Football (soccer) is certainly the most popular sport in Belgium. In 2008-2009, the Belgian premier league, the so-called Jupiler Pro League, consisted of 18 teams, each having played others twice, home and away. Wins and draws respectively earned 3 points and 1 point, and teams were ranked by total points and then by total wins only, regardless of the goal difference (or the number of goals scored) contrary to most European leagues. Obviously, the Belgian Champion should have been the team which had ended the season on top of the ranking, but a very unlikely event happened: the first two teams, Sporting Anderlecht and Standard Liege, completed the season with exactly the same number of points (77) and the same number of victories (24). Although the goal difference would have been in favour of Anderlecht, an extraordinary playoff match was hastily organised to decide the championship, and Standard ended up winning. That dramatic denouement keeps on sustaining the discussions among the large football-lover part of the Belgian population and let’s open the interrogation: which team was really the best? The aim of this work is to objectively investigate this question through statistical modelling. Given the results of the whole season, we fit a semiparametric model for the conditional probabilities of home win, tie and away win for each match, given the involved teams and other relevant explanatory variables. The semiparametric nature of the model grants it a great flexibility and allows to identify interesting and up to now ignored patterns in the above probabilities. Based on this model, a large Monte Carlo simulation study finally shows clear evidence about the team which really deserved the 2008-2009 Belgian football champion.

About the speaker: Gery Geenens is Lecturer in Statistics at UNSW. His main research interests focus on nonparametric and semiparametric methods for density and regression estimation, in both vectorial and functional cases.


Dr Gery Geenens

Research Area

Statistics Seminar




Fri, 14/05/2010 - 4:00pm