The Charles Reep and Bernard Benjamin Paper 50 Years On (1)

It is 50 years since a paper written by C. Reep and B. Benjamin appeared in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A (General) Vol. 131, No. 4 (1968), pp. 581-585. The paper was titled ‘Skill and Chance in Association Football‘.

The paper was five pages in length, contained four tables and had no references to other texts.

I aim to write a number of posts to celebrate its 50th anniversary of publication. In this post, I focus on the second author B. Benjamin.

B. Benjamin is Bernard Benjamin. I have provided some biographical information about him in another post.

His presence as a co-author of the paper gave the paper substantial gravitas. It was published in a Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Seven years after the publication of the paper, Bernard received the gold medal from the Institute of Actuaries. The presentation address was given by the President of the Institute, Gordon Bayley.

In that address it was noted that Bernard had published papers that covered medical, statistical, demographic studies, computer usage and operational research in a range of journals that included the Journal of the Institute of Actuaries, the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, the Lancet and the British Medical Journal.

Bernard held positions as Chief Statistician in the General Register Office, Director of Statistics in the Ministry of Health, Director of Research and Intelligence of the Greater London Council and Director of Studies for Statistics at the Civil Service College. He was a President of the Institute of Actuaries, a President of the Royal Statistical Society and a Secretary-General of the International Union for Scientific Study of Population.

Bernard concluded his career as Professor of Actuarial Science at the City University, London. It was the first chair of Actuarial Science at an English University.

Bernard did write a second paper, ‘Skill and Chance in Ball Games‘, with Charles (and Richard Pollard) in 1971. He was President of the Royal Statistical Society when this second paper was published. He received the Society’s gold medal in 1986.

Photo Credit

The Queen presents the 1966 World Cup to England Captain, Bobby Moore (Daily Herald Archive, no known copyright restrictions)

Charles Reep: history and hagiography

Earlier this month, Simon Gleave included me in a conversation with Duncan Alexander about Charles Reep.

Duncan, in Outside the Box (2017), shares his discovery of a primary source in the discussion of Charles’ views on football. In 1962, Charles wrote an article for the World Sports magazine. The title of the article was ‘Are We Getting Too Clever?’

I read Duncan’s analysis of the article. It set me off thinking about how we account for the lives of others and address the biographical threads that each of us has in coming to know.

I happened upon Jonathan Wilson’s The Anatomy of England: A History in Ten Matches (2010) shortly after reading Duncan’s account. Jonathan refers to another primary source for Charles Reep’s work, an unpublished manuscript from 1973 titled League Championship Winning Soccer and the Random Effect: The Anatomy of Soccer under the Microscope.

My interest in Charles’ work is very personal. I met him and spent a day in his company at his home in Torpoint. Since that meeting I have been keen to contribute to the historical account of his work. I am trying to avoid a hagiography of his involvement in football.

I do think we have a lot to learn from acknowledging his work. He has stimulated enormous quantitative and qualitative discussions. I am particularly interested in his aesthetics of football performance and offering an alternative to demonographic accounts of his work.

I have just finished reading Eva Gillies’ (1976) introduction to E E Evans-Pritchard’s Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic among the Azande. In it, she observes:

…forty years after its publication, one cannot help feeling a trifle uncomfortable about the ethnographic present. After all, the fieldwork this book refers to was done in the late 1920s: what is described here is a world long vanished. (1976:i)

She adds a sentiment that I think might help our conversations about Charles:

It will, I hope, presently appear that it is a world still fresh and relevant to the modern anthropologist, as well as to the philosopher, and the historian of ideas. (1976:i)

She concludes:

Evans-Pritchard is, for the anthropologist of the 1970s, something much more than a revered ancestor: he is a colleague. Miraculously, he has made the Azande of half a century ago our own contemporaries as well as his … (1976:xxviii)

By coincidence, Charles’ analysis journey started a few years after Evans-Pritchard’s fieldwork in Africa.

I have been keen to embrace him as a colleague whilst understanding his fallibility respectfully. He has focused my attention on what constitutes a game of football, its technical and tactical aspects, and what constitutes success. He has done so by connecting with highly regarded statisticians and expounding his theories to a variety of audiences.

Photo Credit

 A Football Pink report of the Swindon Town v Bristol Rovers game, played on Saturday, 18 March 1950.


Shots and Goals: Quality, Expectations and Context (2)

I mentioned earlier this week that I have been working on a shot quality and expected goals project.

I have finished a first draft of a bibliography. Link.

I am mindful that this is not a complete bibliography. Many of the references were acquired through recommendations in the literature I had found. I hope that in this open document there can be ongoing inclusion of references.

My summary of these references extends the bibliography. Link.

As I was writing the summary, I found myself asking what Charles Reep would think about this work.

I have compiled some information about the data he collected. Link.

This is my secondary analysis of some of the data shared by Charles Reep and Bernard Benjamin in their 1968 paper.

1953-1954 Wolverhampton Wanderers

First Division Champions. Won 25, Drew 7 and lost 10. Goals for 96, goals against 56, goal average 1.71.

Sheffield Wednesday 1955-1956

Sheffield Wednesday were Champions of the Second Division. Won 21, drew 13 and lost 8. Goals for 101, goals against 62, goal average 1.63.

Sheffield Wednesday 1956-1957

14th in the First Division.  Won 16, drew 6 and lost 20. Goals for 82, goals against 88, goal average 0.93.

Sheffield Wednesday 1957-1958

Sheffield Wednesday finished in 22nd in the League and were relegated. The only team not to win away from home all season. Won 12, drew 7 and lost 23. Goals for 69, goals against 92, goal average 0.75.

Tottenham Hotspur 1960-1961

First Division Champions. Won 31, Drew 4 and lost 7. Goals for 115, goals against 55, goal average 2.09.

Tottenham Hotspur 1961-1962

Third in First Division. Won 21, Drew 10 and lost 11. Goals for 88, goals against 69, goal average 1.28.

Arsenal 1961-1962

Arsenal finished 10th in the League. At home 9 wins, 6 draws, 6 defeats, goals for 39, goals against 31. Away games 7 wins, 5 draws, 9 defeats, goals for 32, goals against 41, goal average 0.99.

Burnley 1961-1962

Second in First Division. Won 21, Drew 11 and lost 10. Goals for 101, goals against 67, goal average 1.51.

Coventry City 1962-1963

4th in the Third Division. Won 18, Drew 17 and lost 11. Goals for 83, goals against 69, goal average 1.20.

Tottenham Hotspur 1962-1963

Second in First Division. Won 23, Drew 9 and lost 10. Goals for 111, goals against 62, goal average 1.79.

The 1968 paper uses data gathered by hand notation in 578 matches from 1953 to 1967.

Photo Credit

Untended Goal (gfpeck, CC BY-ND 2.0)