Tag: football (page 1 of 2)

Proving endemic racism and sexism in the world of football

Anyone who follows football will perhaps be disappointed yet unsurprised that racism and sexism continue to be part of the beautiful game.

This study is clever in the way that it shows that those watching football matches use coded language and are biased against women. Hopefully, it will help all of us figure out better ways forward.

(I actually really enjoy watching women’s football with my family!)

The resulting paper, “Pace and Power: Removing unconscious bias from soccer broadcasts,” caused a stir when they presented it at last month’s New England Symposium on Statistics in Sports. Of the 47 sports fans who watched a two-minute clip of the World Cup TV broadcast, 70 percent said that Senegal, whose players were all Black, was “more athletic or quick.” But of 58 others who saw an animation of the same two minutes without knowing which teams they were watching, 62 percent picked Poland, whose players were all white, as the more athletic side.1 The physical advantages that supposedly defined the African team’s style of play disappeared as soon as their skin color did.

[…]

The athleticism flip-flop offers a new kind of evidence of a prejudice that affects how Black players of every nationality are perceived. For decades, researchers have documented media stereotypes of African players as “‘powerful,’ ‘big-thighed,’ ‘lithe of body,’ ‘big,’ ‘explosive,’ and like ‘lightning,’ attributes that were to be contrasted with ‘the know-how that England possess.’” As Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku, who is Black, told The New York Times, “It is never about my skill when I am compared to other strikers.” Now, for the first time, researchers have a way to isolate how race influences direct perceptions of the game.

Interestingly, they also looked at gender as well as race:

The study also examined attitudes toward gender by showing viewers a pair of two-minute clips, one from the American top-flight National Women’s Soccer League and another from League Two, the English men’s fourth tier. Even though the NWSL draws more fans to games, its average player earns about a quarter as much as the average player in League Two. Gregory and Pleuler were curious whether this “clear gender pay gap” could be explained by a difference in the quality of the soccer shown on TV, as some have argued.

People who watched the broadcasts said that the men’s game was “higher quality” by a 57 percent to 43 percent margin. Those who saw the renders with genderless stick figures preferred the women’s match, 59 percent to 41 percent. The results weren’t statistically significant across a small sample of 105 mostly male respondents, but Pleuler believes the line of research is promising. “I think these results are suggestive that your average soccer fan can’t tell the difference between something that does have a large investment level and the women’s game, which does not,” he said.

Source: Soccer Looks Different When You Can’t See Who’s Playing | FiveThirtyEight

Sports data and GDPR

This is really quite fascinating. The use of player data has absolutely exploded in the last decade, and that’s now being challenged from a GDPR (i.e. data privacy) point of view.

Some of it could be said to be reasonably innocuous, but when we get into the territory of players being compared against ‘expected goals’ things start to get tricky, I’d suggest.

Slade’s legal team said the fact players receive no payment for the unlicensed use of their data contravenes General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules that were strengthened in 2018.

Under Article 4 of the GDPR, “personal data” refers to a range or identifiable information, such as physical attributes, location data or physiological information.

BBC News understands that an initial 17 major betting, entertainment and data collection firms have been targeted, but Slade’s Global Sports Data and Technology Group has highlighted more than 150 targets it believes have misused data.

[…]

Former Wales international Dave Edwards, one the players behind the move, said it was a chance for players to take more control of the way information about them is used.

Having seen how data has become a staple part of the modern game, he believes players rights to how information about them is used should be at the forefront of any future use.

“The more I’ve looked into it and you see how our data is used, the amount of channels its passed through, all the different organisations which use it, I feel as a player we should have a say on who is allowed to use it,” he said.

Source: Footballers demand compensation over ‘data misuse’ | BBC News

On ‘sportswashing’

There has been a lot written and recorded already about Newcastle United, my geographically-closest Premier League football team, and the rival of the team I actually support (Sunderland).

I am certainly sympathetic to the idea that individual people should live their values. But there has to be a line drawn somewhere. For example, I really like the music of the artist Morrissey, yet I think some of his politics and other views are distasteful and problematic.

Likewise, when the sovereign wealth fund of a foreign power provides your football team with untold riches, why shouldn’t you celebrate? While I’d love to live in a world where fans own football clubs (see AFC Wimbledon) as the article points out, this purchase needs to be placed in a wider narrative around Brexit and widening inequalities in society.

St James Park, Newcastle

You might expect that this would be controversial in Newcastle. This is not any old country buying an English soccer club. It is a country run by the man the United States concluded to have ordered the dismembering of a journalist, a country conducting a brutal war in Yemen that is among the most barbarous in the world.

And yet, few in Newcastle seem to care. I mean, why should they? Their rivals in the English Premier League are already owned by some pretty unpleasant regimes or people: Manchester City is controlled by Abu Dhabi, and Chelsea by a Russian oligarch with ties to the Kremlin. What’s the point in turning down someone’s money if nobody else is? The fixer who facilitated the Saudi takeover has, incredibly, insisted that the Saudi state was not taking over Newcastle’s soccer club, but rather its sovereign wealth fund, which, the fixer said, genuinely cared about human rights. Both, of course, are run by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Beyond this cynical piece of performance art, however, the Newcastle United sale is emblematic of something far more fundamental and depressing about the state of Britain.

Source: Britain’s Distasteful Soccer Sellout | The Atlantic