What alt-3 is, and why it exists

On this page:

More informative football league tables

The alternative league tables presented here at alt-3.uk use a mathematically principled method, which ranks teams during the season in such a way that the strength of each team's opponents to date is taken properly into account (as well as each team's number of matches played, at home and away).

The key to the method's success is to extend the well known Bradley-Terry model in a way that is tailored specifically to the 3–1–0 points system, so that any difference between the alternative league table and the 'usual' league table is due entirely to the haphazard differences among teams' playing schedules. Such differences are of three main kinds:

  • differences in the number of matches played;
  • differences in the proportion of matches played at home;
  • and, most crucially, differences in the strength of opposition that each team has faced so far.

An alternative league table is not a prediction! The alt-3 table compares the performance of teams in the league season so far, in a coherent way that is designed to be more informative than the usual ('points in the bag') league table.

Who we are

The alt-3 methodology is the work of:

  • Professor David Firth, who works in the Department of Statistics at the University of Warwick, and also at the Alan Turing Institute in London.
    • Researcher in statistical methodology.
    • Fellow of the British Academy; awarded the Guy Medal in Silver by the Royal Statistical Society.
    • Published research includes development of the election-day exit-poll method that has been highly successful since its inception, and used jointly by BBC, ITV and Sky for their election-night coverage since 2005.
  • Dr Heather Turner, who is an international statistical consultant based in the UK, and an Associate Fellow of the Department of Statistics at the University of Warwick.
    • A board member of the R Foundation, and former Editor-in-Chief of the R Journal.
    • International recognition includes the prestigious John M Chambers Statistical Software Award of the American Statistical Association.
The alt-3 method emerged as a (pleasing, and unexpected!) by-product of our joint work on the widely used BradleyTerry2 software package, which forms part of a larger research project at the University of Warwick that was funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

This alt-3.uk website is maintained by David Firth. All other parties (including Heather Turner, The University of Warwick, and the EPSRC) bear no responsibility at all for its content.

Why the name 'alt-3'?

The alt part is for 'alt-3 league table'. But if you really can't get on with such a recursive definition, then you could think of it as either 'alternative league table' or 'adjusted league table'.

The 3 relates to the specific points system that's used in modern football leagues: three points for a win, and one point to each team for a draw (or tie).

The leagues included here

Our initial aim is to compute and display the alternative table, at least weekly during the playing season, for some of the most prominent national football leagues. If it turns out that there is substantial interest in what we're doing, we might consider including more leagues when time permits it.

A double link with Coventry!

There's a cute, double link with the City of Coventry in all this. The University of Warwick, where the research that underpins alt-3.uk was done, is located in Coventry. And the late Jimmy Hill, former BBC Match of the Day presenter who was instrumental in introducing three points for a win, was a highly successful Manager (i.e., Coach) — and, later, Managing Director — of Coventry City FC.