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foxes

Although I’m only a casual follower of the big Euro soccer leagues, I’m impelled to note what is in waging terms probably the most improbable upset in major sports history, as Leicester City won the English Premier League today, after Chelsea came back to fight Tottenham to a bloody 2-2 draw.

Leicester City, which was in the English third division less than a decade ago, and which little more than a year ago was dead last in the EPL and seemed certain to be relegated, was (were?) given 5000-1 odds by the London bookies at the start of this season to win the league.

Now hindsight is 20/20, but when a 5000 to 1 shot comes in that strongly suggests those odds were, ex ante, completely out of wack. Again I’m just a casual fan, but Leicester was the 14th-best team in the league last year in terms of points (and they were better than that in terms of goal differential, which is probably a better indicator of underlying quality). Anyway, the idea that it’s a 5000 to 1 shot for the 14th best team in one year to win the league in the next is obviously absurd on its face.

The 14th best team in the EPL is roughly equivalent to the 20th best team in MLB or the NBA or the NFL, in terms of distance from the top. Now obviously a whole bunch of things have to break right for for a 75-87 team to have the best record in baseball the next year. It’s quite unlikely — but quite unlikely as in 50-1 or maybe even 100-1. But 5000 to 1? That’s more like a 16 seed in the NCAA tournament winning the whole thing.

Yes I’m aware that only four clubs have won the EPL over the course of the last 20 years, and that the analogy with American major professional sports is inexact for a variety of reasons (in particular there are far fewer rules designed to maintain some sort of competitive parity in big time soccer leagues than there are in American major sports leagues.). But still — 5000 to 1? That kind of miscalculation should have put some bookmakers out of business.

All that aside, it’s a great story.

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  • Nobdy

    Aren’t odds generally set to ‘balance the books’ on either side of the bet, since bookmakers are in the business of collecting vig, not betting. If so isn’t it the bettors who were irrational, not the bookies?

    My understanding is that a well run bookmaking operation should never go out of business due to a big payout. Even if you get a big bet on a long shot you lay off the action with other bookies to avoid exposure, because your job is to collect vig, not make wagers.

    • Alex.S

      Yep — the bookmakers move the odds if more people are betting on a long shot to make it less of a long shot.

      Those were crazy odds — but they remained crazy odds because not enough people were gambling on them to win it all to cost the bookmakers money if they ended up winning it all.

      • keta

        The bookmakers bought out a lot of those fantastically-long odds bettors before the season end. And some punters just plain fucked up.

    • Captain Oblivious

      In theory, a well-run book should balance its books. In practice, this is hard to do on any individual event without jerking the lines all over the place, so they rely on long-term averages.

      Having said that, the 5000-1 odds were insane. It’s as if nobody was paying attention to the previous season. The Wikipedia article sums it up nicely (emphasis mine):

      During the 2014-15 season, a dismal run of form saw the team slip to the bottom of the league table with only 19 points from 29 games. By 3 April 2015 they were 7 points adrift from safety. It seemed that an immediate return to the Championship was on the cards, but an amazing turn of fortune, with seven wins from their final nine league games, meant that the Foxes finished the season in 14th place with 41 points. They finished the season with a 5–1 thrashing of relegated Queens Park Rangers. This completed, mathematically, the best escape from relegation ever seen in the Premier League, as no team with fewer than 20 points from 29 games had previously stayed up. They also became only the third team in Premier League history to survive after being bottom at Christmas (the others were West Brom in 2005 and Sunderland in 2014).

      This despite major internal turmoil with their manager.

  • pdx.john

    On my friendly neighborhood wagering site, the Browns are currently listed at 100:1 to win the Super Bowl. On the college side, NC State is your last listed option, and they’re still at 300:1 to win the whole thing. Makes 5000:1 look very bizarre.

  • twbb

    “Now hindsight is 20/20, but when a 5000 to 1 shot comes in that strongly suggests those odds were, ex ante, completely out of wack.”

    Doesn’t necessarily follow; many countries have sports leagues, with teams in last place, who could accurately have 5000:1 odds of winning the championship. Over the years it’s almost inevitable, statistically speaking, that one of these teams would win. It’s a version of the retrospective improbability fallacy.

    • Philip

      And, given that Leicester was in the third tier less than 10 years ago (they were in League One in 2008-2009), I don’t think they’re really comparable to a bottom-ranked US team. Without a relegation mechanic, you can’t really do those comparisons.

      • Bill Murray

        they were in the 2nd division in 2013-14, so two years ago

        • Philip

          Yeah, they only spent 2008-2009 in League One. They were in the Championship 2009-2014.

          (The current names for the leagues are beyond dumb. Premiership, first division, second division, third division was perfectly fine…)

      • furikawari

        Manchester City was in the third tier in 1999, and won the Premier League in 2012. This isn’t a complete black swan.

        • Philip

          They had vastly more money thrown into building a team, though.

          • furikawari

            Shouldn’t the quality indicator that tells us whether 5000-1 is crazy or not be team spending then, not how long ago it was they dipped down to tier 3?

            The EPL coverage I see usually treats City as a forever powerhouse that has “played keepaway” (as the Slate article put it) with the Championship. That doesn’t seem accurate. They came and took it away. And now the new money is the landed aristocracy too. (Even if they were usually a top tier team throughout the past.)

            The long Slate article talking about Leicester was also interesting because the reasons giving for their surge were all the reasons you see in US sports–middleweight contract players peaking, no major injuries, out-and-out coach has still got it, etc. Maybe that’s just the entrail reading of sportswriting. But maybe Leicester will win another Championship in a year or two and it will be one of the “keepaway” teams too…?

            • EliHawk

              Depends on if they can take the CL and TV money coming in and build a foundation. And, of course, next year you’ll have a team that had absurdly good injury luck have to field a squad for at least six more Champions League games, plus any European knockout nights. Plenty of EPL teams sneak up to the Champions or Europa League slots and then fall back because their squad depth can’t handle all the extra games.

              A team like City came in and held it because they, like Chelsea about a half decade before them, had the oil money to back it up (and City’s now been investing said oil money in things like youth development and the stadium that can keep them up w/o having to make a ton of huge transfer buys). It’ll be harder for Leicester to replicate that.

            • Bill Murray

              But maybe Leicester will win another Championship in a year or two

              Very likely some of their best players will move on. In particular Kante and Mahrez are highly sought after and Leicester isn’t exactly Milan or Turin or Barcelona and whose main clubs will pay much higher wages

        • EliHawk

          Well yeah, but Man City had a black swan event of their own: Namely several hundred million pounds of Middle Eastern oil money.

  • humanoid.panda

    The 14th best team in the EPL is roughly equivalent to the 20th best team in MLB or the NBA or the NFL, in terms of distance from the top. Now obviously a whole bunch of things have to break right for for a 75-87 team to have the best record in baseball the next year. It’s quite unlikely — but quite unlikely as in 50-1 or maybe even 100-1. But 5000 to 1? That’s more like a 16 seed in the NCAA tournament winning the whole thing.

    I’m not sure how the MLB works, but for the NFL and the MLB, the analogy doesn’t work. The 20th best team in the NBA has draft picks, a salary cap, and true free agency, and trades and thus can, theoretically at least, nab a superstar and become a top 5 team overnight. (The 20th best team in the NBA this year, the Wizards is reportedly, among Kevin Durant’s top free agency options). None of that exists in European soccer, so odds for drastic improvement are much lower than anything in North America.

    • Philip

      Yeah. And they were in League One (the third tier) as recently as 2008-2009. It’d be like…I dunno, a team going from the SPHL to winning the Presidents Trophy in 7 years. Without the promotion/relegation mechanics, lack of draft, etc, there’s no way to make that kind of analogy work.

    • Bill Murray

      if you’re willing to spend, you can buy a team of 11 stars in soccer, although this would take 300-500 million dollars. Teams spending 100 to 200 million in the summer are not unknown, but that is really one superstar and few decent players

      • howard

        of course, in soccer as in other sports, buying a teamful of stars doesn’t guarantee you winning your league or the champion’s league, the two things most soccer clubs care about, as the fans of real madrid would be only too happy to confirm.

        • Bill Murray

          but the point in the comment was about achieving top-5 status quickly, not actually winning

  • Mark Field

    Bill James argued in one of the Abstracts that no baseball team should ever be even 100-1.

    That said, Leicester’s story is amazing. The club never won top flight title before this year. With 9 games left last year, Leicester had spent 140 consecutive days in last place. They aren’t a big spending club and didn’t spend big last summer. Two of their best players were pulled from the lower divisions of French football, which is much less competitive than England. Their star forward was purchased from a 5th division club in England. One of their center defenders missed an entire year with a knee injury at the age of 31 and came to Leicester on a loan deal in Jan. 2015. Etc. It’s one of the best sports stories ever.

    • Bill Murray

      and frankly the central defender wasn’t that great before the knee injury

    • ASV

      I think that’s right about baseball, but that’s a high-randomness/high-parity sport. But the idea that Leicester championship this year would be 20 times rarer than a championship for the openly tanking 76ers, who opened the season at 250-1, seems quite silly.

      • EliHawk

        Though the 76ers have the mitigating random odds part of playoffs, where even a mediocre NBA team can get to the post-season and still have some chance of winning.

        • Scott Lemieux

          where even a mediocre NBA team can get to the post-season and still have some chance of winning.

          This happens basically never, so I don’t see that being a factor.

          I think the Sixers comparison is a good one. All things being equal, one would expect the NBA (small rosters, games with large numbers of scoring events) to have substantially less competitive balance in a given year than a soccer league. And while the salary cap and draft mitigate this somewhat on a year-to-year basis, neither was going to help the 76ers this year. It seems massively unlikely to me that they have a better chance of winning the NBA championship than any team has of winning the Premier League.

          • EliHawk

            Yeah, but I can see it more being a factor with the odds moreso than success. That in theory half the league gets to the end of the season with a prayer of winning, so enough people will take a flyer on it before the season starts that there’s no 10,000 to 1 odds, no matter how shit the team.

  • Bill Murray

    well Leicester was the bottom team in the league for most of last season and won 7 and drew one of their last 9 to avoid the drop. In general teams that do this in the EPL typically either go down the next year, or stabilize at mid-table. They switched managers and lost their best midfielder and signed four major players for about 16 million pounds, which is low average for an EPL team, and of the new players, one was unknown (Kante, 6M GBP), one was not well regarded (Huth, 3M GBP) and two were considered pretty good Fuchs (free) and Okazaki (7M GBP). The new manager was regarded as fairly good but had never won a top flight title.

    So Leicester was much more likely to get relegated than they were to win the Championship or even to qualify for Europe. I am not sure that any team in modern soccer has done what Leicester did in a top league. They went from 11-8-19 to 22-9-3. They went from winning about 30% of their games to winning 90% (counting draws as half a win. In the NBA that would be the equivalent of the Phoenix Suns (23-59) adding a couple of decent veterans getting a new coach and becoming the equivalent of this years Golden State Warriors

    • Bill Murray

      well really it’s probably more like going from 33 to 63 wins which rarely happens

    • Ahenobarbus

      Bayern Leverkusen once won the Bundesliga in the year after they promoted, but they were always a big club, and the mystery is how they went down in the first place.

      But that was decades ago when the Euro leagues were less top heavy than they are now. Heck, if Tottenham would have won, it would have been a shock.

    • Captain Oblivious

      All true, but it doesn’t justify 5000-1 odds. In a 20-team league with no salary cap or other parity incentives, I’d say 200-1 at worst.

      Keeping in mind that the books aren’t trying to set the actual odds. When they set a line, they’re basically guessing what kind of action they’ll get. But offering 5000-1 on something that is closer to a 200-1 actual probability is probably not s smart move, unless they have so much action on everybody else (which is entirely possible) that they can afford to lose the bet. But even then, they’d probably get as much action at 500-1 as 5000-1.

      • Bill Murray

        I think you are nuts about 200-1. The no salary cap or parity incentives makes the odds much worse. Leicester did not spend much money in the summer and have a low wage budget for the premeirship and except for 3/4 of the season weren’t very good the previous year. That says relegation not title. So somewhere north of 1000-1 seems more reasonable to me

  • efgoldman

    I think this is roughly equivalent to the ’67 Red Sox “Impossible Dreamers” getting to the world series after finishing ninth in a ten-team league the year before.

    BTW somebody said on local sports radio that at least one American allegedly bet $100k on Leicester before the season. Lets see, multiply… carry the zero… holy crap!

    • howard

      in fact, there were 3 comparable upset winners in baseball in the ’60s, and they are the 3 most comparable to leicester that i can summon up from memory: the reds in ’61, the red sox in ’67, and the mets in ’69.

      • EliHawk

        You could add the 91 Braves into that mix:

        1987 Braves: 69-92
        1988 Braves:54-106 (Worst Record in all of Baseball)
        1989 Braves: 63-97 (Worst Record in the NL)
        1990 Braves: 65-97 (Worst Record in all of Baseball)
        1991 Braves: 94-68, National League Champs, and so, so, close to winning the World Series.

        • howard

          good one: my memory had failed on that one, but yes, another comparable.

          • EliHawk

            Of course, the 1914 Miracle Braves might fit. While finishing 5th of 8 the year before, they were last place, 14 games under .500 on July 4 (and 1,000 to 1 odds to win the Series) before coming back to finish 70-19 over the rest of the season, win the NL by 10 and a 1/2 games and sweep the defending champion Athletics in the Series.

        • Scott Lemieux

          In related news, Bobby Cox was a great manager.

          • EliHawk

            Wasn’t he also the GM that put a lot of those early pieces in place before John Schuerholz came over from Kansas City? Underrated guy.

            • Scott Lemieux

              Yes.

  • Ahenobarbus

    You’re missing the fact that there’s no parity in the EPL. No salary cap, no revenue sharing, not even a college draft. Soccer leagues tend to be extremely top heavy. In fact ManU, Man City et. al. are competing with German, Italian and Spanish clubs as much as those within their own leagues.

    To compare this to US sports is wrong. If not 5000 to 1, then something close.

    • Ahenobarbus

      Responding to myself, I’m going to ask how many Leicester players would have earned a spot in the starting 11 of ManU, Man City, Chelsea or Arsenal? I say, none. Obviously that changes as the season progresses. But in the beginning of the year, did anyone think Vardy or Nahrez were good enough to play for the big clubs?

      This is why comparisons to US sports are meaningless.

      • howard

        although your general point is well taken, actually, as a man u fan, i would say at a minimum, vardy, mahrez, and morgan could all start, but yes: winning it in a league without a salary cap makes this a truly extraordinary accomplishment.

        • Ahenobarbus

          You say that now, but what about the beginning of the year, when those odds were set? Mahrez was a six-figure signing in 2014.

          • howard

            fair point, and the answer is it’s hard to say (after all, man u began the year without a true central striker, since that’s not really rooney’s position anymore, and they don’t have a real playmaker like mahrez either) but you’re probably right that even given those gaps on the red devils, the odds of assuming vardy and mahrez could have filled them on day one are pretty long.

          • EliHawk

            One of the funnier things I saw on Facebook this week was someone pointing out that Marhez is the exact kind of signing (Six figures for an Algerian winger playing in France you’ve never heard of) that Arsene Wenger would make and get raked over the coals by the “SPEND MONEY NOW! #WengerOut” Piers Morgan section of the Arsenal fanbase.

            • Colin Day

              Would the operative term here be “Piers Morgan”?

            • Ronan

              The argument against Wenger isn’t “spend money now” , it’s strengthen your defence now.(and buy a striker). I would have no problem with him buying six figure Algerian wingers if they were up to scratch , but they’re generally not.
              When Wenger first came he could get away with buying cheap players who turned out to be excellent because (1) it was a different league, financially, at the time (2) he’d obviously identified these players years prior to coming to arsenal, which was somewhat unusual at the time in England to have such a process of buying young unknown foreign players (all teams have replicated this now) (3) he inherited a great defence, across the back four.
              Wegners problem is his failure to bring arsenal to the next level. The others have caught up and he’s standing still

    • MND

      This! The post and most of the comments are vastly underestimating the difference in the levels of parity of North American leagues as compared to European soccer. There is no upset championship in North America that could possibly be comparably unlikely.

      The same few teams are at the top year after year and have vastly bigger budgets. Arsenal have been in the top 4 for literally 20 years.

      • EliHawk

        Arsenal have been in the top 4 for literally 20 years.

        Which, jokes about the ‘4th place trophy’ aside, really is an accomplishment given how much new money has come in and how various other major powers (Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool) have managed to slip during that time.

        • MND

          For sure, and it’s an achievement that’s only even possible because teams jumping from 14th to the top of the league simply never happens.

          • Ahenobarbus

            During the 11 seasons ending from 2000 to 2010, there were only six incidences (out of 44 possible) of someone other than ManU, Chlesea, Arsenal or Liverpool finishing in the top four.

            • MND

              It’s so predictable that Arsenal fans actually held a protest this weekend at their team’s lack of success, despite being in the top four yet again, just to illustrate the degree to which the top teams can take for granted being at the top and never having a truly bad year.

              • Bill Murray

                19 straight years in the top-4 is quite incredible

              • Ronan

                I don’t think arsenals success has been particularly impressive, not in the past decade anyway since Wegner has had something closer to the resources of the top 3 . 3rd or 4th place consistently (sometimes by the skin of their teeth) in a league where everyone outside the top 4 is considerably weaker, never mounting a serious title challenge, never making it past the first decent side they come across in Europe.. Wegner has known for a decade what he needs (1) to strengthen his defence, particularly in the middle (2) to replace Vieira (3) buy a striker who will score 25 plus goals every year, and he refuses to do any if it.
                Their mediocrity is utterly predictable and he should have gone long ago

  • JustRuss

    Now obviously a whole bunch of things have to break right for for a 75-87 team to have the best record in baseball the next year.

    They don’t even have to have the best record in baseball to win the championship, just the best in their division. Assuming they’re in a weak division, they could have just a better-than-decent year then catch on fire post-season and bring home the trophy.

    • ResumeMan

      We might call such a team “The San Francisco Giants.”

    • Colin Day

      The 2012 Red Sox were 69-93. The 2013 Red Sox were tied with the Cardinals for the best record in MLB before winning the World Series.

  • howard

    it is an incredibly lovely story (as a long-time man u fan and epl watcher, i have been thinking back to the leicester fan i met about 10-12 years ago who talked about how “little old leicester” just didn’t have a chance against the big clubs) but it was also helped by the fact that chelsea (the defending champion) were awful this season, and man city, arsenal, and man u were all barely above mediocre.

    but regardless, they did what they needed to do and it’s great for soccer as well as for the people of leicester. one fascinating thing this does is automatically qualify leicester for the european champion’s league, which means some mid-week night next fall, a team like barcelona, real madrid, or bayern munich is likely to visit “little old leicester.”

    • Captain Oblivious

      Very probably the best thing to ever happen as far as promoting soccer in the US. Better even than the USWNT. People I know who claim to “hate” soccer have been caught watching NBCSN on weekend mornings.

  • kped

    This was so crazy and amazing. About 10 years ago, a guy my brother grew up playing soccer with in Toronto “made it” by playing for Leicester when they were in the third division. So when they started winning this year, I did a double take and asked my brother “didn’t Iain play there??”. It’s amazing that teams can move up, and this is even more amazing since they won. Great story, gotta love sports.

  • skate

    OT, but the photo prompts me to mention it: I cannot walk by the neighborhood national monument without thinking of poor Georg and Yortuk and the American foxes.

  • Denverite

    Now obviously a whole bunch of things have to break right for for a 75-87 team to have the best record in baseball the next year. It’s quite unlikely — but quite unlikely as in 50-1 or maybe even 100-1.

    A 76-86 team from 2015 currently has the best record in the AL and is half a game behind the team with the best record in baseball (and percentage points behind the team with the second best).

    • rea

      Well, but its April well not April any more, but as Sparky used to say, you can’t judge a team before it has played 40 games or so

    • Avattoir

      The ChiSox Pythagorean number for 2015 shows they were LUCKY by 4 wins: they should have gone 72-90.

      But it’s really too early to using them as an example. A better one – maybe the best? – is the 1987 World Series champion Twins. They were 85-77 during the regular season, but their Pythagorean number was actually underwater: 79-83.

      Looking NOW at the West division of both leagues, it’s not hard to conceive of the Division Champion of one of them winning as few games as the 1987 Twins, with just as much ‘positive’ luck, and then going on to win the World Series simply because that’s just a series of short series’. The 2014 World Series pitted the what was ‘really’ an 87-74 team against an 84-78 team, and the latter came tantalizingly close to winning it in the 7th game.

      IMO all that shows the Scott’s analogy of EPL to MLB isn’t helpful. I’d agree that 5,000:1 has to be too low, but it’s still ‘actually’ more unlikely for a club like Leicester to win the EPL than a, say, the Even Year Kings, the Giants, to go say 86-76 when they’re ‘actually’ a 81-81 team, win the NLW because all their divisional rivals as about as flawed or more so or just unlucky, and then go on to win the WS.

      In the whole history of the EPL*, only 5 teams have won the league title: Man Utd (13), Arsenal (3), Chelsea (3), Man City (2), Blackburn Rovers once, and now the Red Foxes. And that’s really not 5 of 20, due to relegation: there’s the 20 in EPL, the 24 in the Championship League, and another 24 in League One, for a total of 68 without going deeper. Just off the EPL history it’s 12:1 that ANY club other than the top funded ones (the two Manchesters, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Spurs) will win, which means 2/62 x 24 years, thus 744:1.

      Yes, 5,000:1 is too low, but not THAT silly: just off the history since the EPL started, 744:1 really can’t be all that far off.

      (*It’s also valueless to go back before the EPL. The EPL was devised specifically to benefit the top spending clubs, at which it’s pretty clearly succeeded, and now more than ever before given the immense TV money that’s available at one level to EPL clubs and at a significantly, even near-prohibitively level to clubs in the lower leagues.)

      • JustinVC

        Your math doesn’t work because the odds that, say, Blackburn Rovers would win the Premier League this year is fundamentally lower than the odds Leicester would win this year, because the 5000:1 odds took into consideration that Leicester was in the Premier League this year, and Rovers was not.

        I still think 5k:1 is relatively fair, fwiw.

  • JustinVC

    Leicester winning the NC is about the same odds as if you had a league with just the SEC and the Big 10, and everyone played each other, that Minnesota or Kentucky would win the regular season crown. 5,000 to one seems about right. None of your comparisons work, for reasons others have mentioned.

    • KCGunner

      agreed. a lot of ignorance about European soccer and the EPL in particular on display.

  • gogiggs

    As my username indicates, I’m a Man U fan, but I love this.
    I felt weird this weekend watching Man U v Leicester City and not knowing who to root for.

    And for those that don’t follow, my username means Go Giggs, for Ryan Giggs, long time Man U midfielder.

    • Rob in CT

      Giggs is still playing, eh? Cool. Makes me feel slightly less old, I guess. He was brand new when I studied abroad in Scotland (1997). IIRC, at that time he wasn’t a starter. Good choice on your part (I liked him too).

      And damn, ManU was good then.

      • howard

        Although giggs’ played a very long time at a high level, he retired 3 years ago and is now an assistant coach.

      • gogiggs

        Yeah, they were amazing, back then. Cole and Yorke, Giggs, Beckham, Keane, the Nevilles, Jaap Stam, Scholes…
        Somewhere I still have a VHS tape of the ’99 Man U v Bayern Munich Champions League final, probably the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever seen.
        Of course, I have no way to watch it, but I can’t bring myself to pitch it.

        • howard

          That match, which I also have on tape, remains the single most extraordinary soccer match I’ve ever seen: two goals in extra time to win the champion’s league!

  • rewenzo

    Unclear on the nature of the upset. Is it that Leicester is not actually a good team but was able to win anyway, or is it that Leicester was a very good team but it’s very unlikely that any team besides the top 4 can be very good? If it’s the former, that seems impressive, but if it’s the latter, that seems less so.

    Also, why are the top 4 locks every year? Is it just a function of not having a billionaire patron or are other teams just not run well?

    • Ronan

      It’s the former.
      It’s mainly money, but with utd and arsenal it’s also because they have been well run clubs (good youth academies , scouting networks etc)Utd became the biggest team in the league by winning the PL consistently at the right time, just as it was becoming popular, and so became a massive global brand. Arsenal did it by developing genuinely great teams initially, then reinvesting profits in the club. Whereas Chelsea and city got wealthy backers .
      The top four are not neccesarily always a lock . There’s usually a challenge to fourth place and arsenal are consistently the weakest team in the top 4 . But they are generally the top four placed teams

      • Ronan

        Bear in mind aswell that prior to man city stumbling upon a load of cash the “top four” refered to arsenal, utd , Chelsea and Liverpool

        • rewenzo

          But there’s no structural reason you couldn’t have a more competitive league, is there? I imagine the league is getting more competitive.

          • Ronan

            There’s no real reason teams like Tottenham and Liverpool couldn’t challenge more consistently. They have the fan base, name, ability to attract decent players and (to a lesser extent) money to mount serous challenges for at least a champions leagu spot. Outside of them not really. There are too many barriers to compete for smaller teams without a wealthy backer . The teams that did historically (Newcastle, Blackburn , at a lower level Fulham) had significant (relative to their era) investment. Now that yiu have international billionaire investors the barriers are higher.
            Whether it’s getting more competitive depends on what u think this season signifies. Are the top three in permanent decline or a transitional Phase. I think utd are in long term relative decline, city and Chelsea will be back next year . So in that case 3rd and 4th place will become more competitive , but not the title itself.

            • Ronan

              Someone else could maybe say something on the changes to the way television rights income is distributed . A friend was telling me about it recently and claiming it could be a “game changer” but I wasn’t paying full attention

  • Casey

    Usually long-shot future bets are crappy deals, because there’s a baked in group of people who always bet their team. The kind of guys who put 20 bucks on the Cubs every year. There’s really no reason for the books to give bettors a fair price.

    On the other hand, betting syndicates aren’t interested in attacking futures bets because you have to wait 9 months to get paid, you can’t bet that much, and there aren’t that many of them, compared to hundreds of individual games. So crazy lines do happen because it’s not a very efficient market. If there’s one crazy line a year at 5000:1 which should be 100:1, then it might be over 100 years before one pays off.

    William Hill will have to pay out $3M to bettors: http://espn.go.com/chalk/story/_/id/15447878/putting-leicester-city-5000-1-odds-perspective-other-long-shots-espn-chalk

    At 5,000 to 1, that means only $600 was bet on Leicester. Talk about picking up pennies off the railroad tracks! At the same time, they probably made at least that much on all the people who picked the popular/obvious teams this year that lost. 3 Million is a drop in the bucket.

  • Fnarf

    Realize also that Leicester are the first new team to win a title in 38 years (Nottingham Forest, 1977-78). The huge disparity in value, wages, and transfer fees between the top clubs and the small clubs makes this really quite impossible; the top European leagues are locked down by a handful of superclubs in a way that is totally alien to any American sport (including MLS soccer). There are only three or four clubs in each of the major countries with any realistic chance of winning the title. Liecester had virtually no chance, just like Bournemouth, Norwich City, Watford, Stoke, and the rest of the nobodies.

    As someone said on ESPN FC last night, if you lined up the entire Leicester City squad just before the season started and told Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal, “go on, have your pick, take any player you want for free”, they all would have passed. Riyad Mahrez cost half a million Euros in 2014. Vardy was a million. Their entire squad was acquired for less money than lots of pricey superstars who did nothing.

    That’s going to change!

    If you’re looking for a more apt comparison, it’s actually more like the Tacoma Rainiers or the Toledo Mud Hens winning the World Series. Wait, they’re not even in the competition, you say? Neither was Leicester two years ago. It’s impossible. And yet they did it.

    For all those comparing them to clubs bought by foreign billionaires, though, Leicester City were not long ago bought by…a foreign billionaire, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha of Thailand (hence “King Power”).

  • Fnarf

    Case in point: in the last fifteen years, ten different teams won the World Series (Royals, Giants, Red Sox, Cards, Yanks, Phillies, White Sox, Marlins, Angels, Diamondbacks).

    In that time span, the European leagues have been won by:

    England: 4 (Arsenal, Man Utd, Chelsea, Man City)
    Germany: 5 (Dortmund, Bayern, Werder Bremen, Stuttgart, Wolfsburg)
    Spain: 4 (Valencia, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid)
    Italy: 3 (Juventus, Milan, Inter)

    If you expand the timeline, the disparity gets wider and wider. All but eight MLB teams have won the World Series; the vast majority of European clubs have never won the top division and never will.

  • Big Al

    All of which makes it more delicious next year when West Ham United win the title in their “new” Olympic Stadium. COYI!!!!

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