It’s unlikely anyone reading this will have missed what occurred in the dying moments of the Watford v Leicester match over the weekend. I am, however, going to post the video for posterity:
In short, Leicester’s Anthony Knockaert dived to earn his team a penalty deep into injury time. He subsequently missed the penalty (and the follow up), and Watford immediately went on the counter attack, and scored – winning the tie as a result.
I want to get a handle on how much Knockaert’s dive was worth, assuming that it won a penalty (which it did). Prior to the penalty the tie looked likely to head to extra time, and then penalties if the teams were still level. I’m going to suggest that Leicester had a 45-55% chance of winning the tie had it gone into extra time* – but how was their probablility of promotion boosted by being awarded the penalty?
Knockaert had a 78% chance of scoring the penalty and had he done so I’d guess the chance of Leicester winning the tie was >98%
78% X 98% = ~76% chance Leicester score penalty and win tie
Of the 22% of the time where the penalty is missed the tie likely goes to extra time, where (as above) Leicester have a 45-55% chance of winning the tie anyway.
22% X 45-55% = ~10-12% chance Leicester miss the penalty and still win the tie
Total chance Leicester win tie after penalty awarded = 76% + 10-12% = 86-88%
Total chance Leicester win tie if no penalty awarded = 45-55%
So now Leicester make it to the playoff final. Obviously the penalty has no knock-on effect there – but lets stick with the rationale above and estimate that they win the final 45-55% of the time**. So at the time that Knockaert went down:
The chance Leicester win the final = chance they beat Watford X chance they win the final
Penalty not awarded: chance Leicester win final = 45-55% X 45-55% = 20-30%
Penalty awarded: chance Leicester win final = 86-88% X 45-55% = 39-48%
That’s quite the boost right there – but what is it worth in terms of increased revenue for Leicester City? According to this article from last season, promotion was worth about £150m in revenue to Hull City. (As so very rightly pointed out in that article £150m in revenue does not translate to £150m profit, a point that I think is oft overlooked by the MSM).
This number is likely to be on the low side because of the new improved TV deal the Premiership signed last year but lets be conservative and say that this number is in the ballpark of the revenue boost for a club promoted to the Premiership.
Penalty not awarded: Increase in Leicester’s revenue = £150m X 20-30% = £30-45m
Penalty awarded: Increase in Leicester’s revenue = £150m X 39-48% = £59-72m
Value of the penalty = £14-42m
Now I’m not suggesting that diving is a morally conscionable or justifiable act, but as a player in a match such as this the rewards are enormous and very clear. As a Premiership team your club can afford to compensate you far more handsomely than they could in the Championship, and by taking a tumble in that situation at that time in the match Knockaert significantly increased his chances of being on a Premiership team the following season. Furthermore there was little risk or downside – the largest punishment he can receive under the laws of the game is a booking, and I’d suggest even those are rare. Had he received one it would have been his first of the match and unlikely to harm his team down the road.
It’s easy for those of us watching the game to moralise and condemn acts such as these but very few of us are ever placed in the situation where a single morally dubious action could earn ourselves and our employers such a significant sum. Knockaert is 21, one injury away from being out of the game for good, and one Premiership contract away from being set for life. Though I can’t sympathise with what he did, and I’m glad the penalty was missed, I can certainly understand it.
*I didn’t watch the game but think it’s fair to suggest that the two teams were fairly equally matched – given their respective final league positions and the fact they were tied after 180 minutes of play. Furthermore there would only be 30 minutes to separate the teams, and penalty shoot-outs are a coin-flip, which would pull the odds closer to 50/50
**Feel free to quibble this number – I don’t think it changes my core argument though