Country/area: United Kingdom
Organisation: Reach Data unit
Organisation size: Small
I started work as a sport data journalist for the Reach Data Unit in 2013. Back then I thought it’d be six months, tops, before I ran out of ideas of how to turn spreadsheets of old football results and league tables into stories. Seven years later I’m still here and still producing stories based on data. But while I still do the odd article on head-to-head stats or how many points you need to avoid relegation, I also do my own research and collect my own data sets. One such example is my State of Football Finance project, which required me to manually go through over 200 sets of company accounts and record the data. There was also the away ticket project which required me to log the prices charged for every Championship away ticket last season. Sadly this project never saw light of day due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s through this kind of investigation and data analysis though that allows us to provide sport stories that look at what’s happening in football away from the pitch.
Description of portfolio:
My first submission is the State of Football Finance project. Football finances don’t get many fans’ hearts racing, but the covid pandemic has shown just how vital they are for a club’s continued success. Performing well off the pitch helps clubs perform well on it. Clubs publish their accounts on the Companies House website as PDFs. However, that format means finding key data is tricky for the average fan, and comparing to other clubs or previous years is impossible. The State of Football Finance project made this data more accessible to fans. To do this I first had to learn how to read company accounts. I then collected the data manually by reading the accounts of every club in the top two divisions of English football going back four years. That worked out at over 232 sets of accounts. I then helped design the gadget which displays the data to readers. Using the data collected I have been able to produce a number of articles about football finances, two of which I have included for your consideration in links one and two of the form.
My second submission is an episode of the North In Numbers podcast which I guest hosted. In this episode I looked into the health of Northern football clubs, discussing how clubs in the lower tier face financial oblivion unless they get promoted, while those in the top are taking over the world. This is link three in my submission form.
Racism is a growing problem in football, as my third submission (link four) revealed. I submitted an FOI to police forces up and down the country to find the number of racist incidents at football matches which were reported to the police. The investigation found that such incidents had doubled in four years.
Football agents are legally allowed to represent all three different parties in a transfer – the buying club, the selling club, and the player. That doesn’t stop the practice being controversial though. In fact, FIFA are planning on banning it. The FA handily publishes a list of all transfers involving agents which – after much work to convert it to an analysable format – I interrogated to see just how prevalent the controversial practice is in English football.
The covid-19 pandemic has meant that English football clubs are playing behind closed doors. This comes at a huge financial cost to clubs. Using figures from club accounts I was able to work out how much every game played behind closed doors costs clubs in terms of lost revenue. This is in link six.
The compacted football calendar was a source of concern for managers, many of whom felt that the lack of rest between games put the wellbeing of their players at risk. I analysed the calendar to work out how many days rest players got on average and how it compared to previous seasons. Project link seven.
Another debate regarding player welfare was the possible reintroduction of five substitutes compared to the usual three. Managers of clubs with lesser financial resources were less keen on the idea though, fearful that richer clubs had more world class talent to call upon. I gathered data on every club’s sub bench for all league matches this season and cross reference that with player market values from a third party site to show just how much of a discrepancy there was, with some clubs’ benches being valued at six times less than others. Link eight.
Link nine – most expensive shirts
Link 10 – North/South season ticket divide