Scorecasting Economists

Premier League, R31 (23-25 Jun) — Leicester 53% chance of win against Brighton tonight

The table below gives the Model’s forecasts for Round 31 of the Premier League, adjusted for the fact these matches are taking place behind closed doors, along with forecast probabilities estimated from current online bookmaker odds.

  • Expected Goals: the forecast average number of goals the Model expects for Home and Away teams
  • Outcome Probs: the model predicted % chance of either a Home or Away win, with 100 minus these two numbers being the % chance of a draw.
  • Score Picks: the Most likely forecast scoreline outcome, as well as the most likely conditional on the most likely result outcome happening.
  • Home wins / Draws / Away wins: the predicted % chance of various potential scoreline outcomes of the match.
  • Mean odds: Estimates of online bookmakers’ average probabbility forecasts for the Home and Away teams to win, which could be compared with Outcome Probs.

Premier League, R30 (19-22 Jun) — Spurs only have a 25% chance of beating Manchester Utd tonight.

The table below gives the Model’s forecasts for Round 30 of the Premier League, adjusted for the fact these matches are taking place behind closed doors, along with forecast probabilities estimated from current online bookmaker odds.

EPL forecasts R30 2020, RED
  • Expected Goals: the forecast average number of goals the Model expects for Home and Away teams
  • Outcome Probs: the model predicted % chance of either a Home or Away win, with 100 minus these two numbers being the % chance of a draw.
  • Score Picks: the Most likely forecast scoreline outcome, as well as the most likely conditional on the most likely result outcome happening.
  • Home wins / Draws / Away wins: the predicted % chance of various potential scoreline outcomes of the match.
  • Mean odds: Estimates of online bookmakers’ average probabbility forecasts for the Home and Away teams to win, which could be compared with Outcome Probs.

Premier League, R28 (17 June) — Forecasts adjusted for behind closed doors football.

The Premier League returns tonight behind closed doors, in empty stadiums. This experiment begins with Aston Villa at home to Sheffield Utd. We have adjusted our forecasts to account for the loss of home advantage when teams play without their home supporters (see here & here). After doing so, Sheffield Utd have a 49% chance of the win, up from 42% without any adjustment. The likely scoreline is a 0-1 away win. Our unadjusted forecasts are closer to the average bookmaker odds-implied probabilities. Perhaps they haven’t been watching what has happened around Europe when matches returned without fans…

The other match tonight is Manchester City at home to Arsenal. The adjusted forecasts give City a 52% chance of a win. This is quite a big difference from the bookmakers, who generally give them over a 70% chance of winning. Perhaps they are factoring in the new substitutes rules and City’s squad depth.

The tables below give the Model’s forecasts for the upcoming matches in Round 28 of the Premier League, along with forecast probabilities estimated from current online bookmaker odds. The first table adjusts forecasts for the effect of playing behind closed doors on home advantage.

EPL R28, June 2020, RED forecasts, behind closed doors adjusted
EPL R28, June 2020, Unadjusted for Closed Doors
  • Expected Goals: the forecast average number of goals the Model expects for Home and Away teams
  • Outcome Probs: the model predicted % chance of either a Home or Away win, with 100 minus these two numbers being the % chance of a draw.
  • Score Picks: the Most likely forecast scoreline outcome, as well as the most likely conditional on the most likely result outcome happening.
  • Home wins / Draws / Away wins: the predicted % chance of various potential scoreline outcomes of the match.
  • Mean odds: Estimates of online bookmakers’ average probabbility forecasts for the Home and Away teams to win, which could be compared with Outcome Probs.

Echoes – what happens when football is played behind closed doors?

Football is returning! People are divided in the UK about whether that’s a good thing or not, but the Bundesliga in Germany will start again on Saturday (we’ll make forecasts tomorrow and here’s our end-of-season forecasts).

But it’s going to return without spectators – or “behind closed doors”, in the football vernacular. Will that affect anything at all?

Regardless of what we might think, we Scorecasting Economists like to look at the numbers to answer questions like this. They’re interesting from a sporting perspective, but also more broadly. Economists care about outcomes, and care about distortions in outcomes away from what we might think of as their natural level. They care about undue influences on outcomes, discrimination in decisions, and other external events that might affect how things turn out.

Football yields great opportunities to investigate things like this. Why do home teams win really often? Economists have proposed that it’s the referee that are actually the mechanism through which fans help the home team to win. So if fans aren’t present, they can’t influence outcomes via the referee. We’ve started to investigate this.

How many matches have taken place behind closed doors historically? It turns out, a small number – about 0.1% of all matches played across England, Italy, Spain, France and Italy, as well as the Europa League and Champions League. That’s 192 matches 131,229. It’s not many, but we can reduce that sample down a little, since there’s no point looking yet at Germany or England, since there have been no closed door matches ever in these two country (until now).

We focus on the matches in the plot below:

What differs between them? In the following two charts, we look simply at the difference in mean outcome between “normal” matches, and “closed-door” matches:

Home teams score fewer goals, and win fewer matches. Referees award away teams almost half a yellow card less. More shots on target are saved. Less injury time is awarded, though this effect is insignificant.

Hence this points towards home advantage being removed by playing without spectators. And it suggests the mechanism may be referee related, since the strongest effect by some distance is the yellow card effect, which is robust to all sorts of controls.

Many of the effects are insignificant. This could be because they are insignificant. But it could be because we have a small sample of closed-door matches. Hence while the general public is highly ambivalent about football’s return, as scholars we are delighted that we will soon have a lot more closed door matches to use in this work. We’ll be updating in the coming weeks…

How will Eredivisie end?

The final in our current series of looks at how European football seasons will end (England, Italy, Spain, Germany and France) is the Dutch top league, the Eredivisie.

As things stand, Ajax and AZ Alkmaar are separated only by goal difference (45 to 37), tied on 56 points. The tightest of the leagues we’ve looked.

Despite that, our projections give Ajax a 53.5% chance of winning the league to Alkmaar’s 37.7%, reflecting that goal difference, and also that Ajax have scored more goals (68 to 54). Feyernoord maintain an outside chance at 7%.

How will Ligue 1 end?

We’ve looked at English leagues, at Serie ALa Liga, and the Bundesliga. Now we look at how France’s top division might have finished, had it been played out from the point the suspension began.

Twelve points clear, it’s fairy obvious PSG will win Ligue 1 this season. We have them at 99.9%, with Marseille having a 1 in a thousand chance of winning. There’s a lively battle for the remaining European places, with realistically only Marseille being guaranteed, at this point, European football in whatever form it happens next season.

There’s a 50% chance Rennes play in the Champions League, a 48% chance Lille do.

At the bottom, Toulouse are 98.5% likely to be relegated.

How will the Bundesliga end?

We’ve looked at English leagues, at Serie A, and La Liga, now we move to the Bundesliga in Germany.

Football has stopped everywhere (apart from Belarus). Will it restart? How? Behind closed doors? Before player contracts expire? The possibility of seasons being aborted seems all too real now. But how will end-of-season honours, European qualification, relegation, and so on, be determined?

In Germany, it’s been another season where Bayern haven’t dominated, but have moved into position when it mattered. Four points clear when the season was postponed, they are 77% likely to win the Bundesliga. Dortmund and Leipzig maintain a 10% chance each, Moenchengladbach and Leverkusen trivial likelihoods (1.3% and 0.8%).

How will La Liga end?

We’ve extended our end-of-season projections, which we did for English leagues before the COVID19 shutdown of sport, to Italy yesterday. This matters since it appears that increasingly, UEFA and leagues are moving towards inventive solutions to complete leagues before the end of June, when a lot of contracts expire.

So we’ve done the same for all of the other big five leagues, plus the Eredivisie in the Netherlands.

Here, we present La Liga. It’s hard to look beyond Barca. Although they are only two points clear, they have a 70% chance of winning La Liga. This reflects the different fixtures lists facing the two clubs, as much as anything else – our simulations run through all the remaining games of the season and count up how often each team wins particular games. Real Madrid have a 28.3% chance of winning, leaving 1.7% split between four teams – no chance, practically.