Beautiful Game Theory: How Soccer can Help Economics

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Beautiful Game Theory : How Soccer Can Help Economics

I analyzed 9, penalty kicks taken in professional soccer games in a variety of countries from September to June I found, as Mr. Specifically, roughly 60 percent of kicks were made to the right of the net, and 40 percent to the left. The proportions were not because players have unequal strengths in their legs and tend to shoot better to one side. Shooting , in other words, would not take full advantage of their better leg, while shooting any more often to the stronger side would have been too predictable.

In accordance with Mr. Penalty kicks are just one example. Data from soccer can also illuminate one of the most prominent theories of the stock market: the efficient-market hypothesis. This means that unless you have insider information, no stock is a better buy i.

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If this theory is correct, the price of an asset should jump up or down when news breaks and then remain perfectly flat until there is more news. But to test this in the real world is difficult. You would need to somehow stop the flow of news while letting trading continue. That seems impossible, since everything that happens in the real world, however boring or uneventful, counts as news.

How Soccer Can Help Economics

This is where soccer is useful. James Reade analyzed live soccer betting markets, looking at second-by-second betting activity around goals scored just seconds before halftime and betting activity during halftime.


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Click to agree to our updated Privacy Policy and Use of Cookies. While billions, glued to TV, will be asking itself simple questions like "How do you stop Messi? A central formula he has developed can help predict the difference between a good player and a true star. As an advisor, he often uses game theory principles to improve clubs' performances.

What are the chances? In fact, the economics professor was once a soccer player himself. I was a good student, so I had to choose between going through a surgery and fighting for a soccer career, or sticking to my studies.

In This Review

I decided to quit soccer and went to Chicago for a PhD in economics. But it was actually there, in the early s, that he made his major breakthrough as a soccer player. The conversation with Palacios-Huerta begins with one of the biggest questions in the world of soccer — why the Spanish league is so successful?

The country has been struggling with a deep recession and soaring unemployment for more than five years, and yet Spanish soccer is booming, breaking the longstanding correlation between national prosperity and success in sports, as it has continued to dominate both European and international scenes. It allows Real and Barcelona to maintain the gap.

Beautiful Game Theory by Ignacio Palacios-Huerta

Such economic realities enable the two clubs to buy players for record prices and offer them the world's highest salaries. However, anti-trust European authorities have recently started trying to change the way funds are distributed in Spain, investigating the subsidies the government give clubs, also in the form of generous tax breaks.

But beyond that, Palacios-Huerta also points to social and political reasons behind the power of soccer in Spain. In the face of rising joblessness, soccer makes people happy, he explains. I cannot prove it, but people are happier than they should be. And it might be because of soccer. In Chicago, Palacios-Huerta's supervisor was Nobel laureate Gary Becker, one of the 20th century's most renowned economists, who died last month. Becker was a pioneer in attempting to explain human behavior through economic instruments, and some consider him the father of behavioral economics.

In a number of studies over the past decade he employed Becker's theory, but in reverse.


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In turn, he also translates these insights into practice. Bilbao is a unique challenge for a scout since it's comprised of only Basque players, from a region whose population is merely three million inhabitants. But despite this limitation, the team has long been playing in the first league, and finished fourth this year. You need to ask 'what's important for me?

I don't attach similar value when foreign players win in Bilbao's shirt. I prefer being in second league, but when my people represent me.



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