Sport

John Burn-Murdoch

Stage 9 of the 2016 Tour de France shows Team Sky’s tactics at their clinical best. Sky’s star-studded support group of five mountain specialists ruthlessly drove the pace of the peloton, sacrificing themselves one by one as they shed riders from the back of the group until team leader Chris Froome was able to go clear with only a handful of othersGoing in to the race, Froome’s imperial guard of Mikel Landa, Mikel Nieve, Wout Poels, Sergio Henao and Geraint Thomas had four mountain stage wins and seven top-ten general classification finishes in grand tours, as well as more than a dozen other victories in road cycling’s second tier of races. In almost any other team, any of these riders would be a team leader. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

English football must stop outsourcing creativity. The most prolific assisters in the recent history of the Premier League all come from overseas. As a result, England struggle to break down organised defences in international tournamentsEnglish football has always loved its powerful forwards, hard-running fullbacks and no-nonsense centre-backs. Even a quick-footed winger or tricky attacking midfielder can get an English crowd on its feet.

But one role has yet to be embraced in the same way by a bulk of English football fans: that of the playmaker, often found — God forbid — moving the ball sideways or backwards, but capable of dissecting a defence with a pinpoint pass, releasing an onrushing teammate into space that moments earlier was nonexistent.

The Premier League has had countless examples of genius playmakers: Mesut Özil, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas at his peak to name just three of the most recent. But English names are conspicuous by their absence. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

Women are closing the gap on men in tennis prize money, with some now out-earning their counterparts. At almost every rung on the earnings ladder, the prize money gap is shrinking. The one exception is at the very top, where Novak Djokovic is so dominant that he pockets an outsized share of the ATP prize pot, putting him well ahead of Serena Williams, the top-earning women’s player so far in 2016The winners of the women’s and men’s singles tournaments at Wimbledon this year each receive £2m, making this the tenth successive year of equal prize money for the champions of each sex.

But although it might look like women’s and men’s tennis players now compete on a level financial playing field, true parity is still a long way off. In 2015 the top 100 men — as ranked by prize money — earned a total of $124.7m from singles tournaments, compared to $94.7m across the top 100 women.

So why the disparity? Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

Spain lead the Financial Times' predictions for Euro 2016, just ahead of Germany and then hosts FranceThe European Football Championships are upon us, and with them an eclectic mix of prediction models from media organisations, financial institutions and independent statisticians. To assuage our FOMO (fear of missing out, for the non-Millennials), the FT has joined in with one of our own.

Spain are favourites to lift the trophy, narrowly ahead of Germany and hosts France, based on our method which uses Champions League appearances and players’ market values to determine each team’s strength. This trio of teams comes in well ahead of the other 21 countries taking part.

Read on for details of the model and how it compares to the betting markets. Read more


Leicester were bottom of the Premier League on April 10 2015, but a year later had climbed to the top, winning 91 points along the way. No team beginning at the foot of the top flight has ever won that many points* over the subsequent year since English league football began Read more

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John Burn-Murdoch

PSG are so far ahead of their domestic rivals that manager Laurent Blanc has been able to field weakened sides ahead of big Champions League matches at a rate unmatched by any other quarter-finalist, ensuring that his strongest side has been as well-rested as possible. Read more

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John Burn-Murdoch

Hosts India squeezed into the semi-finals of the ongoing ICC Twenty20 World Cup largely thanks to a sensational innings from their star batsman Virat Kohli, who hit 82 off 51 balls, without losing his wicket, to take India past Australia and eliminate their opponents in the process.

In doing so he scored more than half of all India’s runs for the match — having almost managed the same two games earlier, scoring 46 per cent of the team’s total in another crucial win, this time against Pakistan. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

England’s Premier League is enjoying one of its most competitive seasons for years, but at the same time the league is without a club in Europe’s top 10 for the first time in 20 years.

The interplay between competitive balance and outright quality of football is a complex one, and depending on who you talk to, different levels of importance are placed on each when it comes to talk of which league is the bestRead more

John Burn-Murdoch

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John Burn-Murdoch

The Premier League could lose its fourth Champions League berth within two years, and things will only get more difficult the year after that.

England’s top flight will be given four places in Europe’s elite club tournament next season whatever happens, but the different leagues’ rankings in Uefa’s member association coefficient rankings as they stand at the end of the current season will determine the number of berths each receives in the 2017-18 tournament. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

The Chinese Super League has cropped up in football conversations for several years now, but until recently it was in the context of it being one of the sport’s so called ‘retirement homes’: lesser leagues, where prominent Europe-based players only go for a final bulging pay packet and a relatively easy ride. This winter, that all changed, as several genuine global stars — many still in their prime — arrived on big money deals from major European clubs Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

The Red Devils have hardly undergone a Chelsea-esque implosion — they sit in 5th place at the time of writing — but the Old Trafford faithful have grown increasingly restless, an undercurrent of discontent growing into a crescendo of criticism as perceived lacklustre performances have been followed by the poor results many felt they deserved.

According to an FT analysis, those perceptions are backed up by the statistics. After seven years of near-unbroken dominance in terms of their results, Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure from the post of manager was followed by a dramatic decline.

By the end of David Moyes’ solitary term in charge, Man United’s results — after adjusting for opposition quality — didn’t even put them among the fourth strongest sides in the league. The arrival of Louis van Gaal brought about a recovery: by the end of his first campaign the club was — only just — back among the four strongest sides in the league in terms of results. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

Last Thursday Chelsea’s owners made the decision many felt has been coming since August, and dismissed their talismanic manager José Mourinho.

Thus comes to an end his second spell at the reins of the club. The first ended in relative stagnation, but the second was truly a meteoric rise and fall.

With the aid of a statistical examination of the last 15 seasons, we can see the best and worst of Mourinho, and get a clue as to some of what went wrong this time around. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

Last week Garry Monk became the seventh Premier League manager to be dismissed by his club in 2015, and the 11th top flight departure overall in the same period when resignations and contract expiries are included.

Monk had been in the job for just under two years, and while you could be forgiven for thinking this is precious little time, it actually comes in at almost twice the median across all Premier League managers in 2015. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

Jamie Vardy’s record-setting Premier League goalscoring streak for Leicester City has been hailed as one of the most remarkable individual achievements of modern English football, but how does it compare to similar feats elsewhere?

Many have pointed out that Vardy’s run of scoring in 11 successive top flight English matches remains behind that of Jimmy Dunne, who made it to 12 for Sheffield United in 1931/32.

But given how much the game has changed over the intervening 60-plus years in terms of tactics, fitness and other factors, perhaps a better way of contextualising his record is to compare it to those of his contemporaries. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch


Ever since the Open Era began in 1968, we can identify the individuals and their periods of success. First came Laver, Rosewall and Newcombe; next was Borg’s reign, bookended by Connors, McEnroe and Lendl. Wilander and Becker ushered in the ’90s before giving way to Sampras and Agassi.

Federer, Nadal and now Djokovic have run the show since then, but there is no heir apparent. The average age of the ATP top 10 is 29.7 — the highest it has ever been — with an unprecedented five of its current members aged over 30. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

The last time athletics was engulfed by doping concerns of the volume seen last week was the 1980s, when performance enhancing substances including testosterone were commonplace among elite competitors.

This doping dark age left a mark still visible today in the form of records set decades ago that are still yet to be broken – and in some cases yet even to be approached. Read more

John Burn-Murdoch

A dozen games into the new Premier League season, Chelsea’s title defence has been anaemic, and few — if any — saw it coming. But with the aid of hindsight, shots data and the Elo ratings system, we can obtain a clue as to exactly when their troubles began: January 1 2015. Read more