Richard Whittall

Recent Posts

I’ve heard it said before by someone who does this sort of thing for a living that the near-exclusive use of unnamed sources in sports reporting isn’t a problem. Why? Well, because, you know, it’s sports. We all love it, but it’s not war, famine, or politics. It’s transfer or trade rumors, injury stories, bland player testimonies. Who cares if the standards of journalism are a little sloppier? No harm, no foul. And if we make a mistake, no biggie!

This was the view from several established UK journalists in light of revelations that the Times had retracted a story on the utterly non-existent Dream Football League in Qatar. Here’s a perhaps non-representative example:

And we take their point. But if they’re right and it’s all just silly, it raises the question: why are newspapers wasting money on this giant clan of employees who exist simply to tell us information slightly before the clubs send out an official release (or not)? Why not just keep the ones who tell us something interesting and verified or who are simply very good writers, and shuffle the rest out the door? They could save the industry!

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West Bromwich Albion v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier LeagueA week or so ago, I wrote an article for Counter Attack that attempted to look at whether we might try to definitively answer a burning question about North London Premier League soccer club Tottenham Hotspur: are they as good a team without their Welsh winger and European star Gareth Bale?

Rather than taking the conventional route of tallying up goals scored or assists completed, I tried to use some rudimentary advanced statistics to look if Spurs (as they’re known) are the same overall team without him.

One of these statistics is Total Shots Ratio (TSR), a simple metric (shots for divided by shots for plus shots against). Apparently, of all the available team stats in soccer, TSR cleaves fairly closely to expected table position. In other words, it’s a pretty good indicator of whether a team is in charge of their competitive destiny.

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