Monday, 11 October 2021

Award Winning Paper!!!

We were delighted to win the prestigious "best development paper" of the 'Management & Business History' track at the 2021 British Academy of Management (BAM) Annual Conference.

We presented our paper 'Evolution of Public Services: UK Leisure Centres in the Late 20th Century' which built upon the presentation given to the University of Reading ROSES seminar series in August.

We hope to develop this paper into a chapter for publication in a forthcoming book about the evolution of public services, to be published by Emerald in the 'frontiers of management history' book series.

ROSES: Evolution of UK Leisure Centres in the 20th Century

On 20th August we co-presented a presentation to University of Reading's ROSES (Reading Online Sports Economics Seminars) on the development of leisure centres in the UK in the mid/late 20th century.

We really enjoyed doing the talk and are very grateful to Professor James Reade and the Department of Economics at University if Reading. We are also very grateful to everyone who attended or who emailed us with comments and questions.

ROSES is a fantastic weekly seminar series and we urge you to attend their online Friday afternoon seminars if you get the opportunity.

Here is a weblink to a recording of the seminar for those who wish to view it:

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Olympic Soccer is Kicking Off!

Today the first games of the Olympic Soccer Tournament are taking place across Japan. Postponed since 2020 it feels a huge relief that they are actually here, and from a spectator point of view, so hot on the heals of the regional championships (from our European perspective, the UEFA Euros) it feels like a summer feast of football.

Rather than individual Home Nations, for the second time ever there is a combined Team GB for women's game, although there will be no men's team. 

Team GB had a great start at 8.30am this morning (GMT) beating Chile 2-0. 

Elsewhere Australia beat neighbours New Zealand 2-1, Netherlands won 10-3 (yes ten-three!!!!!) versus Zambia, but most surprisingly of all Sweden won against the USA by a clear 3-0 margin. That the USA lost is a slight surprise, but for Sweden to do so in such a confident manner was not predicted.

Team GB next play on Saturday 24th July  in a big game against hosts Japan, before completing the group stage next Tuesday 27th July.

Historically, The USA won inaugural Olympic Gold for women's soccer and have tended to dominate it ever since. But the Olympic Football tournament more broadly dates back to 1900 when an Amateur Great British mens team won Gold, and in fact won it again in two out of the next three editions (the exception being 1904). So, Great Britain does have genuine Olympic Gold heritage. 

So, after 109 years of hurt, it's time that gold came home! Come on Team GB!

Olympic Gold: Feeling Homesick?

FACTOID: Why no men's team in 2012? The BBC website perhaps articulates it best:

"In 2012, when London was hosting, Team GB put forward a men's team for the first time. But subsequent attempts to re-form in 2016 were shelved after the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations didn't back the plans and they haven't been tried again. Because of England's failure to get out of the groups at the Under-21 Euros, Team GB wouldn't have qualified anyway."

Euro 2020(2021) Predictions: How did we do? How did we compare?

We are very pleased to present our full technical report, which includes a detailed summary of our predictions of the UEFA Euro Championship 2020 (held in 2021).

We conclude that the tournament was exciting and also somewhat unpredictable, and compare our own predictions with those of other publicised predictions and scenarios including Daily Mirror and University of Reading.

The full report can be found here

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Euro 2021 Round of 16: England Prevail but Brave Wales Stumble

Of the British Home Nations, valiant Scotland fell at the Group Stage, meaning that only England and Wales progressed to the Round of 16.

Predicting the results, Alex was not very confident of Wales nor England's chances, predicting the Welsh exit (although underestimating Danish firepower) but not calling England's rare win over Germany.

Kevin believed Wales would beat Denmark after a penalty shoot-out, but also predicting that Germany would prevail of England after yet another shoot-out.

The dice correctly predicted a Wales defeat and an England victory, as well as some high-scoring games.

Overall, Alex and Kevin both correctly predicted 2 correct outcomes but no correct shorelines. The dice however got an amazing 5 correct outcomes and even 1 exactly correct scoreline, bizarrely predicting the eight-goal thriller between Croatia and Spain, we did not see that one coming.

So, we conclude that this was a chaotic and seemingly random set of results but very entertaining. Roll on the Quarter-finals...





Actual Score

Wales v Denmark



(Wales win on pens)



Italy v Austria






Netherlands v Czech Rep



(Neths win on pens)

0-0  score 

 5-3 after extra time


Belgium v Portugal






Croatia v Spain






France v Switzerland







England v Germany


1-1 (Germany win on pens)



Sweden v Ukraine


(sweden win on penalties)




Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Written Evidence for DCMS Committee Inquiry on Major Cultural and Sporting Events

We have had a short report included within the Digital, Media, Culture and Sport Committee's inquiry on major cultural and sporting events.

In the report we provide evidence based on our extensive research of global sporting mega-events such as the Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup, and England's (as well as UK's broader) experience as hosts.

Our particular report can be downloaded as a pdf file here or viewed as html here

We are thrilled to have been included within the small group of experts whose reports were chosen to be included within the evidence base.

The inquiry examines the role of major cultural and sporting events in celebrating the UK’s national identity. Several events of international importance are due to be hosted in the UK in 2022, prompting this inquiry by MPs. 

The inquiry considers the challenges in the road ahead to the Festival UK* 2022, the start of the FIFA World Cup 2030 bidding process and the Commonwealth Games, among others. 

A key focus will be how the Government is using these events as opportunities to define what the UK means to both its citizens and the rest of the world. 

The Committee sought views on what is needed for these events to bring together the people and values of all four nations of the UK and the kind of impact they should aim to achieve. 

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

York Festival of Ideas 2021: The Soccer Mad Boffins & Keith Hackett

We at SOCCERMADBOFFINS were delighted to participate again in the University of York Festival of Ideas.

Firstly, we hosted an online "ask the experts" session about 'The business of professional football' with the recent aborted idea of a European Super League the liveliest subject. We received many great questions and it was even suggested to us that we could take the event on tour!

Our main contribution, and one of THE key events of the entire festival, was hosting a presentation and conversation session with former high-profile FIFA listed football referee Keith Hackett about football's historic roots in Yorkshire, the evolution of the laws of the game, and personal reflections on his career and on football refereeing today.

The event with Keith entitled "Rules of the Game: On and off the pitch" is now available on YouTube, and can be viewed below.

Towards the end of the session we had so many questions from the audience that we ran out of time to include them all. Keith very kindly agreed to answer each question via email and that is included below the video (if it says 'video unavailable' just click on black box and it will direct you straight to it on Youtube):

Extra Q&A Questions:

We are rated as a very vocal group of fans and as such put a huge amount of pressure on referees so are there any plans to improve mental health in referees not just physical health?

KH: "When I took over the management of the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd, I introduced top Sports Psychologist Prof Craig Mahoney. He was superb working with the group of professional referees in group and face to face individual sessions. 

He sat in the Technical Area at some of the games in order to get a clear understanding of the pressures on match officials.  He looked at how he could help with reducing the pressure on match officials. One aspect was stadium familiarity so we appointed new officials onto the list to fourth official duty before sending them to referee.

He improved their interpersonal and communication skills. Body language and enhancing their ‘presence’ on the field of play.  Goal and target setting, keeping a diary and many other aspects, Prof Ian Maynard from Sheffield Hallam University then took over the role."

Referees never stop during a game, what is the physical training like? Do they train as players to keep up?

KH: "Referees in a Premier League game will on average cover a distance of 11500 meters in a game. A minimum of 1000 meters is at a speed of 7 meters per second. 

I employed two full time Sports Scientist. The first was Prof Matt Weston who embarked on a strategy of creating a lifestyle change in our match officials. He would issue various training schedules usually four a week taking into account games over the weekend and mid-week. High intensity, Recovery, etc. We also introduced pre-game warm ups for referees in order to avoid injury.  The second Sports Scientist would concentrate on CORE again to reduce injuries.

Incidentally I provided match officials with Polar Heart Monitors so that each of these training sessions was recorded and then downloaded after each session to the Sports Scientist.

Prozone recorded the movement profiles of the referees and I showed that slide in my presentation."

What have been the most physically challenging games that you have been involved with?

KH: "In the early eighties I was appointed to the FIFA U23 World Cup which tool place in Mexico. 
I officiated in Guadalajara USA V Russia, In Lyon. Holland V Brazil and at 5000 – 7000 feet above sea level 
These games were physically demanding. We were amateur referees with no guidance on the appropriate training sessions etc.

I also officiated many FA Challenge cup semi finals which were usually played at high intensity speed levels,

Many physical encounters including the Battle of Old Trafford where a twenty one men brawl took place. Both teams were deducted points the first and only time that this has happened.
With a very high pitvhed whistle been used by a traffic cop. This event took place on Day 2 of the UEFA Euro Championship. Having officiated in the opening fixture of the Euros yourself, what are your memories, what does the pressure feel like and how did you prepare?

I was appointed to the opening game of Euro 88 West Germany v Italy and flew into Dusseldorf with my two linesmen (Asst Refs) both FIFA International referees Neil Midgley and Brian Hill, Our preparation was to officiate three Football League games together. We then flew into Dusseldorf two days before the game, officiated the match and then returned home.

No training camps, no debate on our perforances. We also were made aware that we would only be officiating one game.

Danny Makkelie the 2020 opening game Italy v Turkey referee will have attended several training camps and along with eighteen other referees and twenty two VAR operators are based in Nyon, Geneva, they will be reviewing games, and been trained daily with the aid of Sports Scientists."

Have you ever lost the pea from your whistle?

KH: "I started off using an ACME THUNDERER WHISTLE but prior to officiating Inter Milan I was doing some sight seeing in the City centre and was taken aback with a very high pitched whistle that she was using. I made enquires and learned that it was an Italian Balilla whistle we then approached the officer in the centre of the road and my interpreter arranged for me to acquire one after he visited the local police station.I used this for the rest of my career.
Most Premier League referees now use a pealess FOX 40."

You spent some time officiating in the NASL. The NASL is known for having introduced some 'local' laws and presentational aspects to the game. These appear to have been partly down to practical situation (i.e., playing on narrow fields originally designed for American Football) and some to do with the expectations of the US sports consumer and advertisers, i.e., not keen on the idea of a 0-0 draw. What are your memories and reflections of that time? 

KH: "In 1981 I was invited to referee on the NORTH AMERICAN SOCCER LEAGUE which I readily accepted knowing that the experience of refereeing 24 games in an eight-week period would accelerate my career.

My base was the famous Waldorf Astoria, New York City but within hours of landing and securing my green ticket I was handed a folder full of airline tickets: Tampa Bay Rowdies (Florida) Vancouver Whitecaps, New York Cosmos, Tulsa, Portland, San Jose, Chicago Sting were posted on the roster of the first sheet.

My referees kit was provided and typical of American sport on the back I had the number 8, Guest Referee, my first game was Rowdies v Fort Lauderdale. I was driven onto the field in a Police car and the speakers announced has I got out of the car that I was Guest Referee Keeeeeeith Haaaackett all the way from England.  I gave a wave and then stood at the centre of the field whilst both teams were introduced one by one as, they ran out onto the pitch. It went something like, “Playing number 10, with 15 goals and three Assists we have former England International and Rowdies favourite player Rodney Marsh." I had received instructions that during each half I had to arrange two one-minute stoppages so that television could play appropriate ad breaks. I learned quickly that when I was going to apply a stoppage I would run to a player on the ground and instruct him to stay on the ground, calling for the Physio to come on and treat. With my arms above my head a would cross them to inform the independent timekeeper to stop the clock for 60 seconds.  After the 60 seconds the television crew standing at the side of the pitch would give me the signal to say the 60 seconds was up. A strong whistle then got the game underway.

Some of the games were played in Baseball and American Football Stadiums with Chicago’s Wrigley Field and New York Cosmo Giants Stadium remembered with fondness.

I had different pieces of law that the Americans applied to their competition which were not supported by FIFA:


The penalty area front line was extended across to each touchline and offside could only be flagged in that part of the field of play.  I remain supportive of that because there appeared to be less offside decisions and more excitement has wingers often gained possession of the ball inside their own half of the field of play and made dashing runs down the wings.


The field markings had a line in each half 35 yards away from the goal line. A countdown clock would be positioned close to the starting point of the player taking the penalty kick, The goalkeeper was positioned on the goal line. When I blew the whistle the attacker started to run with the ball. The goalkeeper could now run off his line to defend his goal or even make a challenge for the ball. The player taking the kick had to get his shot off within 5 seconds. Interestingly I loved it and of course no game could end in a draw. When the MLS was formed they operated the same shoot out procedure but later withdrew it

There were of course a variety of International players from Europe and South America across most of the teams, I recall on one game heading for Giants Stadium stuck in traffic in Lincoln Tunnel. The cab driver recognised someone who was running with a pair of soccer boots in his hands. He wound down the window and shouted for the runner to get in the cab. It was Carlos Alberto the Brazil team captain who a few years earlier had lifted the famous World Cup Trophy. The cab driver explained that I was the ref for the game.

We shook hands, smiled and with a couple of hundred yards to get to the Stadium entrance I jumped out of the cab and walked the rest of the way. 

In that game I produced an early yellow card to the Cosmo number nine who responded by shouting and standing like a Toreador, “Do you know who I am, no I said, but I do need your name, I am the famous GEORGIO CHINAGLIA.” He was not happy and uttered a few swear words has he walked away. 

After the game he came to my dressing room and I was expecting him to have a go at me. To my amazement he asked if I would give him my yellow card. I handed it over and he shouted “You crazy Englishmen, no one shows Georgio a yellow card. Playing that day alongside Carlos Alberto was Franz Beckenbaur and Julio Cesar Romero. Paraguay International.."

Thank you Keith for giving the talk and for taking the time to answer these questions