Sunday, 6 January 2013

Gay Footballers: What are the Chances?

One of my favourite Radio 4 programme's is Tim Harford's More or Less. It takes a weekly look at some of the statistics and numbers in the news and explores the basis of these: often uncovering cases of these being misapplied or misrepresented.

Yesterday I listened to the 2012 "numbers of the year" edition in which various journalists, reporters and personalities chose a significant statistic and explained something about it.

Bill Edgar, Statistics in Football writer for the Times, and author of Back of the Net: 100 Golden Goals decided to look at the chances of there NOT having been a gay footballer in the English League since the last (and first) openly gay footballer (Justin Fashanu) ended his English career at Torquay, some 20 years ago next month.

Assuming that a) the proportion of gay footballers is similar to the percentage in broader society and b) that this percentage is a conservative 1.5%, the chance that there has been no gay players in the English League is...

Of the 13,600 players to have played in the League in the past 20 years, the chances of none of them being gay is (drum roll please)

1 in 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

In the Premier League, there have been 3,200 players in this period. The chances of picking 3,200 men at random from the general populace and not picking any gay ones is:

1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

The only recorded case of an active professional footballer being openly gay, anywhere, is the (Liverpool-born) Swede Anton Hysén (pictured) - you can read more about Hysén over on Stephen's blog. For more of More or Less, you can download the podcast.


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