The Dangers of Football Statistics

Billy Macfarlane returns to TFN with his take on the use of statistics in football…

Football is a sport with no place for statistics. It is a sport which is organised chaos. Moments which decide results are so few and far between that there is little use in trying to predict them. The emotional legacy of results on fans is the most important aspect of football to understand. From this point we can begin to qualitatively argue about the best players and sides but no conclusive answer can ever be reached.

Football is a sport inherently based on statistics. Quantitative measures of the number of times each side makes the ball legally cross the goal line result in teams receiving either 0, 1 or 3 points or progressing in a cup competition. From this point we can begin to quantify, analyse and predict the impacts of players on the causation of goals and securing victory. These measurements can be produced objectively regardless of who compiles them.

This, of course, is a false dichotomy. Those favouring qualitative appreciation of football do not view goals and points as irrelevant to making judgements. Likewise few of those who argue in favour for the importance of statistics would actually argue that there is no room for subjectivity and that you can form your judgements based purely on graphs and numbers. Continue reading