Letters and Editor’s Note: 29/04/15

April has been a big month for The Set Pieces. We’ve seen some spectacular traffic across the board with Vox in the Box, Pieces of Hate and Alex Stewart’s Football Manager meets Moneyball proving particularly popular. Thanks to your links and retweets, we’re already hitting targets we weren’t expecting to hit for several months. But so were Aston Villa back in August and look what happened to them. We have no intention of resting on our laurels now. 

Last week, we were proud to host the Subbuteo Cup in association with Camden Brewery and it’s only the first of many competitions that we hope will prove far more engaging and interesting than emailing in boring answers to boring questions. Next month, we’ll have details of a competition that up to 128 of you can play at home. But you can only play if you subscribe to the newsletter, so be sure to sign up here



Always feel free to tell us what you think of our output, even if you don’t like it. Being sworn at by strangers who type in capital letters is the only way we learn. 

Iain Macintosh



Dear Sir,

While ticket pricing is clearly a very emotive subject, it could be argued (from a business/economics perspective) that the price of football tickets has actually been kept “artificially” low in recent years.

While this might strike a number of supporters as an absurd claim to make, the intuition underlying it is, in fact, quite simple.  To see this, first note that football clubs are, for all intents and purposes, businesses – they earn revenue, incur costs, pay taxes, file company accounts etc (and, importantly, if they are sufficiently unprofitable, they cease trading).

As such, football clubs have an incentive to maximise their profits (whether that incentive be derived from a need to satisfy shareholders or provide funds for future investments in playing staff) – one of the ways they can do this is to maximise their matchday revenues, the main component of which is gate receipts.

Hence, football clubs have a strong incentive to ensure the revenues they obtain from ticket prices are maximised.  Given that clubs are capacity constrained there are only a limited number of tickets available for sale.  Therefore, the point at which ticket revenues are maximised is that at which just enough and no more people want to purchase a ticket to attend the match (since at that point a decrease in prices would not result in selling more tickets, and an increase in price would lead to fewer tickets being sold).

However, the majority of Premier League clubs regularly sell out on matchdays and, most importantly, there is excess demand in the sense that there are waiting lists for season (and other) tickets.  In other words, clubs are charging a price that is lower than they would otherwise charge in order to maximise short-run profits – in this sense, there is an argument to be made that ticket prices have been kept “artificially” low.

Note, on the other hand, that the above argument refers only to the maximisation of short-run profits.  It is entirely possible that were clubs to just maximise short-run profits then their long-run profits would suffer. To see this, note that many match attendees bring their families and encourage their families to support the same club, thereby creating an inter-generational tradition of attending matches.  It is possible that those match attendees would be priced out from going to matches under a short-run revenue maximisation approach, and would be replaced by those with only a “passing interest” in a club, with this latter group not encouraging their families to support.  In this way, a club could lose support in the long-run, implying that the short-run maximisation of ticket prices might not be a sound long-run approach.

Having said that, the extent to which this trade-off between long-run and short-run revenue maximisation depends on a number of other factors such as any other methods of obtaining revenues and how they might be affected by such policies.  Nonetheless, those complaining about ticket prices being too high currently would do well to focus on substantiating their complaints making use of sound economic/business theories, rather than merely appealing to people’s emotions.



Picture the scene. You support a bang average Championship side, who aim to play out each season to an acceptable level of inertia. This is only possible by being well clear of the relegation zone by March. That means that there’s 10 games or so every season that are not only pointless but also generally quite tedious.

For some of those games, your manager chooses the normal right back. He’s steady, he’s average, and you know what he does. Excellent. For others, he uses a young pup, promoted from the Development Squad to prove his mettle. Results in these games are inconsistent, because nobody really cares by this point. Yet there is still a decision to be made, still a right back to be anointed. Heat maps can help here.

With two players in the same role, the direct comparison between the two can prove useful. Maybe the younger man goes forward a lot. He might not make many passes, and he might not beat many players, but he adds to the attack, his ‘extra man’ness means there’s an extra player for the opposition to worry about.

Maybe the older man never passes halfway. Again, there’s other ways of seeing what he does do, but an important aspect of heat maps is the empty space, too – it shows what he doesn’t do. Which do you want? The extra attacker, or the body always in defence? You can make that decision while the season peters out.

Sure, a defender will be largely defending, a striker will be largely going forward, but compare one striker to another in their heat maps, and you’ve got an easy to read plot of how they play their game. How useful could that be?

One heat map on its own is a nonsense. Compare players in the same position and it gives an immediate snapshot of what they do.

In other words; don’t hate the heat maps, hate their misuse.



Dear Sir

I have just come across the “Championship Manager 01/02 (Update)” article on The Set Pieces and I read with joy that a community is working so hard to keep such a cult game going. Of course, anyone who has followed The Set Pieces for any length of time will know that the Football Manager games are utterly mesmerising and not a complete waste of time at all.

However, I wanted to try and put a case forward for another version of the game, Championship Manger 00/01. The predecessor to the best CM of all time is my choice as game of games. A game I still play to this modern day. Now admittedly my first experiences of CM were with CM 01/02. I forced my mum to buy a box of cereal with the free demo disc when I was 11 and didn’t look back.

My first spell as manager with Port Vale was an unbridled success, a Division 2 title and subsequent seventh placed finish meant I proclaimed myself as the best young talent in the country. The demo expired after two seasons so I did the gallant thing and resigned.

Knowing it takes time to become a genius, Margate became my next stop, with a fifth placed finishand subsequent (cheat) move to Chelsea after getting slightly bored with mid-table conference battles. Retiring and popping up at the West Londoners, losing in a UEFA Cup was a great honour.

There were many fine hours on CM 01/02 in the time I played; 128 points with Boston United in Division 3, that elusive UEFA Cup victory with Leeds united and many a league title in the Football League (English leagues only eligible on the demo.) I was good at this game, and my rigid 4-4-2 formation was paying off. Mike Bassett would’ve been proud.

Eventually my transfer to CM 00/01 came, and the rewards were spectacular. A World Cup with Netherlands and MLS title with Tampa Bay Mutiny were my highlights, along with editing Omagh with £200 million and a foreign owner. I learnt my lesson, however, when I was surprised to find millions on players and a £20m dividend, coupled with a tiny stadium and attendances meant within five seasons we had no money left.

A year’s sabbatical thanks to GCSE’s passed and I finally hit my stride. What followed was two years of intense play (and some A-Levels) before finally ditching the game through sheer burn out and university in the summer of 2008. By the time I ‘retired’ I’d amassed 300 trophies, which won’t compare to someone who plays it properly but remains something I’m proud of in my gaming CV.

But nothing can take the passion away, and desperation to play the game continues until I finally gave in on the summer of 2013, with several more spells with the big boys of Europe before finally putting my copy of the game down over a year ago. It’s something I’m slightly apprehensive of now. If I fire up that game again I’ll never get anything done.

As the updates to the database on 01/02 suggest, playing CM 00/01 is slightly dampened by knowing that Zlatan Ibrahimovic isn’t 19 anymore, and seeing Peter Taylor listed as manager of my club at the start of the game is never fun, but it’s romantic, it’s my childhood, and I’m still bloody good at it all these years later with my 2-1-3-1-3 formation.

Ian Cockerill

ED’S NOTE: And I thought *I* had it bad. 

You can write to The Set Pieces about anything you like. It doesn’t even have to be about football. Just email: [email protected] 

Letters and Editor’s Note: 29/04/15
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