Why there is no accounting for a large slice of luck in the Premier League | Greg Wood

Football data shows that chance plays a significant, possibly decisive, role in one match in six

Back in the late 1990s a bookmaking firm came up with an interesting new game to keep the customers in its betting shops amused while they were waiting for the racing to start. It ran computer simulations of entire seasons in football’s top flight, several times each morning and squeezed into just a few minutes, complete with “pre?season odds” to attract fivers and tenners from fans of the big-name teams. It was a little like Wembley, the 1970s board game which did something similar for the FA Cup, and the virtual, highly accelerated Football League proved quite a hit with the regulars.

That was until the morning when, much to the surprise of all concerned, they cranked up the computer, fed in all the odds and possibilities, hit “return” and five minutes later watched as Charlton Athletic were installed as the newly simulated champions of England after starting their imaginary campaign completely unbacked at odds of 2,000-1.

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