Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

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Aten
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Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Post by Aten » Mon Mar 21, 2016 11:41 pm

Does anyone pay any attention to the match stats given with the newspaper reports on the game? If you do, has anyone noticed the variance of details between newspapers and even the SPFL website?

I took three random Premiership matches from the Sunday Mail and compared their figures with those given in the Sunday Post. The matches selected were Kilmarnock v Celtic, Motherwell v Aberdeen and Ross County v ICT. Not one of the percentage of possession figures given in the Mail were the same as those given in the Post and we are not talking of just one point percentage variance. Indeed the Mail gives Ross County and ICT figures of 45 and 55 respectively yet the Post gives the split as 52 and 48 – a 7-point difference.

Monday’s Daily Record did not give possession figures but in other categories there is a difference with the two Sunday papers. As the Sunday Mail and the Daily Record are “related” you would think they would at least agree. The SPFL website does not give possession figures either but again in the other categories there is significant variance.

Possession (SP, SM)

Kilmarnock 40 or 43, Celtic 60 or 57
Motherwell 54 or 52, Aberdeen 46 or 48
Ross County 52 or 45, ICT 48 or 55

Shots on Target (SP, SM, DR, SPFL)

Kilmarnock 3, 8, 3 or 5, Celtic 7, 11, 7, or 4
Motherwell 5, 4, 4 or 5, Aberdeen 8, 8, 8 or 7
Ross County 3, 2, 2 or 4, ICT 6, 4, 4 or 10

Shots off Target (SP, SM, DR, SPFL)

Kilmarnock 5, 5, 5 or 3, Celtic 4, 4, 4 or 6
Motherwell 5, 5, 5 or 2, Aberdeen 5, 5, 5 or 7
Ross County 4, 4, 4 or 2 ICT 10, 9, 10 or 1

Fouls Committed (SP, SM, DR, SPFL)

Kilmarnock 10, 11, 10 or 14, Celtic 5, 5, 5 or 5
Motherwell 12, 12, 12 or 12, Aberdeen 5, 5, 5 or 7
Ross County 12, 10, 12 or 10, ICT 10, 12, 10 or 11

The only category that had total agreement was corners won.

A cursory glance at other newspapers and websites just repeated similar variances so it seems there is no consensus as to what constitutes possession, a shot on target, off target or even a foul. It therefore begs the question what is the point of publishing stats?

Snuff
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Re: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Post by Snuff » Wed Mar 23, 2016 8:42 am

As an "old school" sports writer, I have a jaundiced view of statistics. I sort of believe, the likes of the OPTA figures, when published by newspapers, are just a way for today's molly-coddled hacks to not have to fill as much blank newsprint as in days of yore.

If you get possession stats, supplied, ready to insert in the page, well, it saves having to employ a real sub-editor to tidy-up the match reporter's copy; it also might save you sending a snapper to the game.

The trouble with statistics in football is, it is the most free-form of the various codes of "football". Take one form of stats I have seen used: passing accuracy. It is easy for a Barry Ferguson type player to have excellent passing accuracy stats - if the only passes you make are short, maximum ten-yard, sideways or back passes to a team mate, you are bound to have great passing stats. Meanwhile, the likes of a Jim Baxter, capable of making the 60-yard diagonal "killer pass" to release his opposing winger, might only get seven or eight out of ten of these to work. Poorer pass accuracy, but, a far-greater "Wow!" factor from the crowd when the pass does work.

Shots on-target: do you count those efforts which are blocked, or diverted for a corner? Does a powder-puff along the ground dribbler count? To some stats-gatherers, yes, to others: "I wouldn't dignify that effort as a shot".

It's a mine field. Any way, match reporting today is too-much about what the manager/coach/player said, and not enough about what the reporter thinks.

I still recall some advice given me, by the ancient theatre critic of one Daily for which I worked: "In reviewing a game, you are as much of a critic as I am in the theatre - the difference is, I don't trot backstage at the end to ask Lord Olivier: 'Tell me M'Lord, how did you think the performance went tonight' - I told him.

Last season, an ancient, long-retired former rugby correspondent from one of the "heavy" newspapers turned up at a game I was covering. At the end, I and the other two reporters present, excused ourselves, as we had to go to get the coaches' reactions. The old boy looked at us askance: "In my day, it was MY reaction to the game which mattered - not the coaches' opinions".

He had a point, maybe we should get back to those days.

Rant over.
Snuff

Skyline Drifter
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Re: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Post by Skyline Drifter » Sun Mar 27, 2016 12:05 pm

Snuff wrote: Any way, match reporting today is too-much about what the manager/coach/player said, and not enough about what the reporter thinks.

I still recall some advice given me, by the ancient theatre critic of one Daily for which I worked: "In reviewing a game, you are as much of a critic as I am in the theatre - the difference is, I don't trot backstage at the end to ask Lord Olivier: 'Tell me M'Lord, how did you think the performance went tonight' - I told him.
This.

Far too often the football reports, particularly for the Monday papers, are merely a few paragraphs of interview with the scorer or manager and absolutely nothing about the actual game. I know they are trying to provide a different angle to the Sundays who have already reported the game (though I never buy Sunday papers as buying papers is something I do on the way to work) but it's surely not unreasonable for them to at least mention the goals and some of the action.

Aten
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Re: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Post by Aten » Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:46 am

Snuff and Skyline Drifter both make excellent points on the wider issue of football reporting in particular and sports reporting in general. Certainly in the tabloid newspapers (English as well as Scottish) the overall standard is lazy and dire. The prime objective these days is to dig up dirt, no matter how trivial, so that lurid headlines can shout out from the front pages. More often than not quotes and statements are taken out of context and twisted to suit the spin that a particular newspaper wants to put over. Clearly it is all designed to provoke reaction to jam up their “hotlines” with comments of the “my daddies bigger than your daddy” and “whataboutery” variety. No doubt in the empty minds of Sports Editors, jammed phone lines equate to increased circulation.

Interestingly Snuff mentions Jim Baxter as an example to one of his points, so sticking with Jim, can you imagine how he would be reported in the newspapers of today? By today’s standards Baxter would never be off the front pages and would hardly appear on the back. Yes, it is right that the likes of Adam Johnston and Ched Evans should be front page news for the despicable things they did, but a sneaky photo of a player worse for wear after a night on the tiles? Do me a favour. What difference does it make if said player does the business on the pitch? Times past these incidents would have gone unreported, but not now sadly, titillation sells newspapers allegedly.

Perhaps one day a Sports Editor will actually grow up and demand proper sports reporting from his staff and just maybe actual circulation numbers will increase. Reliance on lurid sensationalistic headlines to provoke reaction is just cheap, infantile and lazy reporting.

Angusfifer
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Re: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Post by Angusfifer » Mon Apr 04, 2016 5:21 pm

Ian Archer was the best. When Hugh McIlvanney departs I fear the art of football writing will go with him...

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