Football’s Statistical Revolution

A shift from a ‘gut instinct’ approach, to a statistical approach

The well documented fairytale that saw Leicester City crowned Premiership Champions last season showed the world just what is possible in a David vs Golliath fight against wealth of the modern ‘superclub’. Stats.

English clubs have seen over the last few years how European clubs are taking advantage of the unbelievable Premier League TV riches. An innovation was required. Clubs like Leicester City needed to avoid paying the likes of £30m here or there for rookies, washed-up internationals and mid-table passengers. “There is now one price for English Premier League clubs and another price for everybody else,” one agent said. You only need to look down the road at Aston Villa to see how badly wrong you can get it. 

So how do you compete with the turbulent market? Rob Mackenzie, Head of Technical Scouting at Leicester from December 2011 – February 2015 is credited for a change of approach in Leicester’s scouting framework. “An approach that encapsulates statistical analysis combined with live observations in my opinion has to be the most cost effective, efficient and accurate way to assess a player” stated Mackenzie. 

With this methodology, Mackenzie, alongside Ben Wrigglesworth and Steve Walsh as Leicester’s statistical-focused scouting team have pulled in players such as Jamie Vardy from Non-League, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante from Ligue 2, and a host of Premier League rejects. They were all analysed and brought in to fit a system, a style of play, based on the statistics gathered. 

The Leicester story encouraged The Panel that a similar strategy could be adopted to aide punters in the betting market… 

The Panel History 

The Panel started over a year ago as a pub conversation and subsequent WhatsApp group in which us four guys were convinced that with a meticulous, cautious mindset, we could exploit certain betting markets. Our aim was to ‘beat the bookies’, in our own Leicester fairytale, where a statistical approach is pivotal to its success… 

We are living in a world in which so much data is generated, yet it is hard to pull together and digest. This is no different in the football environment with tons of hard stats, opinions and supporting data being generated and published on the web. So we began by analysing different markets and testing what factors (data sources) influenced different markets. Whether it was purely league position, league form, home form, away form or the more complex data factors such as player injuries, weather conditions or media sentiment – we used anything we could get our hands on to make informed decisions on a bet. 

We have had our success stories, and our failures, but all was used to build knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. 

With full time jobs to contend with, pulling this kind of information in a manual way was difficult to fit in. So we took one of our most successful markets, and used that as a test case for winning against the betting sites… 

Goal “Guaranteed”

In-play betting became a favourite way of using statistics to make a betting decisions. It is such a fast changing situation that you can exploit generous odds on particular markets on particular games. 

We started to use a variety of statistics to create a betting score against every 0-0 at half time as to how likely there is to be a goal. The key was automation. Our automated script pulls together all the sources of information we need to calculate the score and post an email notification when a game to bet on is available. Based on that algorithm, we tracked every game that finished 0-0 at half time and published games where the betting score was greater than 50%, the results were fascinating. 

Across 1800+ games, from 40+ countries, we were experiencing a win rate of just over 78%. Now, when you can get odds of 1/2 – 1/3 (If betting between 45mins-60mins and avoiding teams like Barca!), with a 78% chance of winning – with discipline, you can beat the bookies over a sustained period. 

We want to give you the opportunity to follow our bets on this market so have created a publication to Twitter than you can follow and, as with Rob MacKenzie at Leicester, use the statistics as a base to make an informed decision. 

Alex @ ThePanel,-head-of-technical-scouting-at-leicester-city/

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