In my book, in a chapter on analytics, I wrote that: “what passes for debate between football fans is often just an elaborate parlour game in which grown men take turns to name football players they may have seen play once or twice and say if they are good or bad.”

But it’s not just fans who fall into the trap of logical errors and poor reasoning. I think there’s an argument to be made that football generally is riddled with sloppy thinking. To explore this, I thought I’d try to identify fallacies and biases that are common in football discourse. As I have time, the number will grow…

#1 The Chairman’s Fallacy

1 Chairman

THE CHAIRMAN’S FALLACY: the belief common to all club chairmen that it is possible for their team to finish at least one place higher each year. AKA The Lake Wobegon effect. #FootballFallacies

#2 The League Cup Fallacy

2 League Cup

THE LEAGUE CUP FALLACY: the belief that something you experienced yourself is representative of the true picture. AKA The anecdotal fallacy. #FootballFallacies

#3 The Legend Comes Home Effect

3 Legend

THE LEGEND COMES HOME EFFECT: the belief that someone who was a successful and popular player for a club would make a good manager. AKA The IKEA effect. #FootballFallacies

#4 The Laptop Fallacy

4 Laptop

THE LAPTOP FALLACY: dismissing the value of football analytics by claiming it seeks to replace all human judgment in sport. AKA The straw man fallacy. #FootballFallacies

#5 The Pundit Fallacy

5 Pundit

THE PUNDIT FALLACY: assuming that because you don’t understand something, it must be wrong. AKA the appeal from incredulity. #FootballFallacies

#6 The Great Player Effect

6 Great

THE GREAT PLAYER EFFECT: falsely assuming that because someone was a great player, they are more likely to be right about something. AKA The appeal to accomplishment. #FootballFallacies

#7 The Out Of His Depth Fallacy

7 Out

THE OUT OF HIS DEPTH FALLACY: the tendency of fans to recall a sacked manager’s worst moments and ignore his best. AKA the negativity bias. #FootballFallacies

#8 The Lying Table Effect

8 Lying

THE LYING TABLE EFFECT: the unshakable belief in a sacked manager that he did the right things despite the outcome. AKA Choice-supportive bias. #FootballFallacies

#9 The Alan Hansen Fallacy

9 Hansen

THE ALAN HANSEN FALLACY: the belief that because something hasn’t been done before it can’t be done. AKA The argument from ignorance. #FootballFallacies

#10 The Feeling On The Terraces Fallacy

10 Terraces

THE FEELING ON THE TERRACES FALLACY: lots of people believe it so it must be true. AKA Argumentum ad populum. #FootballFallacies

#11 The Brief Honeymoon Fallacy

11 Brief

THE BRIEF HONEYMOON FALLACY: fans and chairmen consistently underestimating how long things are going to take. AKA The planning fallacy. #FootballFallacies

#12 The One Cap Wonder Effect

12 Sven

THE ONE CAP WONDER FALLACY: the willingness of managers, fans and pundits to generalise from a few games. AKA The small sample size fallacy. #FootballFallacies


Martin Calladine

If you enjoyed this, please buy my book “The Ugly Game: How Football Lost Its Magic And What It Could Learn From The NFL”. That way I’ll have the money to write more things you might like. Oh, and please spread the word, too. Thanks a lot.


One thought on “#FootballFallacies

  1. Pingback: “He’s taken us as far as he can.” | The Ugly Game

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