Saturday, February 27, 2016

Post-FIFA Election Readings

The new FIFA President Gianni Infantino makes a pledge to the world of football, moments after his election.
Posted by FIFA on Friday, February 26, 2016
Yesterday Gianni Infantino was elected president of FIFA. ABove is a short video of him speaking after the election (courtesy @AlexStone7) Who is Infantino and what's next for FIFA? Here are some of the best post-election pieces I've come across. Feel free to add suggestions in the comments.
Lots more to come as FIFA takes on a full plate of reforms and its goal of restoring credibility.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

FIFA on FIFA Reform

The above is a short promotional video on how FIFA sees the organization's reform effort. It is well worth watching.

Monday, February 22, 2016

How Tough is the US Group in Copa America Centenario?

I saw a fair bit of hand-wringing on Twitter yesterday as the Copa America Centenario group draw took place, which landed the USA in the most difficult group. Such complaining is unwarranted in my view - well, at least of you want USA men's soccer to join the global elite. I'll explain . . .

Here are the average 2016 Copa Centenario Group SPI rankings (courtesy @PCarrESPN), in order from highest average ranked to lowest:

  • Group A = 22.75 (USA)
  • Group D = 31.5
  • Group B = 32.75
  • Group C = 33.5

Here is the same average SPI ranking for the 2014 World Cup groups:

Group D = 14.0
Group G = 15.25 (USA)
Group B = 17.5
Group E = 18.25
Group C = 19.75
Group F = 20.5
Group A = 23.5
Group H = 33.25

While the USA indeed in the most challenging group in the Copa Centenario, that group would have been one of the easiest in the 2014 World Cup.

Want to be the best? Then play the best.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

College Sports as an Agent of Change: Diversity Summit Panel at CU-Boulder

UPDATE Feb 19: Here is a report by the CU Independent on how the event went. 

At CU-Boulder tomorrow there is a "Diversity and Inclusion Summit" taking place. We are opening up my class (Introduction to Sports Governance) to a discussion about "College Sports as an Agent of Change," with a distinguished panel of former CU football players dating back to the early 1960s.

Here are some details:
College Sports as an Agent of Change - 11:00am-12:15pm Champions Center
Room 328
facilitated by Prof. Roger Pielke, Jr.

This session explores the governance of university athletics, specifically Black/African-American athletes before and after sports integration. It will raise questions about the power of athletics as an avenue for social movements and social change and will explore the demystification of the “Great Black Athlete” in an educational arena. Former University of Colorado Football players Bill Harris, Estes Banks, Lance Carl, Medford Moorer, Chidera Uzo-Diribe and a current student-athlete will examine the role of athletics at CU-Boulder in an ever-changing world.   
If you are on campus or in Boulder, please come for what will be an interesting and lively discussion.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Some Good Looks at FIFA

The upcoming FIFA election is prompting some good media coverage. Above is a short 60 Minutes story on FIFA, which does a nice job on a hugely complex issue.

The BBC also has a nice short video feature. I'll show both in class tomorrow, as we wind up FIFA Week in Intro to Sports Governance.

Goucher on Salazar: "Justice Will Come"

The video above shows an interview with Kara Goucher after she finished 4th in the US Olympic marathon trials over the weekend. In it she discusses the on-going investigation of the Nike Project by USADA.

ESPN did a story on the interview today, and here is an excerpt:
Kara Goucher, who fell one spot shy of making the U.S. Olympic marathon team in Saturday's trials, said "justice will come" out of an ongoing U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation of her former coach Alberto Salazar and his Nike Oregon Project group.

Goucher, a 2012 Olympian in the marathon and a two-time world bronze medalist on the track, and her husband, Adam, a former distance runner, were the most high-profile named sources in a 2015 investigation by ProPublica and BBC that alleged Salazar flouted and manipulated anti-doping regulations. Salazar issued a 12,000-word open letter in response, denying any wrongdoing.

After Saturday's race, in an interview by reporters that was filmed by, Goucher calmly said, "I've done all I can do at this point. I believe in Travis [Tygart, head of USADA]. I don't wish them ill will. The first time I went to USADA I said, 'All I want them to do is stop doing what they're doing.'"
The story is worth a read and the video is worth a look see. Watch this space.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Boise State Robbery

UPDATE: The Mountain West Conference has released a statement acknowledging that an error occurred at the end of the game, based on erroneous information provided to the refs by the replay technology. Here is an excellent analysis of the elapsed time at the end of the game. The error appears to originate with DVSports, the firm that provides replay technology to the MWC and NCAA. One question would be whether or not Boise State might have any actionable claim against DVSport for the loss (e.g., if the loss contributes to missing the post-season). I'll ask around.

In class today we discussed the controversial ending to yesterday's Boise State-Colorado State basketball game. Have a look at the ESPN video above for the details.

The short story is that Boise State made an incredible, improbable last second shot (actually last sub-second shot, the inbounds play began with 0.8 second remaining in the game), which the officials ruled did not occur because the clock did not start at the right time.

Here is what the game official later said:

The NCAA Rulebook says (p. 62 here in PDF):
When an obvious mistake by the shot-clock operator has occurred in failing to start, stop, set or reset the shot clock or when a shot clock has malfunctioned, the mistake or the malfunctioning problem may be corrected in the shot-clock period in which it occurred only when the official has definite information relative to the mistake or malfunctioning problem and the time involved. When a timing mistake or malfunctioning problem occurs that gives a team more time than that team is entitled to, any activity after the mistake or malfunctioning problem has been committed and until it has been rectified shall be canceled, excluding any flagrant foul or technical foul.
A lot hinges on the phrase "obvious mistake" here, but it seems clear from the ESPN replay and timing in the video above that there was no obvious mistake.  In fact, there was no mistake at all.
Perhaps Boise State should protest the result?

The NCAA has that covered (p. 62 of its rule book):
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee does not recognize or allow protests.
The referees botched this one pretty good. Although Boise State will not get an earned victory, hopefully the Mountain West or NCAA has some way to sanction to officiating crew.

HT: SB Nation for the Tweets above.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Do National Teams with More Big 5 European League Players Rank Higher with FIFA?

I was curious about the on-again, off-again debate over whether US players should try to play more in Europe as a way to improve the US men's national team. So I have created the graph above.

It shows on the X-axis the percent of minutes played by each national team of players who are with club team in the Big 5 European leagues, that is, the English Premier League, the Spanish Liga, the Italian Seria A, the German Bundesliga and the French Ligue . Data comes from Figure 11 here, courtesy CIES. The Y-axis shows the current FIFA ranking, courtesy FIFA.

The red line shows the least squares fit, and in the upper left is the line's equation, showing an r-squared of about 0.25. The relationship is not particularly strong, but there is an apparent relationship.

Perhaps more interesting? The USA (highlighted by the blue dot at about coordinates 30%, 800), is right about on the trend line. So too is England at 100%, 1100.  Way above the trend line: Germany, Spain, Argentina, Belgium. Way below: Italy, France, Ivory Coast, Senegal.

I reckon there is a bit here for everyone. But it does look like the USA is right about you'd expect it to be given the minutes played among its national team players in the Big 5 leagues. There is also some evidence to suggest that having more players with more minutes would be beneficial, but much more matters than just Big 5 minutes. (And yes it'd be nice to have this same data minus goalies.)


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

More Contradictions from Dick Pound

Richard "Dick" Pound is a giant in the international sports movement. He has been outspoken, at times, and has led numerous investigations into sporting corruption, including the Olympic bidding scandal of the 1990s and most recently into the corruption in the IAAF. Sport is invariably better for his long term service.

But at the same time, Pound's recent statements related to IAAF are puzzling, not least because what he is saying in interviews is directly contradictory to the WADA  Independent Commission reports on the IAAF that he recently led. An interview published today with Athletics Illustrated raises all sorts of questions. (Last week Ross Tucker @scienceofsport and I explored another, more technical, angle to the contradictions.)

In that AI interview Pound states:
“It cannot seriously be suggested that members of the IAAF Council were aware of the special arrangements with Russia that were entered into by the IAAF president and his inner circle.”
Yet, WADA IC Report #1 finds exactly that. Valentin Balakhnichev, the IAAF Treasurer, and thus member of the IAAF Council, from 2011 to 2014 (when he resigned, following the ARD documentary that aired claims of corruption) was at the center of the Russian doping cover-up and extortion of athletes.

Perhaps then Pound was referring to other members of the IAAF Council?

WADA IC Report #2 suggests that more than one person one the Council had knowledge of funny business going on in IAAF:
"At least some of the members of the IAAF Council could not have been unaware of the extent of doping in Athletics and the non-enforcement of applicable antidoping rules ... The IAAF Council could not have been unaware of the level of nepotism that operated within the IAAF."
In his Athletics Illustrated interview, Pound refers to knowledge of doping among the Council, but neglects to mention the alleged knowledge of nepotism and the laxity of rules enforcement:
"What the IC did note was that members would have been aware that there was a serious doping problem in Russia (plus in other countries).”
 The WADA IC Report #2 goes even further, saying that "far more" IAAF staff were aware:
"It is increasingly clear that far more IAAF staff knew about the problems than has currently been acknowledged. It is not credible that elected officials were unaware of the situation affecting (for purposes of the IC mandate) athletics in Russia. If, therefore, the circle of knowledge was so extensive, why was nothing done? Quite obviously, there was no appetite on the part of the IAAF to challenge Russia."
Pound completely undercuts this particular finding of the report when he tells Athletics Illustrated that the IAAF should be excused not not having acted - thus answering the question posed above by the WADA IC Report -- because nothing could have been done:
“I think there was probably a general awareness that there was a lot of doping going on in Russia (among other countries), but there was an absence of proof to enable sanctions to be imposed, other than positive tests, of which there were many. You cannot suspend a country on the basis of suspicion, even strong suspicion. Even the IC would have been essentially powerless, but for the whistleblowers and confidential witnesses.  We had documents and we were in the fortunate position that one of the whistleblowers was the victim of the extortion scheme. Without that evidence, we would have been in the he said – she said conundrum, in which everything would have been met with flat denials."
Say what?!
  • Pound's WADA IC: "Quite obviously, there was no appetite on the part of the IAAF to challenge Russia"
  • Pound's AI interview: "there was an absence of proof to enable sanctions to be imposed [by IAAF]"
Does. Not. Compute.

Pound introduces even more contradictions when he claims that the IC reports did not identify individuals responsible, but rather found that mistakes were made:
“In the IC Report, you will see that no individual “blame” was attached to any individual member of the IAAF Council.  We found that there was an institutional failure to ensure that principles of good governance were in place and that this failure contributed to the problems the IC was mandated to investigate.”
This too is contradicted by the WADA IC Report #2:
"While acknowledging the cooperation received from within the IAAF administration in connection with its investigation, the IC cannot refrain from observing a tendency on the part of the administration to attempt to sever the corruption from the IAAF itself. The fact of the matter is that individuals at the very top of the IAAF were implicated in conduct that reflects on the organization itself (as well as on the particular individuals involved)."
Pound ends his Athletics Illustrated interview with another full scale defense of Sebastian Coe, explaining that the fact that Coe was duly elected by the IAAF means that the media should leave him alone: "The IAAF has had its election.  It has chosen its officers and Council.  Now they should be given a chance to do the right thing.  I fully agree that anyone is entitled to suggest what that “right thing” might be, but I do not agree that this includes attempting to nullify the outcomes of properly constituted elections."

Of course, using that logic, Sepp Blatter would still be running FIFA.

 It's not at all clear to me what is going on here. What is clear is that Dick Pound, the decorated senior statesman of international sport, is up to his ears in contradictions and now finds himself as the most vocal champion of an institution that he has found to be corrupt, unaccountable and suffering from poor governance.

If you figure why this is so, let me know, will you? (Here is one interesting attempt to answer this question.)