A very interesting report from the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective’s Dan Brown (h/t to Dan McTickster), and also a great example of good use of the Manchester City/Opta data dump, reveals foreign players earn more fouls per minute than their English colleagues.

The study uses a sample of 9,603 observations from last season, and corrects for outfield positions (defenders didn’t show significant deviation from the mean), as well as different foreign nationalities compared to English players. Brown discovered that, “A player from South America, Italy or Spain on average receives more fouls by 28% of the mean number of fouls received in the sample.” The conclusion:

From the estimates in (4b), a team with 3 SAIS [South American, Italy, Spain] midfielders or strikers playing 90 minutes every game for all 38 games of the season (for example if Manchester City played 3 from Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and David Silva all game every game) would expect to receive 40 more fouls in that season than a team with no SAIS midfielders or strikers.

The context of the findings are Michael Owen’s remarks that diving in the Premier League has increased with more South American, Italian and Spanish players. Now, as Brown underlines, the study only tells us that SAIS players receive more fouls; there could be alternative explanations for the deviation, including playing style, individual skill, etc.

But we can’t rule out the possibility that these players are also more prone to simulation…anyway, food for thought, and a great example of simple, meaningful use of the data dump.