business lexicon. With the nation’s economy slip-sliding into a recession that some think will last for quite a while, small and midsize businesses find themselves making various adjustments. While many had been focused on expanding their reach, the emphasis now is on scaling back deployments and closing offices, and the repercussions from this shift in thinking are being seen in the networking space.Increasingly, corporate networks are shrinking. Market research firm Vertical Systems Group found that the number of companies disconnecting network locations reached its highest level in six years in 2008. Fourteen percent of companies reported that they eliminated one or more network locations without adding or moving others during the year. That number was up sharply from 2007’s figure of 9 percent shutting down some sites. While a few industries, such as retail and financial, were particularly hard hit, downsizing appears to be in vogue in just about every business sector. With many businesses bracing themselves for an extended downturn, more of the same is expected in 2009.As a result, budget cuts are either looming or already being implemented. Businesses that had been freely increasing their network purchases will be less inclined to spend, and the fallout from that shift will be evident in a couple of areas.Small and midsize business IT staffs will need to hunker down. With the reduction in the number of locations will come a reduction in personnel needs. Therefore, management will probably be trying to reduce head count, so network managers will need to protect themselves.However not all IT sectors will suffer. During cutbacks, companies often turn to third parties as they opt for more contract work and less full-time help. Consequently, some internal operations could be funneled to resellers, outsourcers, and SaaS service providers. If an IT executive had ever dreamed about how it might feel working on the other side of the street, now may be a good time to make that switch.In addition, corporations will spend less on their network infrastructure. In some cases, they will delay migrating from higher-speed connections, so employees may have to wait a few minutes longer to download needed information.Recently, the network industry’s focus shifted to mobile communications. Many suppliers had been pointing to 2009 as the year when adoption of high-speed 802.11n wireless connections would occur. While that area may generate increased sales, its growth may not come as quickly as some had anticipated.VoIP and unified communications could be another growing area impacted by the cutbacks. Many organizations have been slowly rolling out VoIP connections because the technology enables them to reduce their telecommunications costs. Now that they have that infrastructure in place, they were looking for ways to use it to increase productivity. Consequently, interest in unified communications had been rising. However, this area had been stuck in a chicken-or-egg phase: Vendors charged premium prices for these products because few companies had implemented them, and the high prices kept many small and midsize businesses from deploying them. Recently, suppliers had become creative in marketing these applications. They have been bundling the cost into hardware purchases, maintenance costs, and upgrade contracts. Customers can expect to see more of those options, which could help them justify unified communication deployments.As companies close up remote locations, they will be saddled with unneeded network equipment, such as routers and switches. Consequently, used equipment suppliers could find themselves with a flood of new inventory. This represents good news for those companies whose plans have not been as severely impacted by the economy. They should be able to find some very good deals as a variety of outlets vie for their business. Vertical Systems found that 16 percent of companies plan to add new locations to their networks in 2009. So during this recession, the rich will get richer — once again.See more columns by Paul Korzeniowski.Paul Korzeniowski is a Sudbury, Mass.-based freelance writer who has been writing about networking issues for two decades. His work has appeared in Business 2.0, Entrepreneur, Investor’s Business Daily, Newsweek, and InformationWeek. Attend this free webinar and learn how you can maximize efficiency while getting the most critical things done right. Free Webinar | Sept 5: Tips and Tools for Making Progress Toward Important Goalslast_img read more

Americans chant Build That Wall while on spring break…in Mexico

first_img CANCUN — Spring Breakers are not typically known for making the brightest decisions. But one group of American revellers has taken the stereotype of ‘dumb tourist’ to a whole new level while on a recent getaway to Cancun.According to the Yucatan Times, a group of uber-patriotic students boarded the Captain Hook pirate ship in Cancun, a popular cruise excursion and pirate show. Towards the end of the show, the students drowned out the cast with chants of “Build That Wall”, a direct reference to President Donald Trump’s controversial plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.Locals onboard pleaded with the group to stop their taunts, however “the Americans did not stop at all and continued singing the racist hymn,” reports the Yucatan Times.The outburst was recounted on Facebook by Peruvian Anaximandro Amable Bruga, who was on the ship. The post reads: “I went with Suly, my wife, to a show aboard a galley in Cancun. At the end of it, a flock of Americans (it’s not clear whether they were drunk or in ‘full’ use of their faculties) started to sing ‘Build the wall.’”More news:  TRAVELSAVERS welcomes Julie Virgilio to the teamGiven that the price of the cruise runs upwards to US$102 per person, one can only assume that these brazen party-goers spent a lot of money to offend and anger the very hosts who were employed to keep them happy.The Yucatan Times also notes that this may not be an isolated incident. Several workers in the tourism sector have reported a “growing number of complaints” against Spring Breakers who’ve been “offensive, rude and haughty towards Mexican people.” Wednesday, March 22, 2017 Posted by Travelweek Group Americans chant ‘Build That Wall’ while on spring break…in Mexicocenter_img Share << Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: LOL, Mexicolast_img read more