Monday 12 September 2016

the Press Association and the National League


I suppose some of you know that the Press Association stopped providing shots on/off target data for the National League (Conference). As Joseph Buchdahl recently quoted on twitter, "PA has amended its collection agreement with the National League this season to a live goals, cards, corners and subs service. We are not collecting other match stats". In Joseph's one words, "Opta don't collect the data so that's the end of the match stats from the National League".

To those who don't know what Opta is, you can always check them out on Wikipedia, Google or whatever you use these days to check something out and go from there. In a few words, they analyze, store and distribute live sports data - for over 60,000 fixtures across 30 sports in 70 countries according to Wikipedia. Opta appointed the Press Association as the sole UK re-seller of rights to official soccer data from the English and Scottish leagues back in 2013 and, now that the original three-year agreement has come to an end, even though a new deal has been signed as soon as last summer, the things have obviously changed as far as non-league football is concerned.

Anyway, many clients have asked if the whole thing affects my work in any way. The truth is that it doesn't - as I'm focused on the National League only, I'm manually analyzing every single game myself. I've got nothing against publicly available numbers if they're the right ones, but I strongly believe that my edge comes from the data not visible at the first glance. A weak shot on target which would never in a million years fool the keeper simply can't be as important as a wonderful shot that goes inches away from the post, let alone more important.

I've noticed many mistakes in the PA National League data over the last few years and, even though they aren't providing shots on/off target data anymore, they're still making plenty of mistakes with their other National League data. The beginning of the season proved to be particularly challenging as there were mistakes in at least six of the twelve opening round data reports and, even though there were match days with a bit less mistakes, there's still way too many. Let's take match day six game between Macclesfield and Lincoln, for example. Macclesfield centre-back Byrne replaced fellow defender McCombe at half-time. Not mentioned in the PA report. There were actually three yellow cards for Macclesfield players and two for Lincoln players. Not a single yellow card according to the PA report. That happens from time to time unfortunately - the PA data report simply ignoring all yellow cards. Sometimes, though, it ignores some of the yellow cards and reports others, like in match day seven game between Wrexham and York. The PA reported no Wrexham cards and two yellow cards for York players. In reality, there were as many as six yellow cards - two for Wrexham players and four for York players - and one substitution has been ignored as well (McDonagh for Harrad in 86th minute).

If you're still looking for the shots on/off target data for the National League, you can always try and trust The Non-League Paper (which you'd have to subscribe to or buy to access the data), but I've noticed plenty of wrong numbers there as well - and they don't cover the midweek games as far as shots on/off target data is concerned, so you're back where you've started if you're looking for a consistent data source and not just an occasional one, for weekend games only. Also, there are some teams for which you can find shots on/off target data on a regular basis, midweek games included, but if you can get all the numbers for York and only some, recorded by The Non-League Paper reporter, for Braintree, you're once again right back where you've started - forced to either drop the National League from your betting/trading portfolio or quit your job(s) and focus on the National League only.

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