Predicting outcomes in Australian rules football

Ryall, R 2011, Predicting outcomes in Australian rules football, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Predicting outcomes in Australian rules football
Author(s) Ryall, R
Year 2011
Abstract The primary aim of this dissertation was to utilise mathematical models and computer programming techniques to provide further insight in relation to predicting outcomes in Australian Rules football (AFL). This thesis comprises a collection of research problems relating to home advantage, match prediction and the efficiency of betting markets in AFL.

Firstly, a new paradigm was proposed for predicting home advantage in AFL by separately evaluating a number of psychological (crowd intimidation), physiological (travel fatigue) and tactical (ground familiarity) factors. This novel method for quantifying home advantage was utilised for match prediction using a variant of the Elo ratings system. These predictions were applied to betting markets to see if consistent profits were attainable using betting strategies based around the Kelly criterion. Due to a severe lack of accessible in-play betting data, a computer program was developed using the programming language Perl to integrate with the Betfair Application Programming Interface (API) to automatically record in-play betting data for AFL matches. This information was updated in a MySQL database which could then be easily exported as a CSV file for manipulation in Excel. The in-play betting data was transformed to provide a visual representation of who is going to win the match and with what level of certainty. Tests of semi-strong efficiency were performed on the in-play betting data for the 2009 AFL season using logistic regression to see whether teams with certain characteristics are underbet or overbet relative to their chances of winning. A real time prediction model was developed using a Generalised Logistic Model which accounts for the interdependence, if any, between team quality and score difference as the match progresses. These predictions were applied to in-play betting markets to see if consistent profits were attainable using betting strategies based around the Kelly criterion. If home advantage in AFL is comprised of a combination of psychological, physiological and tactical factors then it’s plausible that home advantage is dependent upon the current state of the game (score) since the crowd, for example, react to performance. Therefore, home advantage was modelled at various stages during the game to see the difference, if any, between home teams with certain pre-game characteristics (favourite/underdog) and in-game characteristics (ahead/behind).

Finally, a macro was written in Excel to automate the transformation of a mass of “live-streaming” performance data into a single web-based phases of play plot. Statistically, the plot provides an effective representation of the state of the game at any point in time, illustrating which team is playing a style of football highly correlated with winning. Graphically the plot is enhanced by adding images of a player’s guernsey when a goal is scored.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Mathematical and Geospatial Sciences
Keyword(s) AFL
sports predictions
home advantage
market efficiency
sport statistics
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Created: Fri, 13 Jun 2014, 15:41:52 EST by Lynne Johns
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