Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas

Month: January 2017

Sport Geek #66: pioneers, tanking, and Fergie Time

Nothing scientific per se about this, but the current Australian Open is incredible: six of the eight semifinalists are over 30. That may be a first, or it must be very rare. And we are just four results away from a possible Federer-Nadal, Williams-Williams finals weekend. Chew on that.



Two pioneers, two very different stories. Tymal Mills: the accidental T20 specialist. And Rachael Heyhoe Flint, the reluctant feminist who did so much for women’s cricket.


Attack attack attaaacckk! Fortune is favouring the bold at the Australian Open.


A good read, and a fun game: tanking.


Fergie Time still exists!

Valencia is on the brink of collapse.


I’m not so sure about the ‘loved’ bit about Bernie Ecclestone.

That’s it – ciao.

Sport Geek #65: over-achievers, stupid fans, and backpage metrics

Main thought: I’m loving the NFL this year.


A very statty take on which country is the biggest over-achiever in the 6 Nations.


Don’t listen to the fans! What the hell do they know?


Where did it all go wrong, Pep?


Keep on yelling. It works.

How to lose quarterbacks and alienate people.

Well done Los Angeles: you now have two terrible teams.

Stay classy, San Diego.


I love this – contract negotiations using backpage metrics.

That’s it. Get reading…

There’s always my book too, if you haven’t already…

In (partial) defence of Fifa’s 48-team World Cup plan

The format of 32 has proven to be the perfect formula from all perspectives…

So said the EFA. But not quite all perspectives, and certainly not the one which counts most: Fifa’s.

The World Cup has been 32 teams since 1998. It starts with 8 groups of 4, top two go to the knockout round. It’s mathematically ideal and beautiful in every way.

So why change it? You can read good summaries on the BBC, Guardian, and also the Mail on typical jingoistic form (Burkina Faso but not Scotland!). The best analysis is here on the Economist. But aside from the politics and possible extra cash, is it so awful to destroy the perfect 32-game Cup?

Yes and no. Yes, for all the reasons linked to above. Yes because it makes the structure far less neat. No, because more teams from smaller nations is an admirable motive. So let’s look at the structure.

Fifa is suggesting 16 groups of 3, top two to knock out. That means two group games for each team, rather than three; and five knock out matches rather than four through to the final.

The initial negative reaction is based on three unavoidable things: fewer big teams will meet at the group stage; three in a group means final group matches might result in boring draws if both teams are through to the next stage; and fewer group matches means 16 teams get only two matches before heading home, rather than the current minimum of three.

Let’s unpick each one. Continue reading

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