Saturday 28 February 2015

Ignoring The Result

I’m quite sure that Rasmus Ankersen didn’t have some of the characters featured in this blog in mind when he says “In the past year I have learned that the brightest guys in football work in the betting industry, because they are much more rational and less biased” but it’s a great quote from an excellent article by Sean Ingle in the Guardian.

Ankersen’s employer at Midtjylland (currently leading the Danish league, and on track for their first ever trophy) is Brentford owner Matthew Benham, who as the article says "has made fortunes betting on football, but he has not done it by following the sheep who place long-odds accumulators and trust in blind luck". We all know he hasn't done it by betting based on goal times either! As Mark Langdon of the Racing Post says – There could easily be short-term failure at Brentford but bad bets sometimes win and good bets sometimes lose. Long-term it will work.

Here's the article:
It was enough to make those football pundits who revel in the old days and old ways collectively choke on their beans and sausages. Brentford would, a club statement announced, be parting company with their respected manager Mark Warburton, switching to a continental structure with a head coach and sporting director, and using mathematical modelling to help recruit players. The response of one former professional, Micky Quinn, was not untypical.
“They want a head coach and mathematical modelling … Ha, ha, good luck with that.”
What Quinn may not realise is that the blueprint for Brentford’s future is already being stress-tested 800 miles away at FC Midtjylland, who lead Denmark’s Superliga by six points and are on course for the first trophy in their history. And who is the majority shareholder in Midtjylland? Matthew Benham, the former hedge fund manager and professional gambler who also owns Brentford.
When Benham invested £6.2m in Midtjylland last July he appointed Rasmus Ankersen – a 31-year-old former player, Uefa A-licence coach, entrepreneur and author – as the chairman.
Ankersen promised to challenge the conventional ways of running a football club and to put Midtjylland on the map. He is doing just that. “When I am being provocative I tell people that our coach, Glen Riddersholm, will never be sacked based on our league position,” Ankersen says. Instead Ankersen tells him he will be judged on whether he achieves certain key performance indicators (KPIs) which, over the long term, the club believes are more indicative of success.
Ankersen won’t reveal everything about the club’s use of data, but does say that Midtjylland pay particular attention to what he calls “dangerous situations” in games. Interestingly, they are a client of E4talent, which tracks shots in the “danger zone” – an area that stretches from the start of the six-yard box to the edge of the penalty area – from which 77% of Premier League goals are scored.
Set pieces are another focus. Midtjylland have scored 15 goals from set pieces from 17 games, an average of 0.88 per game, the second highest in Europe. Only Atlético Madrid, with an average of 1.04 a game, are more prolific. The highest in the Premier League are Arsenal with 15 in 26 games, an average of 0.57.
Data also informs what Midtjylland’s coaches say to the players and the press. As Ankersen explains, at half-time the coaches are sent texts before they speak to players outlining how the team are measuring up to certain key metrics. “These effective KPIs give a more accurate message to the players and the press,” he insists.
Too often in football, the result determines the narrative – for managers, reporters and fans. Ankersen dismisses this as facile. “For instance, when we played at home against the bottom team, we won 2-1,” he says. “But our model massively downgraded us because we were super lucky. A lot of people said well done but it was a terrible performance – that is the message we should convey. No one wants to say they were lucky when they win. But in football success turns luck into genius.”
Midtjylland’s success is also partly down to their excellent youth academy, which Ankersen helped get off the ground a decade ago: usually five or six starters in their games are home-grown. The emergence of the Danish under-21 international Pione Sisto, who has been linked with many top sides in Europe, is another factor. But using mathematical modelling as well as traditional scouting has helped the club acquire players they believe are undervalued, including Kris Olsson from Arsenal, Marco Ureña from Kuban Krasnodar and Jim Larsen from Club Brugge.
This is fascinating, radical stuff, and it is driven by Benham. Ankersen remembers that when he met him, he asked him whether Brentford would get promoted from League One. “From a football guy you would expect a yes or no, or an answer with emotion,” he says. “But he just looked at me and said: ‘There is a 42.3% chance that we will go up.’ I knew then he thought very differently about football.”
Of course he does. Benham has made fortunes betting on football, but he has not done it by following the sheep who place long-odds accumulators and trust in blind luck. Instead he has developed a deeper understanding about why teams win matches, constructed statistical models and used them to exploit inefficiencies and errors in bookmaker prices.
Can such a data-driven approach really be applied to running a football club? We are about to find out. But it seems perfectly reasonable to expect that by taking advantage of inefficiencies in the transfer market and elsewhere, adopting the best practice of clubs such as Southampton and employing super-smart data analysts, Brentford and Midtjylland can punch further above their weight. Ankersen certainly has no doubts. “In the past year I have learned that the brightest guys in football work in the betting industry, because they are much more rational and less biased,” he says.
None of us know what will happen next. But we can say this. Brentford and Midtjylland are clearly going the right way and their stories over the next few years will make fascinating viewing. And while Benham has taken some flak in recent days, history teaches us that in the long run it is unwise to bet against him.

Friday 27 February 2015

FTL Midweek Update And Erskine Cup Quarter-Finals

A few updates from midweek, which included the postponed Sampdoria v Genoa game. The big winners were Mortimer and Gecko who both moved up three places while the big losers were TFA_Raz who dropped five places, and leader who dropped 6.00 points but stays well ahead. Erstwhile leader Fairfranco left a comment that:

The best bit of luck i've had with this league in the last 3 months happened on Tuesday, when I forgot to email you my 3 tips.
They all lost, of course!
A lucky break in the short term, but worrying that had those three selections been entered, Fairfranco would now be down to 15th! The changes (either points or places) from the weekend are below:
Erskine Cup Quarter-Finals coming up this weekend, and the quality tie is the Club Havana v Gecko pairing.
This is also the last round for the February prize, and while it appears to be all but over, one treble could change it all:

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Hitz And Misses

A couple of games were lost to the weather at the weekend, including the Derby della Lanterna where it would have seemed logical to switch the game to Genoa's ground since Sampdoria's was waterlogged, but I don't run Serie A, so the match was postponed.

Evian Thonon Gaillard's game versus Lorient was also postponed, this one due to snow, and the Parma v Udinese match was called off due to last-placed Parma's continued financial problems, but there were plenty of matches played with the usual ups and downs, although once again, the net total was down, by 30.70 points.

Leader hit a small bump dropping 4.66 points, but no one took advantage and he retains almost a 20 point advantage over Randolph who, once again, was idle.

The big winner of the day was Gecko who gained 5.49 points and seven places. Other big winners were XX Draws (+4.96 and up six places) and Mortimer (+4.63 and up four places).

On points, the biggest losers were a couple of the Bounty Boys; Football Elite (-7.93 and down four places) and TFA Draws (-6.89 and down five places) with a dishonourable mention for Jamie A (-3.16 and down five places).

Here are the leaders up by 10 points or more:

The Bounty Boys together lost 13.37 points and dropped six places meaning their total liabilities now stand at £1,300.
Others in line for prize money are:
Fairfranco's slump continued with five losing selections, while TFA_Raz lost both of his. Bounty Boys Football Investor and Skeeve both made small profits to trim their liabilities by £50 and £25 respectively.

Eighteen profitable entries now as TFA Draws dropped into the red zone, which looks like this:
TFA's Euro Draws made a small profit, as did the Cassini Value Selections. Drawmaster's poor run continued with five more losers, and the Draw Portfolio now looks like this, with XX Draws reclaiming its rightful place at the top:
The race for February's monthly prize looks like it's all but over, with well clear:
The first six monthly prizes have each been won by six different entrants. Hard (for me at least) to believe that there are only two more to go (March and a combined April/May) as the season races towards its conclusion.

Next weekend sees the much awaited Erskine Cup Quarter-Finals. A reminder of the schedule, with the current league placings which seem to count for pretty much nothing.
Losers this weekend will receive £25 each, while the overall cup winner will get £150, the runner-up £75 and losing semi-finalists £37.50 each. Thanks again to Ian Erskine for making this Cup possible. I've enjoyed it, even if no one else has! I'm just hoping @ValueBankFooty doesn't find another massive treble this weekend.

Finally, I thought I should clarify that the Hitz in the post title isn't a typo. It refers to Swiss goalkeeper Marwin Hitz who came up for a stoppage time corner for AUGSBURG on Saturday, and scored the equaliser, which was a winner as far as XX Draws followers were concerned. At the time I thought, well this AUGURS well for the weekend...

Thursday 19 February 2015

FTL Update 18.Feb

Not too much to report on from the domestic midweek games. had a small loss but stays well clear at the top, while TFA_Raz also had a small loss but stays in 10th place.

Bounty Boy TFA Draws had a small win and remains in 14th place, while Talkies Tips and Mortimer basically swapped places moving up and down four places respectively. Abromo and Online Trader also shuffled down and up one place each although both were idle.

Here are the changes:

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Tooling Up

I implied in my last post that the weekend had been a tough one, and indeed overall the entrants lost 7.45 points, but it wasn't as bad as I had thought it might be, almost solely because leader extended his lead at the top to 24.26 points after making a record single round profit of 17.87 points, breaking Trend to end's 20th September total of 17.84 points.  A commanding lead, but as Fairfranco can attest, large leads can evaporate quickly. Here are the leaders after the weekend:

The only other profitable entry in this group was Football Elite who had another good round and is now tied on points with Randolph in second place. also has a commanding lead in the race for February, his 35.87 points are 26.6 points ahead of Football Elite.

Nineteen entries remain in profit, and the others are:
Football Investor had a great weekend going from red to green and gaining 7.44 points, while Draw Picks found one winner from 15 for a loss of 11.80. It was a tough round for the draw portfolio. XX Draws lost 1.20 points, Drawmaster lost 1.54 points and TFA Euro Draws went 0 from 10. Only TFA Draws eked out a profit, 1.50 points, with one win from two selections. Skeeve had his first losing round of 2015 dropping two points and Here are the red men, although Mountain Mouse's 3.32 points have put him within a whisker of profitability and a share of the spoils.
At the other end of this group, Paul Watson finally moves out of last place.

Sunday 15 February 2015


Poor old Fairfranco bemoans his recent misfortunes writing:
My slump is quite ridiculous now!
Charlton even gave me boundless hope with a come back from 2-0 to 2-2 before conceding again!
It's one thing making a loss but losing almost every tip week after week when they are well backed up selections is just ridiculous!
If Fairfranco is relying on Charlton Athletic to give him hope, then he's in worse shape than I thought! 

As has been discussed on this blog before, it’s not where you are that is important; it’s how you arrived there. Fairfranco is currently up 12.32 points with an ROI% of 4.29 from 287 selections, which isn’t too shabby at all when looked at as a standalone position.

The reason for the disappointment is of course that his current position is relatively much poorer than in late November when he was up 57.66 points, with an ROI% of 28.13.

Someone with a net worth of £1 million feels quite different if they have built that sum up from nothing versus if they had started off in life with an inheritance of £5 million.

Fairfranco took the weekend off, which may have been a wise decision. It appears to have been a tough round for most, although a couple of the Bounty Boys look well placed to make up both points and places. A couple of entrants have an interest in tomorrow night's Elche v Eibar match (Draw Picks and Mountain Mouse [Away]) and I'll update the numbers after that.

Friday 13 February 2015

FTL Midweek Update 11.Feb

The midweek round may have been quiet, with just the English Leagues in action (plus one Serie A game postponed from the weekend) but it was quite significant.

Overall the round was profitable by 4.46 points, but the big winner was who leapt up from 7th to take the lead after a profit of 10.56 points. Brian may have made the selections after a couple of drinks (he selected both Oldham Athletic and Swindon Town who were playing each other, [match settled as a lay of the draw] as well as Woking and Telford United who didn't appear to have scheduled matches) but whatever the method was, it worked.

Draw Picks made a solid 3.31 points to move into second place above an idle Randolph, while Football Elite moved up two places after a profit of 3.51 points. Former leader Fairfranco slid another four places to 9th after losing 5.00 points.

The highlight of the other profitable entries was TFA Draws move back into profit with a 3.96 point profit.
A couple of biggish losses from the red section, Mortimer lost 6.77 points and @ValueBankFooty lost 5.73 points, while Mountain Mouse (+5.59) and Cassini Value (+2.82) were the leading winners followed by Sjosta (+1.66) and Drawmaster (+1.29).  It was a good round for draws!
Portfolio numbers are:

Tuesday 10 February 2015

FTL Update 9.Feb

The weekend resulted in a net loss of 0.16 points, with the big winners being on points (+7.44 points) and Mortimer and Draw Picks on places (up five and four respectively). The biggest losers were Sjosta who dropped 9.00 points, and TFA_Raz, whose poor run since mid-January continued with a fall of five places. Still in the top 10 though, and still up by ten points - just: sets the early pace for February, as Randolph sits on top of the table taunting his rivals with cries of "come and get me". Club Havana inched closer, and is now just 0.16 points back, while Trend to end moved up one place due to Fairfranco taking another loss. Draw Picks did the Draw portfolio proud making 4.99 points, the Bundeslayga picked up 2.07 points and Bounty Boy Football Elite added 3.16 points (although this may be adjusted as Football Data's Serie A link took me to La Liga so the price on one winner is an estimate). XX Unders made a loss of 2.01 points from 16 selections.

The rest of the profitable entries sees Mortimer replace Bounty Boy Football Investor in the green, and not one of this group lost points. Other than Mortimer, XX Draws picked up 3.61 points, Fulltimebettingblog made 3.00 (courtesy of Manchester City's late equaliser versus Hull City), and Jamie A added 2.63 points. OverGoalify made 0.71 points, and Bounty Boy Skeeve added 0.61 points but lost a position!
In the losers group, with the top few desperately trying to get into the green and the money spots, we have:
Bounty Boy TFA Draw Draws helped himself by picking up 1.75 points, and more importantly three places, while Rubicon (+3.76) and @ValueBankFooty were the only other profitable entries in this group. Drawmaster and TFA Euro Draws both had losing weekends, as did Cassini Value who lost all five selections thanks, in part, to Peter Crouch! Sjosta lost all nine selections, while Mountain Mouse, Online Trader and Talkies Tips all had small losses.

The overall total is now down by 25.47 points, and here are some of the 'portfolio' / Bounty Boy details:
A lot of picks expected for the midweek games in England, and the Serie A game between Parma and Chivo Verona which was buried under snow on Sunday has been moved to tomorrow (Wednesday) and a couple of people have at least one midweek selection as a result.

Friday 6 February 2015

Dunning-Kruger (2)

A quiet midweek, with just six entrants active. The big winner and loser was Cassini, whose Bundeslayga system made 2.44 points and now leads the February monthly competition, but whose Value Selections lost 3.00 points. Jamie A was the only other profitable entry (+0.16 points), with Mortimer, Football Elite and Talkies Tips all making modest losses. The changes from the weekend are shown below:

Overall the FTL is now down by 25.31 points, but that will change as the entries for this weekend are already flooding in. Which direction the change is towards remains to be seen.

A couple of other items to mention, and one was this question from Laurie on Twitter:
So what's the beef between you and sotdoc? Personal or analytical?
Whether or not this means Sotty is alive and well and continuing to comment on this blog isn't clear, although he is certainly a frequent visitor, but my reply was:
I don't know Jonny personally, but his logic is certainly flawed, and he is incapable of rational argument. Any criticism is taken as a personal 'attack' and it's hard to take him seriously when he lies about involving the police!
I think Jonny probably means well and tries hard,  but unfortunately he just doesn't have the mental capacity to understand when his ideas are refuted. However clearly you try to explain how and why his logic is flawed, he just doesn't get it. He's a good example of the Dunning-Kruger effect which proposes that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:
fail to recognize their own lack of skill;
fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
As Dunning put it:
If you’re incompetent, you can’t know you’re incompetent. The skills you need to produce a right answer are exactly the skills you need to recognize what a right answer is.
My old friend Matthew had a comment on the FTL:
I think the FTL has now assembled enough data points for some investment fund style charts for each tipster with a benchmark line added. I thought the benchmark could be the combined portfolio of the bounty boys? Presumably you could then become some sort of football betting investment adviser taking a rebate from the tipster for each client you sign up to them them (1% of annual membership fee in question?). I envisage slick PDFs and elaborate headed notepaper.
With 6,446 selections to date, there is certainly a lot of data to look at. The Bounty Boys portfolio is currently showing an ROI% of 1.74% after 703 selections which isn't bad when you consider that the prices are taken from Pinnacle and can usually be bettered:
The numbers are also likely a little low given than Skeeve has barely started warming his engine with just 39 selections to date. More on this topic later I feel, but I have to leave now, and order some elaborate headed notepaper.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

FTL League, Erskine Cup And Month Winners And Losers (January)

My Mother, risk averse to the extreme, often accuses me of  "tempting fate", and were she to read my last blog post, she would probably say the same about my comment on my Erskine Cup opponent @ValueBankFooty's treble shots.

Three Away wins in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon, and all three in @VBF's away treble. +22.0958 points in one fell swoop! Well done indeed.

Yet again, it was another collectively tough round for the FTL contestants, with an overall loss of 27.04 points, and into the red overall for the first time this season. The entries making or losing five points or more were:
TFA_Raz's disaster cost him the January monthly prize, which went to Mortimer. If Mortimer would like to let me know his preference for a payout either now or at the end of the season, I shall be pleased to oblige. Here are the profitable January entries:
No single entry has yet won more than one monthly prize, but Fairfranco has achieved the distinction of becoming the first contestant to have the worst point total in more than one month, going back to back in December and January, and yet is in second place less than 0.5 points behind the leader!

As well as the monthly competition, the Erskine Cup was also live this weekend, and as good a weekend as Mortimer had, it wasn't good enough to see him get by Talkies Tips. Here are the results and the line-ups for the Quarter-Finals in four weeks:
@ValueBankFooty demolished XX Draws with his Away EPL treble hitting, and faces an XX Unders opponent in the next round, gunning for revenge. XX Unders made a decent profit, and came up against an off-form Football Elite. Drawmaster continued his poor run, and lost to Randolph who spent the weekend eating crisps and drinking beer on the sofa. Fairfranco and Jamie A both had bad weekends, and Jamie A advanced despite losing 6.29 points. Randolph will face Jamie A in the next round.

In the bottom half of the draw, Talkies Tips picked a good weekend to score well, and will face another crisp eating, beer drinking sofa surfer in Abromo next round. Online Trader lost out by 0.75 points in the closest contest of the round. Club Havana made the smallest of profits, but it was enough to get past TFA_Raz who as mentioned earlier, had a poor weekend, and the final tie saw Gecko eliminate another lazy devil (Betcast) by making a 1.92 point profit from his 28 selections. With prize money for reaching the semi-finals, the quarter-finals are the money round.

Back to the actual league then, and the race for the title has tightened considerably. The overall profits have also evaporated quite dramatically. Every month from August to December was in profit, but January saw a loss of 71.13 points.

The leaders who are up by ten points or more are:
All to play for one might say, and with the top six separated by less than three points, it could hardly be much closer. Leader Randolph hasn't had a selection since November! Quite a coincidence that Fairfranco and TFA_Raz both had one winner from 13 selections, and finished on the same number even though their winners were different. Draw Picks moved up four places with a solid profit on the weekend, and leads the draw portfolio, which isn't performing too well  right now after a promising start:
The 'in profit' club lost two members at the weekend - Drawmaster and TFA Draws - and the number drops to 18. The remainder of the 'in-profit' entries are:
OverGoalify's 0.74 points elevated him four places up the table, while Jamie A and football Investor were the big droppers, down five and four places respectively. Three of the four Bounty Boys are in this group, and Skeeve was the only profitable one, reducing his bounty liability by £50 courtesy of climbing two places.
The remaining red section of the table looks like this:
Talkies Tips moved to within an inch of profitability climbing up seven places, with Mortimer and @ValueBankFooty also raising their game and placings. The latter's 16.86 was a record for one round. The only other profitable entry in this group was Cassini Value Selections who made a small profit. Sjosta was the big points loser down 8.82 points, and three places, but dropping four places were Drawmaster, TFA Draws and Mountain Mouse. And there we have it. There are a few leagues with midweek action, notably Germany and the Netherlands, so there will be a little activity to report on in a few days.

Back to the topic of beer and crisps, Marty asks:
What's the sporting equivalent of sitting out? I'm thinking O'Sullivan vs Robidoux
A reference to the 1996 controversy when a young righty Ronnie O'Sullivan played several shots as a lefty against Alain Robidoux and was accused of being disrespectful, to which he replied:
"I didn't give him any respect because he didn't deserve any"
Well OK then. Marty has a good memory.