Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas

Month: November 2007

Englishman for the England job?

After Steve McCLaren, who next? The debate about foreign coaches has started again, with Arsene Wenger saying that it should be an Englishman for the England job. Perhaps he just wants to keep the spotlight off him, but does he have a point?

Of the UEFA teams – the teams in Europe – there are 54 teams in total, with 19 foreign coaches, 33 domestic and 2 jobs pending (Republic of Ireland being the other).

So, with over a third (35%) of coaches being foriegn, is England being naive to think that post-Sven, England should be managed by an Englishman? Notably, the countries that are currently seen as the “powerhouses” of Europe – France, Italy, Germany – are managed by domestic, not foreign coaches. Smaller countries tend to have foreign managers – Liechenstein, Moldova, Cyprus and Albania are in the 19. Perhaps an English manager isn’t a terrible idea, it just needs to be a better manager.

Telegraph need a primer in profit and loss

Interesting piece in the Telegraph. Apparently if England don’t make it into Euro 2008, it wouldn’t just mean a summer off from all that football nonsense and Steve McClaren out of a job: according to the headline an “English defeat would add up to £1bn loss”. Really? Where is this coming from?

According to one study, by the Centre for Economic and Business Research, based on an examination of the impact of the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2004, the effect of non-qualification could be as much as £1 billion.

Sadly, the basis for this huge figure is hard to dissect, as the report isn’t on their website. But the Telegraph summarises some of the main points. The impact would be in advertising revenues, drink sales and betting – as much as £300m was spent in advertising during the 2006 World Cup, and Euro 2008 would give pubs etc a £285m boost.

So where’s the loss? Can’t see it yet. All we are looking at here is expected increases that might – or might not – happen. As far as I remember, that’s not a loss. It’s a fall in expected profits. Profit warnings aren’t much fun, but they are different to a loss. In each area money will still be spent: advertisers will display adverts in the matches, they will just be charged less; people will still go to the pub to watch France vs Portugal, they just won’t drink as much; people will still bet.

In short – money will be made, just not as much. If I promise to give you £100 for getting an A in an exam, but £50 for a B or less, if you get a B you’ve still made money.

But “less money will be made if England lose” isn’t such a good headline, is it?

Venables the saviour?

Statistics. Don’t you just love them? Especially when you make them say something convenient for your news story…

Hello Observer Sport. Goodbye Steve McClaren, England manager. Well, maybe, if England don’t qualify for Euro 08. In their big piece entitled “How lucky can you get?” the Observer ran a table in which they showed that:

McClaren and Don Revie are the only England managers to record a 24 per cent defeat record. The best record belongs to Terry Venables – 4 per cent, representing one defeat in 23 games.

P W D L win% loss%
Steve McClaren 17 9 4 4 52.9 23.5
Don Revie 29 14 8 7 48.3 24.1
Kevin Keegan 18 7 7 4 38.9 22.2
Walter Winterbottom 139 78 33 28 56.1 20.1
Bobby Robson 95 47 30 18 49.5 18.9
Graham Taylor 38 18 13 7 47.4 18.4
Rob Greenwood 55 33 12 10 60.0 18.2
Glenn Hoddle 28 17 6 5 60.7 17.9
Alf Ramsey 113 69 27 17 61.1 15.0
Sven-Goran Eriksson 67 40 17 10 59.7 14.9
Terry Venables 23 11 11 1 47.8 4.3

(note: table was rounded up with NO decimal points)

Gosh, that’s terrible, isn’t it? Sack him now.

Perhaps he will get the sack, but first, a few pointers.

1) Putting McCLaren top of the table was disingenuous. McClarens loss percentage is 23.5 – Revie’s is 24.1. Rounding up and down is fair enough, but Revie should be top of that table. Shame on the Observer for that one.

2) Venables is McClaren’s number 2 and has been mooted in some circles as a possible replacement. Suggesting he has the BEST record is very misleading. The best record? In terms of defeats, yes. But what was quietly gets ignored is that McClaren has a better WIN record than Venables: 53% to 48%.

In fact, in the win percentage stakes McClaren is a mid-table England manager.

P W D L win% loss%
Alf Ramsey 113 69 27 17 61.1 15.0
Glenn Hoddle 28 17 6 5 60.7 17.9
Rob Greenwood 55 33 12 10 60.0 18.2
Sven-Goran Eriksson 67 40 17 10 59.7 14.9
Walter Winterbottom 139 78 33 28 56.1 20.1
McClaren 17 9 4 4 52.9 23.5
Bobby Robson 95 47 30 18 49.5 18.9
Don Revie 29 14 8 7 48.3 24.1
Terry Venables 23 11 11 1 47.8 4.3
Graham Taylor 38 18 13 7 47.4 18.4
Kevin Keegan 18 7 7 4 38.9 22.2

And in terms of points per game (3 for a win, 1 for a draw), McClaren is again mid-table, just 0.02 behind…. Terry Venables.

P W D L win% loss% Points per game
Alf Ramsey 113 69 27 17 61.1 15.0 2.07
Sven-Goran Eriksson 67 40 17 10 59.7 14.9 2.04
Glenn Hoddle 28 17 6 5 60.7 17.9 2.04
Rob Greenwood 55 33 12 10 60.0 18.2 2.02
Walter Winterbottom 139 78 33 28 56.1 20.1 1.92
Terry Venables 23 11 11 1 47.8 4.3 1.91
McClaren 17 9 4 4 52.9 23.5 1.82
Bobby Robson 95 47 30 18 49.5 18.9 1.80
Graham Taylor 38 18 13 7 47.4 18.4 1.76
Don Revie 29 14 8 7 48.3 24.1 1.72
Kevin Keegan 18 7 7 4 38.9 22.2 1.56

I happen to think Venables was a better manager than McClaren, but the Observer’s table is not the way to prove it.

The English red-herring / why immigration is not to blame

I’m fed up of the argument that English football is suffering due to all the foreign players. I’ve looked at some of the arguments on my other blog, but the figures used by the Sunday Times suggest that, post-Bosman, the England team is basically screwed. Or is it?

The figures they give are not explained fully – are they representative of squads, average teams or just taken from the first match of the season? (This first match is often quoted in articles on this subject. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the most convenient figure.)

And here they are. I have added the increase and percentages:

Foreign players 1994 2006 increase % incr
England 141 316 175 124.1%
Germany 163 222 59 36.2%
France 144 178 34 23.6%
Italy 71 170 99 139.4%
Spain 86 191 105 122.1%

What does this show? Spain has had a similar increase to England in terms of percentage, but the national team is still a) full of world-class players b) without a trophy since 1962. Italy has had an increase of 99 players, roughly 4 per club. And they just won the World Cup, so no worries there then. Germany have seen a milder increase, but still have the second highest number (222 – equivalent to 12 foreigners per club which could be the entire first team), and have won Euro 96 as well as being runners up in the 2002 World Cup. It just doesn’t add up.

But…. should English players try traveling abroad? Currently there are 10 English players playing in other leagues aside from Scotland. Now, let’s take Brazil. The only figures I could find for Brazil suggested over 850 players abroad. France according to this article in Time has over 100 – and that was in 2002. Italy I couldn’t find figures for, but it’s certainly a lot more than England. When I find the numbers, I’ll add them here.

But the point is the same – travel is linked with success. Overseas players are exposed to a different culture and style. And it’s clearly an indicator of talent that exists in the first place, talent that is nurtured in academies (France) or on the streets (Brazil).

Plus, my esteemed colleague Tim Harford, the Undercover Economist, has a few thoughts on the subject. (The FT doesn’t do sport that often, so I’d pay attention). Oh, and here’s a another economist, Stephen King’s analysis (not the horror writer).

Import – but no talk of export

I have just got back from Paris, and a fine journey it is too from the new St Pancras. But as we took a taxi through the Hausmann boulevards, I couldn’t help thinking of French football and radio, and it struck a nerve about the English game.

The Premiership foreign players debate rumbles on and on. The Sunday Times had a good synthesis of the arguments, but as nostalgic old players chip in, no real solution is apparent apart from quotas as a means of making the England team competitive.

Hang on. Quotas? As in restrictions? Aside from being against European employment law and therefore pointless, when do quotas work?

And here is where France comes in. France are the most successful European team of recent years. And French music, in general, sucks. Stay with me here.

Quotas haven’t helped French music. Radio stations in France must play Francophone music as 40% of their music. And the effect has been patchy. French music stars such as Air and MC Solaar haven’t flourished because of this quota system, they have emerged despite it. All quotas have done is encourage flabby imitations of US and English acts. Quotas are nonsense.

And French football? The team during its most successful period had players scattered across leagues in Europe. Home-grown talent, yes. Unable to fashion a team because they are in different leagues? No.

In England we should worry more about whether young players are developing properly and have facilities, rather than the composition of our league. If a generation of young English kids grow up wanting to be Cesc Fabregas or Christiano Ronaldo, then fine.

Also, why aren’t we encouraging our players to play abroad, in Spain, Germany or Italy? It’s worked for France and Brazil.

It is also highly unlikely that English players will not flourish in the Premiership. The weather, language and culture are in their favour. But put the idea of quotas to bed forever. It’s a legal and economic non-starter.

P.S. The headline scare-story: At the start of the Premiership in 1992, just 10 players in the starting lineups for the first weekend were foreign. Of the 220 players who started Premier League matches last weekend, only 77 were English.

And, lest we forget, in 1992, England won the European championship, due to all the English talent at home. Oh, that’s right. They didn’t qualify. Whoops.


“Chelsea are furious”. Really? Why? Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe points out that their wage bill is huge, but gets a few figures wrong.

Sutcliffe told delegates at the FT Sports Industry Summit yesterday morning that Terry earns £150,000 a week, that Chelsea are “£250m in the red” and that United had increased ticket prices by 13%. Both clubs disputed his figures.

Yes, ManU have increased their ticket prices for a season ticket by 10.87%.

Hang on… 11 per cent isn’t exactly in line with inflation. That hasn’t been up to 11 per cent since, ooh, 1981. Why ManU fans put up with this I have no idea.

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