Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas

Author: rob (page 1 of 38)

How (not) to think about the ESL

The European Super League is a bust. As the 6 English clubs pulled out, there was no way it would work.

The mistake that most commentators are making is this: the clubs that made up the 12 initial members are NOT one and the same. They don’t have the same goals, ownership structures or ethos. It was remarkable that they even got together at all.

You can think of the 12 clubs in the following five categories: US-owned; Petro-dollar; Poor Euro royalty; Faceless business; Family business

Of the 12, they fall into the following categories like this:

US-owned: Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, AC Milan

Petro-dollar: Manchester City, Chelsea

Poor Euro royalty: Barcelona, Real Madrid

Family Business: Altletico Madrid, Juventus

Faceless business: Tottenham, Inter Milan

Each has their own interests, but they are most closely aligned in those groupings. In detail:

US-owned
The US-owned clubs have owners who see nothing wrong with closed leagues. Most US leagues work perfectly well in this way – but that’s because they have levelers – the draft, salary caps and so on. The US owners want to maximise revenue, guarantee glamour match-ups, and cut the dross. This is business, after all. Plus, the US sees no issue with long-distance rivaliries. Seattle – Miami is four times further than London – Milan. They totally misjudged the backlash. Whoops.
Upshot: The Super League makes sense structurally and financially to the US business mind

Petro-dollar
You can chuck PSG in the mix here as a counterpart. Why do these owners own these clubs? To launder their reputations and oil money. Manchester City want to be benevolent owners. They have invested heavily in the local area, and want to be seen to care. Roman Abramovich wants to be welcome in London – Putin’s Russia is a risky place to be. They have money – so why do they need to rock the boat? The only real motivation is for glory – if there’s a big tournament going on with your rivals, you want a piece of the action. The calculus was that the fans would go along with it. They didn’t. PSG saw the ESL for what it was: a poorly-thought out half-idea, and ran a mile.
Upshot: Never that committed

Poor Euro royalty
Barca and Real are both in a financial mess with big debts. Owned by supporters but somehow controlled by horrible chairmen, the ESL made total sense. Big payday, cut the matches with the minnows, keep the gravy train rolling.
Upshot: The Super League makes total sense financially

Family business
Hard to say what the motivation is here. Super League money would be nice, but these clubs are doing OK overall. Why rock the boat? Not being left behind is one motivation, added to a bonanza payday, but the ire of the fanbase was a big risk.
Upshot: Poor call – should have seen the backlash coming

Faceless business
Money isn’t an issue; nor is reputation. Again, the motivation to not be left out is strong; the profit motive always a nice-to-have. Ultimately, these clubs don’t have quite the same history as their bigger local rivals and need to move with the times. If that meant Super League, so be it
Upshot: can take it or leave it, just want to be part of the gang

The one chart you need to understanding the European Super League (and why it’s not going to work)

Is this:

Read the full analysis on my new substack account here.

Euros, ATMs and the price of walking 150m

Imagine the scene. You are standing at the London Eurostar terminal in St Pancras. You need some euros. Yes, you could wait until you get to Paris, but you have a connection, or some reason to not mess around at the other end. You want euros, and you want them now.

You wander into the main concourse of the station. Left, or right?

If you turn right, you will pass some smart shops and, just before you get to the domestic train bit, you will come to a cashpoint (ATM). It will dispense euros. Great – job done.

But if you turn left, and walk just outside the station, across the busy Euston Road, you can find several bureaux de change. They do a quick turnaround of currency. Job equally done.

So which should you do?

If you turned right, you may have stayed in the comfort of the station and avoided the scary world outside, but you lost money. Big time.

Let’s say you wanted €100. No more, no less.

The ATM would have ‘sold’ you euros at a rate of 1.0105 (euros to pounds) as of September 9th, 2019. I know. I put my card in to check. (I didn’t complete the transaction, fwiw).

Outside? Shop around, and you could have got a much more agreeable rate of 1.065, or even 1.09. However, avoid the Post Office – they were offering 1.030. (All checked on the same day.)

Savvy travellers using a MoneyCorp payment card could have got 1.0873 that day. My Revolut card was offering an even better 1.1195.

If all these numbers sound a bit abstract, let’s break it down.

PROVIDEReuro rate (as of 9 Sep 2019)£ spent for €100
ATM1.0105£98.96
Thomas1.065£93.90
Bureau de Change1.09£91.74
Post Office1.03£97.09
MoneyCorp card1.0873£91.97
Revolut1.1195£89.33

To get my €100, at the ATM I would have spent nearly £99. Outside, I could have got it for just under £92.

So I’m calling that £7, for the sake of simplicity.

How much more walking is it? According to Google maps measurement, to get to the outside Bureaux from the Eurostar entrance is 266m. To the ATM it’s 115m. So for the sake of walking an extra 150m, you’ve spent £7.

Is that worthwhile? Most people can walk at around 1.2 metres per second. So 150m is 125s or say 2 minutes. Add in 30 seconds of crossing the road, and walking back – that’s 5 minutes.

Is £7 worth 5 minutes of your time? That’s £84 per hour. The London living wage is £10.55 per hour.

Then again, this is for €100, which doesn’t exactly get you a full weekend in Paris. If you want €500, it’s suddenly a cash difference of £35, all for walking 150m. And that’s suddenly £420 per hour. We are getting close to serious lawyers fees here.

Why is the ATM so much more expensive?

It’s not the costs – they are minimal. Rent is a factor, but it’s essentially a 1.5m cube in the wall. No staff needed, compared to the bureaux outside. It needs to be topped up by a security guard now and then, but all banks and money shops need that anyway.

So why do Rafael’s Bank (the ATM provider) give such a poor rate? The answer is simply that they can. It’s a case of total price insensitivity. If some people aren’t going to shop around, you can over-charge them all you like. But next time you are tempted to use that ATM or a similar one, think about the location, your time, and whether you can afford £84 per hour – or far more – just to not walk that little bit further.

Sport Geek #88: cash, cuts and cheats

Brexit be damned. It’s been a while, but here are several sports pieces that I think are worth a read.

FOOTBALL

We think of the Premier League as a money machine. But a great look-back by the Guardian shows how it was nearly destroyed by all that cash.

A bit of a dense read, but some great insights in this Reuters piece into how players are traded. Murky.

BOXING

Is there a weirder job in sports than the cuts-man? A guy who literally has a minute to patch up a face before it gets pummelled again? This BBC article has some great quotes, if you’re not feeling too squeamish…

BASKETBALL

Great charts, non-hysterical analysis of LeBron vs Mike. I’ve read so many GOAT pieces in so many sports that they can get a bit much. But if (IF) you are going to do a greatest of all time piece, this is a fantastic way to do it. Kudos to the WaPo.

NFL

And now for something a bit lighter from the NYT – player rituals. Fun. And some downright strange: “he would then lie on a bed of towels he constructed in front of his locker, where he would always read People Magazine cover to cover”

CHESS

The Indy on how chess and cheating reads like something out of a spy novel. Also fun.

Ta

Tiger Woods and the Ryder Cup: why wild cards matter

The sense of anticipation for the 2018 Ryder Cup was always high before the US team picked Tiger Woods.

But with the former world number one – and arguably best-known sporting figure on the planet – winning the last big event, the Tour Championship, just before the teams headed for France, part of a career resurgence that is utterly improbable, the cup had a great PR boost.

Interestingly, Tiger Woods has a poor reputation at Ryder Cup golf. Too often he has seemed aloof or uncomfortable with the team spirit of the tournament. This is despite having a decent Ryder Cup record: his total points (pre-2018) is 14.5, which is 9th in the all time US list. However, his points percentage of 44 is the lowest in that list, and fairly middling compared to his peers.

However, his selection as a Captain’s choice – a wild card – is highly significant.

The Ryder Cup works differently to other national team sports. Where team managers can select whomever they like to play for the US soccer team, for the Ryder Cup there is an automatic selection for most of the team, based on a qualifying points system.

However, Ryder Cup captains, who are the equivalent of managers, have some discretion – they get three (in for European team) or four (for the US) selections. And these wild card picks have proved to be disproportionately good.

For the 32 teams that have played Ryder Cup with a captain’s pick, only two have seen those selected players underperform. If we look at the percentage of matches that the wild cards play in each event (not all players can be selected for each round, and each player can play between 1 and 5 matches), and then the percentage of the team’s points that they win, they are a net benefit almost every time.

Source: Ryder Cup

Sometimes it’s extraordinary – in 2010, the US team’s wild cards played 32% of the matches, and won 63% of the points.

I’ll admit, this isn’t a perfect analysis: players are paired up for 16 of the 28 matches, so in some cases a wild card may well have been carried to victory by their non-wild card partner. Equally, the wild card may well have done the heavy lifting in winning a match.

Overall, for all the Ryder Cups where wild cards have been used, the average difference between the percentage points won and matches played is +12. Given their outperformance compared to their teammates, a wild card is probably the most important decision a captain can make.

Whether Woods and the other three US wild cards return the vote of confidence with enough points to win is another matter: the recent European dominance in Ryder Cups may have been reversed in 2016 and the USA team is heavily favoured this time, but Europe have home advantage. The US haven’t won on European soil since 1993.

Sport Geek #86: animals, abominations, and aesthetics

Well, that was fun. Enjoy the glow while it lasts – I think that will be the last good World Cup. Why? First, Qatar can’t ever live up to that. It will be too hot, at the wrong time of year. Ethically, this might be the last time we turn a blind eye to authoritarian corruption (Putin was fairly absent from coverage). Plus, at some stage (2026?) it’s going to be the clusterfk of 48 teams, which makes no sense at all. Russia was peak World Cup. It’s downhill from here.

WC ROUND UP

The prediction game: Goldman were pretty useless; some South African data scientists were pretty good; and the animals were, well, animals.

Anyone buying a player on the strength of the World Cup is pretty stupid.

If you thought added time seemed a bit off, you’d be right.

Neymar and the art of the dive. Tip – don’t oversell it.

TROPHIES

The World Cup is awful. Wimbledon is perfect. An aesthetic look at the actual cup (orb?)

CYCLING

Why is there no women’s equivalent Tour de France?

BASEBALL

Don’t sugar-coat it: The New York Yankees are a moral abomination.

BASKETBALL

What’s happened to the salary cap?

TENNIS

I’m not going to bother you with the pros and cons of 5th set tie breaks as I think it’s so blindingly obvious (at 12-all perhaps). Instead…

Careers are getting longer. The wait for a male grand slam champion born in the 1990s goes on.

10 years ago the greatest match was played. Here’s a graphical version.

John McEnroe is always worth listening to.

Sport Geek #85: 46 boks, Chinese fans, the 48-team puzzle

TALKING POINTS

Should Serena Williams be seeded at Wimbledon? 
I’d say yes. Wimbledon uses your grass court points for the last two years. And Williams won in 2016, so give her a break. While the player who misses out on seeding can feel a bit aggrieved, they should be positive about mothers returning to the game. And also – it’s up to you to get your seeding higher so this doesn’t happen. When did the 32nd seed last win a major?

Is VAR good or bad for football?
I LOVE all the moaning from the old-school pundits. VAR is definitely a good thing, it just needs to be applied with a bit more speed and certainty. The weird thing is that in cricket and tennis teams/players get a set number of challenges where they can refer to video. Why doesn’t football just use that, and if you use up your chances, it’s back to the ref’s eye? That would be better, surely.

READING

WORLD CUP

I like this – How do countries participating in the World Cup compare with clubs? See also – The Ringer argues: Why International Soccer Is More Fun Than the Premier League. I’d agree.

China has more fans at the World Cup than England – and they’re not even playing

NYT readers tackle the puzzle of how to devise a fair tournament with 48 teams

Odd fact: The infamous Sochi drug-testing lab is now a gastro pub

I do love the Economist for answering these kinds of questions: “How much better would Iceland be with Lionel Messi?

ELSEWHERE

Women and the decathlon.

Great headline: “Eddie Jonestown Massacre“. And good analysis of the state of England Rugby.

How one school has produced 46 South Africa internationals (plus Olympic 400m champion Wayde van Niekerk, Olympic swimming champion Ryk Neethling, and former South Africa cricket captain Hansie Cronje).

Awesome, thanks, bye.

Sport Geek #84: dynasties, nationalism vs globalism, and clay

WORLD CUP

Is it starting? I hadn’t noticed… Sifting through the trillions of WC pieces, here are a few worth your time.

I like this – is it nationalism or globalism? Or both? via the NYT.

Forget the pundits! A quick round up of what economists think will happen at the World Cup, from the FT

The decline of the World Cup manager: why talented international coaches have become a dying breed. (via the Indy)

What makes a country good at football? Various things, says the Economist.

Why isn’t the US there? The inside story of how they screwed up.  From the Ringer.

MONEY MONEY MONEY

Me, on the Forbes rich list and what it tells us about sport.

BASKETBALL

What does LeBron James do next? (NYT) And how great is he anyway? (Guardian)

The curious case of Bryan Colangelo and the secret Twitter account. From the Ringer again. A good story.TENNIS

TENNIS

Why is Nadal SOOOOO good on clay? CNN takes a look.

CYCLING

How Chris Froome won Giro d’Italia thanks to ‘spectacular’ stage 19 victory. (BBC)

ICE HOCKEY

From a while ago, but worth a read. Is the Vegas Golden Knights’ run as amazing as Leicester City’s? (538)

LASTLY

We want sport to be competitive, don’t we? Or not – an interesting essay on why we demand sports dynasties, not parity.

Parsing the Forbes sports rich list

I always enjoy the Forbes Sports Rich list. It formed the basis for a chapter in my book, and tells you a lot about sport once you dig into the figures.

For instance, looking at this year’s list, here are a few observations.

  • Roger Federer is a sponsorship machine. $65m in endorsements puts him $13m higher than LeBron James in second place.
  • American football players don’t get marketing dollars. The highest-sponsored is Drew Brees, and he’s on $13m in endorsements, which is less than his salary.
  • Boxer Floyd Mayweather still rakes it in – his $275m in pay is three times more than any one else. It pays to punch, with Conor McGregor fourth in the overall list.
  • Basketball pays overall – 40 of the top 100 represent that sport.
  • There are zero women on the list. That’s not good. In previous years, at least a few female tennis players made it. We seem to be regressing, either in who we value in terms of marketing or how we pay sports stars.

The most interesting way of ordering the list, in my view, is by the ratio of endorsements to pay.

This naturally shows up individual sports where some players have had poor seasons but are trading on reputation – Tiger Woods, Novak Djokovic. There are sports people where the sport pays (relatively) poorly, but profile is high – Usain Bolt, Virat Kohli.

But it also shows how some stars are not making the most of their winning seasons. For instance, golfer Justin Thomas won $21m in prize money, but netted just $5m in sponsorship. Surely he’s going up? And if Lewis Hamilton can get $9m in sponsorship, how is Sebastian Vettel getting only $300k? They get the same pay, according to Forbes.

Here’s my Endorsements / Salary list – for those where Endorsements are higher than Salary.

Overall Rank Name Pay $m Salary/Winnings $m Endorsements $m Sport E/S
16 Tiger Woods 43.3 1.3 42 Golf 32.3
45 Usain Bolt 31 1 30 Track 30.0
35 Kei Nishikori 34.6 1.6 33 Tennis 20.6
86 Novak Djokovic 23.5 1.5 22 Tennis 14.7
26 Rory McIlroy 37.7 3.7 34 Golf 9.2
22 Phil Mickelson 41.3 4.3 37 Golf 8.6
7 Roger Federer 77.2 12.2 65 Tennis 5.3
83 Virat Kohli 24 4 20 Cricket 5.0
23 Jordan Spieth 41.2 11.2 30 Golf 2.7
20 Rafael Nadal 41.4 14.4 27 Tennis 1.9
6 LeBron James 85.5 33.5 52 Basketball 1.6
11 Kevin Durant 57.3 25.3 32 Basketball 1.3
8 Stephen Curry 76.9 34.9 42 Basketball 1.2

And here’s the sports list.

Basketball 40
American Football 18
Baseball 14
Soccer 9
Golf 5
Boxing 4
Tennis 4
Auto Racing 3
Cricket 1
Mixed Martial Arts 1
Track 1

Lastly, here’s the forbes rich sports list as an Excel file.

Sport Geek #83: back again…

I’ve not done this newsletter for a while, due to work and stuff; but let’s not worry, here are some things to think about while thinking sport.

TENNIS

Nadal was nowhere a few years ago. Now? He’s arguably better than ever on clay.  Here’s a good archivey piece on Roger and Rafa’s simultaneous revivals.

There are some great nuggets in here. I know she’s very wealthy etc, but It’s quite hard being Serena Williams, I think.

How do you measure aggressive returning? Here’s how.

This is insane. The story of a tennis rally of 642 shots. That’s not a typo.

BASEBALL

HELLO LONDON!

GOLF

Rory McIlroy said it’s all about the Masters. So here’s a decent case for the Open.

FOOTBALL

A great summary of the tactical tide of football, esp looking at Klopp’s Liverpool. Talking of which, are their opponents in the CL final Read Madrid ruthless or just lucky?

I love this from Sean Ingle – why not just make World Cup / Olympic hosting bids done by auction? At least put the money front and centre.

I can’t see why everyone was worked up about selling Wembley. Seems like a good idea to me – get an asset that is costly to maintain off your hands, making back a pretty good amount of the total build cost, and get money for grassroots. What’s not to like? Few have been in favour though. Here’s one.

This is such a mismatch it’s boggling. The cup final of PSG vs Les Herbiers – a budget of €2m vs €540m.

A nicely Economist-ey piece on goalkeepers being undervalued. Great pun headline too.

CRICKET

It’s all about 6s.

BASKETBALL

Who is Luka Doncic?

How ‘idiots’ created the NBA’s best team and revolutionised the game.

That’s it.

You’re not an asshole, Mark. You’re just trying so hard to be.

Older posts

© 2021 Rob Minto

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑