Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Threat Of The Big One

Still eleven entries yet to wet their feet, but the table is starting to take shape with no less than 12 entries in profit right now, and all separated by less than 5 points. A great improvement on last weeks total of two in profit. Peter Nordsted's Drawmaster now leads the way, followed by Draw Picks. Peter found four winners from seven selections, while Draw Picks found five from nine. The XX Draws found a mere three from ten for a meagre profit, but eight unders moved the XX Unders into profit.

I received an email from one entrant, I'll keep it anonymous as it came by email rather than a comment, with the subject FTL Accumulators:
A quick thought and concern regarding the above.

By allowing these it is possible for somebody to hit a "big one" and then sit back all season just picking a few singles each week.

It goes completely against the discipline that I have maintained for many years now by not getting involved in lining the bookmakers bottom line by backing accumulators and I feel that there is no place for it in such a prestigious league such as the FTL.

Just my thoughts of course but I remain concerned...............
I do understand the concern, and share the writer's opinion on accumulators myself. As I wrote last season when only one odds-on favourite out of 19 in the top four English leagues failed to win:
The mathematical fact is that on 110% over-round markets, the over-round on an eight-fold accumulator grows to 214.4%. [Fixed Odds Sports Betting by Joseph Buchdahl]
Most people in the FTL understand this, or should do, and the accumulators that have been submitted have been few and far between, and gentle in nature. The biggest was a five-fold that was all odds-on home teams that, had it hit, wouldn't have been that much bigger (20.54) a payout than Leicester City were to win at Chelsea (17.7) on Saturday.  

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Wisdom Of The FTL Crowd

With only two of 33 (yes, 33, more on that later) FTL entrants currently in profit, it might be a good idea not to go too mad on the table below, but it summarises the opinions of the entrants as to where the value lies this weekend in the EPL.

Note I wrote "where the value lies", which is quite different from predicting who will win. For example, most people are avoiding Chelsea v Leicester City this weekend, but the two who are playing both see the value on the Away team. Not much interest in Tottenham Hotspur v Queens Park Rangers either.

The match with the most interest is the Southampton v West Bromwich Albion game where eight people have found value, but not all on the same outcome.

As for the 33, this came about because the final two both entered on the same day, and the one that was 33rd to show interest (Betcast) was the 32nd to pay, and offered a sponsorship. The 32nd to show interest (Gecko) paid soon after, so I will be recording one more set of results than planned. Not a big deal, and the total guaranteed prize fund closes at £2,250. The other adjustment I need to make with 33 entries is that whoever is in 33rd (i.e) last place after the selection weekend of September 20th will miss out on a place in the Erskine Cup. I hope it's not Ian Erskine!

Entries from 21 of the 33 this weekend, so the pace is picking up.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Exit Stock Pickers

It seems longer ago than a mere two months, but time flies when there's a World Cup. Back in June, I wrote about my long-term financial investing philosophy of investing in a bunch of low-cost index funds rather than try to pick higher cost managed funds or even individual stocks. For the record, I do have some individual stocks, but most of my investments are in index tracking funds.

Emp disagreed at the time, but it seems I am not alone. After Warren Buffett wrote earlier this year that he had advised his trustee to "put 10% of the cash in short-term government bonds and 90% in a very low-cost S&P 500 index fund. (I suggest Vanguard's.)", investors poured $5.5 billion into the Vanguard fund over the next five months, "or about three times more than during the same period the previous year".

An article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal is worth reading.
The public during this bull market are overwhelmingly favouring low-cost, index-tracking mutual funds rather than those that try to beat the market averages.
The company [Vanguard] is a pioneer in the accelerating shift toward so-called passively managed products like index funds and exchange-traded funds that track baskets of stocks or other assets. These funds typically promise diversification and are relatively inexpensive compared to traditional mutual funds.
It is "a trend that I see continuing on, probably forever," said David Barse, chief executive officer at New York-based Third Avenue Management, which manages $13.5 billion. He said the challenge for active managers, like his firm, is to identify overlooked investments that don't merely track the broad market.
But he acknowledged that is increasingly a tougher sell, particularly to retail investors.
While investors hang on every word that the Sage of Omaha comes out with, it would have been nice for the WSJ to have given this blog a mention.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Betcast, Late But Worth The Wait

The FTL is now full - 32 entries, and a total guaranteed prize fund of £2,200, a total boosted by a £200 sponsorship from #32 - Betcast.

Another Australian based entrant, David runs bettingwebsites.org and has a number of trading Betcast Podcasts which you should all check out immediately.

The prize money will be split as follows: League £1,600, Erskine Cup £400 and Betcast Monthly Prizes £200. This works out rather neatly so that the two sponsors who donated money up front get name recognition on their respective sub-competitions, while the league is comprised of the entry fees plus the possibility (probability?) of at least some bounty payments being added.

The Bounty Boys, lest we forget, are:

All will be paying out £25 to every entrant finishing ahead of them (up to a cap of £500).

The first monthly prize (of £25) will be for the table leader at the end of September, by which time the Erskine Cup will be in progress. With 32 entries, some of you may have guessed that the format will be the same as that used for the FIFA World Cup. I could have made it a straight knock-out tournament, but this way seemed like a fun idea.

Eight groups of four will see entrants play at least three 'matches' against another, with the top two in each advancing to a knock-out phase. With £400 to play for, the winner will get £150, the runner-up £75, losing semi-finalists £37.50 and losing quarter-finalists £25. With the cup and monthly prizes to compete for, the hope is that interest is maintained, as even someone out of the running for a league prize can always get lucky on a weekend or a month.

The Erskine Cup schedule will be:

September 27th, Group Stage Match 1
November 1st, Group Stage Match 2
November 29th, Group stage Match 3
January 31st, Round of 16
February 28th, Quarter-Finals
March 21st, Semi-Finals
April 25th - Final

The date refers to the Saturday of the weekend, but entries from all four days will make up the round. For the group phase, the winner will get three points, and the winner will be the more successful (or least unsuccessful) of the match up. In the event of a draw, one point each. 

The 'draw' will be seeded, with positions based on the FTL table as it stands after the weekend of September 20th. And I don't want to see anyone tanking to give themselves an easier draw!
Skeeve's Croatia Football Bets had another winner, and were they eligible, would be running away with the FTL already:

Three more selections in-play tonight, but that ROI is looking impressive.

On a completely different topic, the Crystal Palace manager saga, I am seeing Cardiff city owner Vincent Tan in a whole new light. Like most outsiders at the time, I felt that Malky Mackay was rather hard done by, but check out this video where he hints at some problems when Malky's transfer dealings, and also gets in a dig that in his two years at Watford, Mackay didn't do too well. The incredibly stupid text messages that he and Iain Moody are accused of exchanging should make it very hard for either of them to work at a top football club again. They sound like two immature schoolboys from a century ago, and I think Palace had a lucky 1.01 escape. The video also reinforces my opinion that, regardless of who the manager is, the owners or board need to monitor what is going on with spending, one reason reportedly why Steve Parish quite rightly refused to give in to Pulis' demands.

Of course, that Pulis had already been tapped up for the West Ham United manager's job, and was looking for an excuse to walk, is just pure speculation.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Work : Labour, Toil, Slog, Drudgery, Goofing Off

A number of entrants were in action last night. Leader Fairfranco wrote that he only had the two selections as he was on holiday from work, and so “not had a chance to go through all the games”. I’ll let you go back and read that quote again. Notice anything strange about that comment?

It goes without saying that I shall be forwarding a copy of his email to his boss, (FTL Rule 27 Section 3 Sub-Section C gives me this right) who will no doubt be interested to know how his employee is engaged while at ‘work’, and having sought advice from Johnny “Fartpants” Grossmark, I have set up a meeting with the police at my house as they say this clearly is a criminal matter, not a civil case. 

For those of you wondering whatever happened with my own legal troubles, (I was accused of writing a blog post, some of you may remember), I have to tell you that I have yet to hear anything from the police about my heinous crime. Evidence collection may still be in progress of course, or another possibility which just occurred to me is that perhaps little Johnny is a bit of a fibber.

Anyway, as it turned out, Fairfranco might be wishing he’d taken a holiday from the FTL as well as his “work”, (notice the rather amusing use of quote marks there), because both selections (Peterborough United and Crawley Town v Bradford City Draw) were losers. He is still in profit, but his share of the prize money has dropped.

BettingTools Brian was the big winner. He had five 'bonus' selections with three winners and a profit of 5.68 points to catapult himself into first place. His big winners were Charlton Athletic and Huddersfield Town, with Middlesbrough chipping in a little too.
Online Trader had one winner and two losses, but lost 0.84 points and now drops out of the green.

@ValueBankFooty made his debut with 16 selections and a treble. As the treble was comprised of three of the single selections, and the rules require that a selection only be included once, the treble took priority but Reading let the multiple down. The other two legs, Mansfield and Burton were both winners, so a little unlucky there.

Club Havana had four selections of which two won for a 1.06 point profit of and Tony Watson also had four selections with just the one winner (Burton) and a loss of 2.29 points.

Talkies Tips had five Under / Over bets and won two of them for a small loss of 0.77 points, while Abromo had four selections, two winners, but a loss of 1.38 points.

Peter Nordsted’s Drawmaster found two winners from five selections and gained 1.75 points

And for anyone thinking “I could do better than this bunch of sorry losers”, the bad news is that the FTL is now up to 31 entrants, so just one slot remains.

Fairfranco - please forward me your boss's email address. Thanks, and thanks to Lay Away for pointing out that the link to Skeeve's blog in yesterday's post wasn't working. The error has been corrected. 

I also had a request to add My Bet Plan to the blog roll, which I have done. It's only been around for a few weeks and looks like a poor man's Daily 25 - mind you, compared to Steve at Daily 25, most of us are poor men. It'll be interesting to see how they (Paul and Nath) progress.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Weekend Round Up 19.Aug.2014

Fairfranco and Online Trader both lost points, but remained the only entries in profit, and thus the money, after the weekend's results.

Thirteen of the (now) 30 entries have opened the season in the red, which means that 15 are still keeping their powder dry.

Sponsor The Football Analyst has clarified his strategy for the season and you can read his post in full here, but the key points are that his 'Bounty Entry' for us to beat will be system D1-D6 while his second entry will be DE1-DE6.

Abromo did have a couple more "winners" on his unders selections, but unfortunately they were from Poland, and as I wrote back in July:

As I use the Pinnacle Sports quoted prices from the Football Data.co.uk web site to record the results, selections are restricted to the leagues they cover, which are in England (top 5 leagues), Scotland (top 4), the top two in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, plus the top league in the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Turkey and Greece.
The XX Draws are off to a slow start, not helped by Tottenham Hotspur's 93' winner at West Ham United.

With both of Graeme's FTL entries being Draw systems, he says "I’m sure Cassini doesn’t mind a little bit of competition. :)" Not at all. We have Draw Picks and Peter Nordsted's Drawmaster that are pure draw selections, but none of us have started too well.

Another FTL sponsor, and last season's FTL prize money winner, Skeeve has returned to blogging after five years. Add him to your blogroll. His Croatia Football Bets are worth a look also - nicely in profit so far this season:
A couple of other opening EPL weekend comments, and perhaps some of you read my Arsenal v Crystal Palace preview last week, which include these prescient words:
I also mentioned in the Cassini Newsletter to subscribers that:
Some of you may be interested to know that over the last three EPL opening weekends, laying the favourite in all 29 matches would have produced 16 winners and a ~5.06 points profit. There’s usually a surprise or two somewhere.
This strategy was again profitable, although not by much. Five of the first six matches came in, but the final four favourites of the weekend (Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea) all won to trim the profit to about 0.67 points. That late Spurs winner hurt us here as well.

Early days of course, and there are now just two places remaining in the FTL to make it a nice round 32 entries. Steve M of Daily25 fame and fortune has confirmed his entry, (he will start tied for 4th place) with the entry name Daily25.

I'm sure most readers will be familiar with Steve. He is Australian based and his blog is far more than a P&L blog. He tells it like it is in typical Aussie style, or at least he tells it how he sees it, and when he is not taking the bookmakers to the cleaners, he is busy working on a e-book. Meanwhile you can sign up for his newsletter.

And finally, one more FTL entrant is Marc at @ValueBankFooty and he has site here to check out.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Parish's Post-Pulis Palace Possibilities

It all started with rumours on Thursday morning that a £500 bet had been placed with William Hill on Tony Pulis to become "the next Premier League manager to leave his position". Given that he was at that time priced 40/1, it was hard to believe that anyone had been able to get more than 10p on, but what was certain was that William Hill shortened Pulis’s price to 6/4 (2.50) making him favourite ahead of long-time favourite Sam Allardyce.

Other books followed suit or suspended their markets and, as we all now know, by Thursday night Tony Pulis had indeed left his post by “mutual consent”, although “mutual contempt” might have been a more accurate description.

Someone knew, and this kind of scenario highlights the reason why bookmakers need to protect themselves and should be able to refuse to accept a wager. They are in business to make money, and are not a utility offering a public service as some people seem to think. It's hard to see how any regulation could be implemented which would leave bookmakers exposed to coups of this nature.

The markets soon adjusted to the turmoil at Crystal Palace. Their price for relegation dropped a full point, from around 4.05 to a low of 2.82 before a bounce back up to ~3.00.

As implied not only by the drop in price for relegation, but also by his award of Premier League Manager of the Year last season, Tony Pulis was widely considered a key 'player' for Crystal Palace.

As I mentioned a few days ago, the Soccermetrics prediction model for the 2014-15 English Premier League season had Crystal Palace's projected to finish in 18th place and be relegated.

I wrote a rather excoriating post about this, at the time, rather unlikely prediction, but given recent events, the prediction looks a little more insightful with Palace now second favourites (behind Burnley) for the drop according to the Betfair markets.
Well, what do the markets know? Last season Palace were first favourites, and ended up in 11th place! By my reckoning, this means we'll finish 10th this year.

It would be stating the obvious that Tony Pulis did a great job last season, and only he and the insiders at Palace know the full story behind the split, but having had a close working relationship with Peter Coates at Stoke City for several years where his every wish was granted, it wouldn't be surprising if Pulis wanted more Stoke-like money spent at Palace.

Having only signed on in November, there were rumours back in January that Pulis wasn't happy about the lack of activity during the transfer window, so the break up is not the biggest of surprises. In the end, Palace made five signings, all on the final day. If it was true that Pulis and Parish had differences after just two months, and there's no smoke without fire, it was hardly likely to be a long term relationship.
More a marriage of convenience perhaps? What is a surprise though is why Pulis would have taken the job, knowing the constraints in place, and then start whining loudly enough for rumours to leak. Palace are not yet Manchester City. Heck, they're not yet Stoke City, but ironically the latter is the kind of example they might be looking to follow.

The timing of the departure is shocking of course. Tony waits until all the pre-season games are played, and with less than 48 hours before the season kicks-off, decides he can't continue.
If TP kicked up a fuss at the 11th hour then he's unprofessional in putting the club in what can only be called a blackmail situation. If that is the case he's better away from the club. Sometimes the nasty face of someone is exposed and maybe it's happened today.
Many of the quotes in this post are from a Crystal Palace fan forum, and like most forums it is best not to believe everything you read, but there were some insightful and well written comments that perhaps throw some light on the possible background to the split. The comment above does question Pulis's motives. If someone was looking for an out, what better excuse than "I don't have the owners' support" but leaving it until the last minute to thrash out any problem does smack of a distinct lack of integrity. I work in IT, and if a key resource decided two days ahead of going live on a major project that he or she would quit "unless you spend money that you told me you wouldn't spend when I took the job", it wouldn't be well received to say the least. If this is what happened, credit to Parish and the owners for not giving in.
As a Stoke fan I would just like to say TP has previous when it comes to this kind of thing. Probably a tactic to convince the owner/chairman to sign a player he wants.
At Stoke, If TP really wanted a player (like when we were after Crouch) he would always question the 'club's ambition' in any interview and manipulate Mr Coates into giving him more money. As proven in the past, TP is far better with a smaller budget because he gets far too excited with a healthy cheque book in his hand. Behind the smiles on camera he's a very stubborn and controlling figure. He got what he wanted from Coates for years but when he's challenged he throws his toys out of the pram.
Steve Parish and his co-owners are Palace fans and have the best interests of the club at heart. I am confident that they would not let have let Pulis walk unless his demands threatened the long term plan for the club and that a compromise was not possible. As a Palace fan, I have to say that despite the relative success Pulis enjoyed, I never felt that Pulis ever really felt part of the club in the way that Steve Coppell, Dougie Freedman or even Ian Holloway did. He always seemed to be keeping a distance.

Steve Parish has in the past stated that he and his co-owners want to leave a lasting legacy at the club, and that means building slowly but surely, and not risking the entire project on buying one or two big money players. It's not just the initial outlay, but there's the significant issue of committing to contracts into the future which, as several clubs have found to their cost, can become crippling liabilities. Portsmouth are the most recent example, and an extreme one at that, but other former established Premier League members such as Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers and Leeds United have been languishing for some time outside the Premier League.

As one fan put it: 
Let us be thankful that the worst thing which could happen to us would be relegation to the Championship with the club in a healthy position financially.
Understandably, managers aren’t interested in long-term thinking. Their interest is themselves, immediate results and thus usually very short-term, (Arsene Wenger at Arsenal is a rare Premier League exception) but no one man is, or should be, bigger than the club. Besides, the money isn't coming out of their pockets. We could all ask our bosses for a bigger budget to pay for better resources and then take the credit when our productivity improves, but as important as Pulis was, at the end of the day he is an employee and needs to work with what was agreed when he took the job, not threaten to quit when he doesn't get his way.

Steve Parish and his fellow owners have been in a similar situation before. After making a flying start to the 2012-13 Championship season, manager (and playing legend) Dougie Freedman took the money on offer at Bolton and left. Parish came in for some criticism at the time for not doing enough to keep Freedman, but Bolton’s pockets were deeper than Palace's, and the responsible decision as an owner was the one Parish made. It paid off. Incidentally Crystal Palace was in fourth place at the time, while Bolton was twelve places lower in sixteenth. Managers move when there's a better offer, and that doesn't necessarily mean to a higher placed club.

The managerial appointment of Ian Holloway was a good one, if not a great one. Holloway fitted the bill perfectly - he was a manager with experience of taking a club into the Premier League, and while he wasn’t immediately seen by some fans as a great choice, his success in steering Palace to promotion via the play-offs more than vindicated the owners’ decision.

The Premier League was a different matter. After too many changes in the summer, it became clear that Holloway was out of his depth after just a few games. To his credit, Ian Holloway admitted as much, and the parting was genuinely by “mutual consent”. Pulis got a lot of credit last season, but just as crucial was Holloway holding his hands up early enough to give his replacement a sporting chance.

The club took their time appointing a replacement. For one month, three matches, Keith Millen was interim manager, and in my opinion, never got the credit he deserved, because there was a marked improvement even before Pulis was appointed.

Looking back, the delay was possibly down to differences in opinion about how much control Pulis would have, but they compromised enough to reach a deal which ultimately saw the Eagles soar up the table with Palace making the most of their goals, winning eight games by 1:0, and finishing in 11th place. Heady stuff.

As Pulis possibly realised, without any big money signings, that strong run was always going to be a tough act to follow. Leave now, and he's ready and available to take over in October or November for a struggling team who are looking for a new manager. Hopefully it won't be Palace! Wait too long, have a bad start, and his star starts to shine a little less brightly, but a good manager working with an improved squad from last year, should have been more than capable of another mid-table finish. The top seven in the EPL are for the time being at least, all but set. Did Pulis seriously think we could break into that elite group? The only way that will happen is to build a strong foundation off the pitch as well as maintaining a 'good enough' team on it. Any success needs to be sustainable. This season is one where the goal is consolidation.

Another observation is that, with the exception of his second spell at Stoke City which lasted seven years, it's interesting that Pulis doesn’t seem to last for too long anywhere. I'll leave readers to draw their own conclusions regarding that.

His managerial career started in 1992 with two years at Bournemouth which were followed by four years at Gillingham where he was “controversially sacked by the club amidst claims of gross misconduct”.
He later brought a £400,000 court case against Gillingham chairman Paul Scally for unpaid bonuses, which was settled out of court in 2001 for £75,000.
Ten months at Portsmouth followed before he was sacked, and after two years out of work, he had a three year spell at Stoke City followed by a season at Plymouth Argyle.

Steve Parish's task is now is to stay calm, find a manager who can keep the club in the Premier League while accepting that his role is as a manager, not the owner, and that he needs to work with the funds available, and that funds are not unlimited. Someone who buys into the long-term nature of the project. How long was Moyes at Preston North End and Everton for? I'm just saying. 

Pulis is not the messiah, and Moyes is not a pariah.

One door closes, another one opens. Tony Pulis pulled off something of a miracle last season, but no one in football is irreplaceable. Iain Dowie was once a hero. That finished well as some of you may remember:
The case was heard in the London High Court in the summer of 2007, and on 14 June The Hon. Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that Dowie had "deceived" Jordan and made "false representations" in conversations with Crystal Palace on 20 and 22 May, stating he had had no contact with Charlton when he had in fact spoken to them on 17 and 22 May. Dowie was ordered to pay Palace's legal bill, estimated at up to £400,000 and a similar amount to his own legal team in addition to compensation due to Crystal Palace. In 2008 an out-of-court agreement between Dowie and Crystal Palace was reached "on terms acceptable to Crystal Palace Football Club".
Don't mess with Palace! Dowie was allowed to leave "to be nearer his family in Bolton" but eight days later was revealed as Premier League Charlton Athletic's new manager! Charlton is nowhere near Bolton of course, except in league position.

Dougie Freedman was a Palace hero too, as a manager for keeping Palace in the Championship after a 10 point deduction for entering administration had put that status at risk. He left, but most Palace fans understood why. 

Ian Holloway was the hero just a year ago, but football moves on, and "impossible to fill" voids are soon filled.

Given their past record, I have no doubt that Steve Parish and his co-owners will steady the ship and make another decision in the club’s best interest. 

They are heroes too in their own way, for saving the club in 2010 when it was on the verge of ceasing to exist. 

The position of manager at Crystal Palace is a lot more attractive than at most clubs these days, and the CVs dropping in to the mat at Selhurst Park next week should be impressive. Sir Alex may well be considering coming out of retirement as you read this, and Pep Guardiola is quite possibly reading the fine print on his contract. Malky MacKay is reportedly licking his chops. Roy Hodgson's a Croydon boy and a former Palace (youth team) player. He might be interested in a bigger challenge...

Anyway, Keith Millen will be in charge for the first game at least, and probably the first three with an International Break in early September, and there is no need to make a panic decision. Millen knows the players, he worked with Pulis last season, and the shortening in Palace's price in the relegation market is an overreaction and an opportunity.

This article pretty much sums up what I have been trying to say.

Now read the title of this post out loud ten times. I bet you can't do it. 

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