Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of Scoop.it! Football Finance

A little, light UEFAnomics

Posted by John Beech on June 24, 2012

(with doff of cap to my chum Stefan Szymanski and his co-author Simon Kuypers, the second edition of whose fascinating book Soccernomics is just hitting the book stands)

With the Euros now in full swing, much media emphasis has been placed on the cultural differences of the various competing nations.  With justification, there has been much concern placed on racism.  The investigative and selective Panorama programme highlighted this, although a similar programme might have been made about England by Polish or Ukrainian broadcasters, to be met with howls of indignation in England.  Clearly there is an issue here, but the scale of the issue is very difficult to gauge, especially from the UK.  It’s not this issue that I am looking at though, but at another ‘cultural’ one.  Having spent some of my early years living and working in Central Europe, and having made work visits to Eastern Europe in the period leading up to the fall of communism and subsequently – last week I was in Bucharest, and I’m currently in St Petersburg – I’ve found myself wondering whether Eastern Europe had ‘caught up’ with Western Europe in footballing terms.  If the emergence of democracy had resulted in improved social conditions, such as in the areas of education, disposable income, access to sports facilities, etc., now being on a par with Western Europe, this should be reflected in the qualifiers for Euro 2012, and in their FIFA rankings as an indicator of form leading up to the Euros.

Country

FIFA ranking
(July 2012)

FIFA points
(July 2012)

Qualified?

Spain

1

1456

Y

Germany

3

1288

Y

Netherlands

4

1234

Y

England

6

1185

Y

Croatia

8

1053

Y

Denmark

9

1019

Y

Portugal

10

996

Y

Italy

12

977

Y

Russia

13

975

Y

France

14

964

Y

Greece

15

953

Y

Sweden

17

910

Y

Republic of Ireland

18

907

Y

Switzerland

21

868

Norway

26

787

Czech Republic

27

771

Y

Bosnia-Herzegovina

29

756

Slovenia

30

742

Hungary

31

735

Turkey

33

732

Serbia

34

725

Wales

38

658

Slovakia

39

649

Scotland

41

611

Montenegro

50

581

Armenia

51

579

Ukraine

52

572

Y(H)

Romania

52

572

Belgium

54

564

Estonia

57

528

Austria

58

524

Poland

62

518

Y(H)

Belarus

69

497

Finland

75

464

Latvia

76

459

Albania

79

451

Israel

81

427

Lithuania

88

380

Bulgaria

90

373

Georgia

95

359

Macedonia

101

338

Northern Ireland

103

336

Azerbaijan

112

300

Luxembourg

121

283

Faroe Islands

122

279

Cyprus

125

266

Iceland

131

248

Moldova

140

212

Kazakhstan

141

209

Malta

147

195

Liechtenstein

148

177

Andorra

199

15

San Marino

206

0

[Y = Yes; Y(H) = Yes, as host]

The first conclusions that one must come to are that FIFA points correlate pretty strongly with qualification for Euro 2012 (which is hardly surprising as the qualifying games are included in the FIFA points), and that Poland and Ukraine were unlikely to have qualified had they not been the co-hosts.  The Czech Republic were the ‘tail-end Charlies’ in qualifying, and Switzerland, and to a lesser extent Norway, must feel disappointed at not qualifying given their recent form.

The first stage of the Euros, in its round robin format, should also show some correspondence with form (the knock-out stage probably less so).  The following table is sorted by points achieved in the first round at the Euros.

Country

FIFA ranking (July 2012)

FIFA points (July 2012)

Qualified?

First round points

Germany

3

1288

Y

9

Spain

1

1456

Y

7

England

6

1185

Y

7

Portugal

10

996

Y

6

Czech Republic

27

771

Y

6

Italy

12

977

Y

5

Croatia

8

1053

Y

4

Russia

13

975

Y

4

France

14

964

Y

4

Greece

15

953

Y

4

Denmark

9

1019

Y

3

Sweden

17

910

Y

3

Ukraine

52

572

Y(H)

3

Poland

62

518

Y(H)

2

Netherlands

4

1234

Y

0

Republic of Ireland

18

907

Y

0

Netherlands fans have the most right to feel disappointed at their team failing to progress, those of the Czech Republic the most elated.

The first difficulty in setting about looking at the relative strengths of different blocks of countries arises with the fact that the ‘E’ in UEFA is not quite the Europe we learned about in school.  As with the Eurovision Song Contest, the boundaries of Europe have been stretched.  While it may be obvious that UEFA includes Ukraine, it is perhaps less obvious that UEFAland actually stretches as far as the border between Kazakhstan and China.

I have divided the countries into the following blocks: the old Western Europe (WE); the old Eastern Europe (EE); the old Soviet Union (SB); the old Yugoslavia (Yu), which always maintained a position on non-alliance and was a country which always allowed its players to work for Western European clubs; and the others (Oth) who do not fit into the main categories – Israel and Turkey.

To add the ‘UEFAnomics’ dimension, I added a column showing the population of each country based on latest actuals or estimates, and, to allow for size, a column showing the number of FIFA points per million people.  The latter is, of course, a very crude indicator, and does not allow for the anomalies at the ends of the spectrum – the ‘minnows’, where the random talent of individuals has a much stronger relevance to success, and the ‘giants’, where the sheer size of the country makes it perhaps difficult to identify all individual players’ talents.  I’ll make the same disclaimer that Peter Snow used to make for the famous Swingometer – “Remember, it’s just for fun”.

Country

FIFA ranking (July 2012)

FIFA points (July 2012)

Qualified?

First round points

Population

Points / 000,000s of Population

Block

Faroe Islands

122

279

49,267

56,630

WE

Liechtenstein

148

177

36,010

49,153

WE

Montenegro

50

581

625,266

9,292

Yu

Iceland

131

248

320,060

7,749

WE

Luxembourg

121

283

509,074

5,559

WE

Malta

147

195

452,515

4,309

WE

Estonia

57

528

1,340,194

3,940

SB

Slovenia

30

742

2,050,189

3,619

Yu

Cyprus

125

266

838,897

3,171

WE

Croatia

8

1053

Y

4

4,290,612

2,454

Yu

Wales

38

658

3,006,400

2,189

WE

Latvia

76

459

2,217,053

2,070

SB

Republic of Ireland

18

907

Y

0

4,588,252

1,977

WE

Bosnia-Herzegovina

29

756

3,839,737

1,969

Yu

Northern Ireland

103

336

1,799,392

1,867

WE

Denmark

9

1019

Y

3

5,543,453

1,838

WE

Andorra

199

15

84,082

1,784

WE

Armenia

51

579

3,262,200

1,775

SB

Macedonia

101

338

2,055,004

1,645

Yu

Albania

79

451

2,831,741

1,593

EE

Norway

26

787

4,985,870

1,578

WE

Lithuania

88

380

3,187,176

1,192

SB

Slovakia

39

649

5,445,324

1,192

EE

Scotland

41

611

5,254,800

1,163

WE

Switzerland

21

868

7,952,600

1,091

WE

Serbia

34

725

7,120,666

1,018

Yu

Sweden

17

910

Y

3

9,415,295

967

WE

Portugal

10

996

Y

6

10,578,776

942

WE

Finland

75

464

5,404,956

858

WE

Greece

15

953

Y

4

11,305,118

843

WE

Georgia

95

359

4,469,200

803

SB

Hungary

31

735

10,014,324

734

EE

Netherlands

4

1234

Y

0

16,847,007

732

WE

Czech Republic

27

771

Y

6

10,562,214

730

EE

Austria

58

524

8,414,638

623

WE

Moldova

140

212

3,559,500

596

SB

Israel

81

427

7,869,900

543

Oth

Belarus

69

497

9,503,807

523

SB

Belgium

54

564

11,007,020

512

WE

Bulgaria

90

373

7,364,570

506

EE

Azerbaijan

112

300

9,165,000

327

SB

Spain

1

1456

Y

7

46,030,109

316

WE

Romania

52

572

19,042,936

300

EE

England

6

1185

Y

7

52,234,000

227

WE

Italy

12

977

Y

5

60,681,514

161

WE

Germany

3

1288

Y

9

81,799,600

157

WE

France

14

964

Y

4

65350000

148

WE

Poland

62

518

Y(H)

2

38,186,860

136

EE

Kazakhstan

141

209

16,600,000

126

SB

Ukraine

52

572

Y(H)

3

45,888,000

125

SB

Turkey

33

732

74,724,269

98

Oth

Russia

13

975

Y

4

143,030,106

68

SB

San Marino

206

0

31,887

0

WE

Can the Faroe Islanders really be the top achievers?  Well, certainly they are no longer the minnows who could be relied on to roll over and be thrashed, as Scotland infamously discovered.

I find it particularly interesting that the top four achievers who qualified were Croatia, the Republic of Ireland, Denmark and Sweden – all deserve credit for qualifying for the Euros and commiserations for not making it beyond the first round.  Russia, on the other hand, emerge as massive underachievers.

Finally, to return to my original query, I’ve sorted the table by country block (putting Israel and Turkey to one side).

Western Europe:

Country

FIFA ranking (July 2012)

FIFA points (July 2012)

Qualified?

First round points

Population

Points / 000,000s of Population

Faroe Islands

122

279

49,267

56,630

Liechtenstein

148

177

36,010

49,153

Iceland

131

248

320,060

7,749

Luxembourg

121

283

509,074

5,559

Malta

147

195

452,515

4,309

Cyprus

125

266

838,897

3,171

Wales

38

658

3,006,400

2,189

Republic of Ireland

18

907

Y

0

4,588,252

1,977

Northern Ireland

103

336

1,799,392

1,867

Denmark

9

1019

Y

3

5,543,453

1,838

Andorra

199

15

84,082

1,784

Norway

26

787

4,985,870

1,578

Scotland

41

611

5,254,800

1,163

Switzerland

21

868

7,952,600

1,091

Sweden

17

910

Y

3

9,415,295

967

Portugal

10

996

Y

6

10,578,776

942

Finland

75

464

5,404,956

858

Greece

15

953

Y

4

11,305,118

843

Netherlands

4

1234

Y

0

16,847,007

732

Austria

58

524

8,414,638

623

Belgium

54

564

11,007,020

512

Spain

1

1456

Y

7

46,030,109

316

England

6

1185

Y

7

52,234,000

227

Italy

12

977

Y

5

60,681,514

161

Germany

3

1288

Y

9

81,799,600

157

France

14

964

Y

4

65,350,000

148

San Marino

206

0

31,887

0

(Average population of country in Western European block: 15,352,615)

Eastern Europe:

Country

FIFA ranking (July 2012)

FIFA points (July 2012)

Qualified?

First round points

Population

Points / 000,000s of Population

Albania

79

451

2,831,741

1,593

Slovakia

39

649

5,445,324

1,192

Hungary

31

735

10,014,324

734

Czech Republic

27

771

Y

6

10,562,214

730

Bulgaria

90

373

7,364,570

506

Romania

52

572

19,042,936

300

Poland

62

518

Y(H)

2

38,186,860

136

Average population of country in Eastern European block: 13,349,710

Former Soviet block:

Country

FIFA ranking (July 2012)

FIFA points (July 2012)

Qualified?

First round points

Population

Points / 000,000s of Population

Estonia

57

528

1,340,194

3,940

Latvia

76

459

2,217,053

2,070

Armenia

51

579

3,262,200

1,775

Lithuania

88

380

3,187,176

1,192

Georgia

95

359

4,469,200

803

Moldova

140

212

3,559,500

596

Belarus

69

497

9,503,807

523

Azerbaijan

112

300

9,165,000

327

Kazakhstan

141

209

16,600,000

126

Ukraine

52

572

Y(H)

3

45,888,000

125

Russia

13

975

Y

4

143,030,106

68

(Average population of country in former Soviet block: 22,020,203; average population of country in former Soviet block excluding Russia: 9,919,203)

Former Yugoslavia:

Country

FIFA ranking (July 2012)

FIFA points (July 2012)

Qualified?

First round points

Population

Points / 000,000s of Population

Montenegro

50

581

625,266

9,292

Slovenia

30

742

2,050,189

3,619

Croatia

8

1053

Y

4

4,290,612

2,454

Bosnia-Herzegovina

29

756

3,839,737

1,969

Macedonia

101

338

2,055,004

1,645

Serbia

34

725

7,120,666

1,018

(Average population of country in former Yugoslav block: 3,330,246)

The results are not entirely surprising.  With the exceptions of Croatia, the Czech Republic and Russia, all the teams who made it to the Euros through competition were from Western Europe.

Is this an indication that Eastern Europe has not caught up with Western Europe over the last twenty years?  Well, possibly, but there are other reasons, notably the issue of the population of each country.  The next table ranks countries by population.

Country

FIFA ranking (July 2012)

FIFA points (July 2012)

Qualified?

First round points

Population

Points / 000,000s of Population

Block

Russia

13

975

Y

4

143,030,106

68

SB

Germany

3

1288

Y

9

81,799,600

157

WE

Turkey

33

732

74,724,269

98

Oth

France

14

964

Y

4

65350000

148

WE

Italy

12

977

Y

5

60,681,514

161

WE

England

6

1185

Y

7

52,234,000

227

WE

Spain

1

1456

Y

7

46,030,109

316

WE

Ukraine

52

572

Y(H)

3

45,888,000

125

SB

Poland

62

518

Y(H)

2

38,186,860

136

EE

Romania

52

572

19,042,936

300

EE

Netherlands

4

1234

Y

0

16,847,007

732

WE

Kazakhstan

141

209

16,600,000

126

SB

Greece

15

953

Y

4

11,305,118

843

WE

Belgium

54

564

11,007,020

512

WE

Portugal

10

996

Y

6

10,578,776

942

WE

Czech Republic

27

771

Y

6

10,562,214

730

EE

Of the 16 largest countries in Euroland, only Poland (at no. 9 in population), Romania (no.10) and the Czech Republic (no.16) appear in the list, together with Russia (no.1), Ukraine (no.8) and Kazakhstan (no.12) from the old Soviet block, the remainder consisting of nine Western European countries plus Turkey.  Could it be that Eastern Europe suffers in football success from consisting of smaller countries?

Of the 16 largest countries in Euroland, only Poland (at no. 9 in population), Romania (no.10) and the Czech Republic (no.16) appear in the list, together with Russia (no.1), Ukraine (no.8) and Kazakhstan (no.12) from the old Soviet block, the remainder consisting of nine Western European countries plus Turkey.  Could it be that Eastern Europe suffers in football success from consisting of smaller countries?  Consider which countries have actually reached the finals:

Country

Winners

Runners-up

Finalists

Germany

3

3

6

Soviet Union

1

3

4

Spain

2

1

3

Czech Republic

1

1

2

France

2

2

Italy

1

1

2

Denmark

1

1

Greece

1

1

Netherlands

1

1

Yugoslavia

2

2

Belgium

1

1

Portugal

1

1

[Yugoslavia were losing finalists in 1960 and 1968.  A reconstituted Yugoslavia today would have a combined population today of 19,981,474, ranking it as the tenth largest UEFA country by population.]

These musings, of course, prove nothing, but they do suggest that being big helps, and, if you are an Eastern European country, you are generally a bit disadvantaged in this respect.  This has implications for Euro 2016 when the number of countries qualifying will increase from 16 to 24.  Eastern European countries will be no better placed to win, but statistically we should expect to see them make up a greater percentage of the qualifying countries, which will be good for them in terms of exposure and international experience.

As for this evening, well, using UEFA points as a predictor of form, England seem to have the edge.  Maybe I shouldn’t tempt providence though, and, in any case, form is a worse predictor in the knockout stages than in the first round because it is being applied to a single game rather than three games

[Apologies for way the tables appear - WordPress.com is not very helpful at formating tables prepared in Word]

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3 Responses to “A little, light UEFAnomics”

  1. John Beech said

    I managed to get this posting up from a St Petersburg hotel lobby while waiting for my lift to the airport, and thence offline for the rest of today. Twitter is just completely failing to respond however. If any kind blog reader felt inclined to tweet this new posting, I’d be immensely grateful!

  2. Jibran said

    Nice post. Spain the World Champ. and now Euro Champ! They are amazing, i got stunned when they could not do well in london olympics 2012.

  3. These reports are so important for football world. Spain the world champion also won the Euro cup. It is really amazing.

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