Gery Geenens Department of Statistics University of New South Wales Location: Carslaw 173 Time: 2pm Friday, May 21, 2010 Title: Who deserved the 2008-2009 Belgian Football Champion title? A semiparametric answer Abstract: Football (/soccer/) is certainly the most popular sport in Belgium. In 2008-2009, the Belgian premier league, the so-called /Jupiler Pro League/, was made up of 18 teams, each having played others twice, home and away. Wins and draws earned 3 points and 1 point, respectively, 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 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 favorable to Anderlecht, an extraordinary playoff match was hastily organized to decide the championship, and Standard ended up winning, after plenty of twists and turns. That dramatic denouement keeps on sustaining the discussions among the large football-lover part of the Belgian population and lets open the interrogation: which team was really the best? The aim of this talk is to objectively investigate this question through statistical modeling. 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. Note that the semiparametric nature of our model grants it a great flexibility and allows to identify interesting and up to now ignored patterns in the above probabilities. Then, a large number of Monte-Carlo simulations are run, as if the season was replayed a large number of times, which permits the estimation of absolute probabilities of many events of possible interest. In particular, clear evidence about the team which really deserved the 2008-2009 Belgian football champion title appears.