Cruel and Unusual Punishment? An Analysis of Point Deduction in European Association Football Leagues

Nik J Cunniffe 1  and Alex R Cook 2
  • 1 University of Cambridge
  • 2 National University of Singapore

We present a methodology to assess the effect of point deductions, which are widely applied as punishments to teams in European association football (soccer) leagues. In particular we outline a method to estimate the increased probability of relegation and the decreased probability of promotion that are associated with a certain penalty for a given team in a particular league. We illustrate our method in the context of two case studies involving points deductions: the relegation of Luton Town from English League Two in 2008--9, and the promotion of Juventus from Italian Serie B in 2006--7. By adapting the parameterisation of our model, we extend our analysis to the more challenging objective of designing standardised point deductions, and discuss how prior knowledge on performance influences the likely severity of any given punishment. We also investigate the relationship between the magnitude of any point deduction and the financial implications for the penalised team. Our techniques allow unambiguous quantification of the consequences of a form of punishment that has been widely, but not necessarily scientifically, implemented by a number of governing bodies in European association football.

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JQAS, an official journal of the American Statistical Association, publishes research on the quantitative aspects of professional and collegiate sports. Articles deal with subjects as measurements of player performance, tournament structure, and the frequency and occurrence of records. Additionally, the journal serves as an outlet for professionals in the sports world to raise issues and ask questions that relate to quantitative sports analysis.