Monday, October 30, 2006

A challenge of another kind entirely...

Forecasting league attendances at Oldham has become reasonably simple - just below 5,000 is a good benchmark. However, the Association Members Trophy, now known as the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, poses another challenge altogether. This is because no-one really cares about the competition, and it doesn't provide interesting opposition as a rule, because the teams that participate are all from League One or below. Hence the best that could really be hoped for is Nottingham Forest. Oldham have drawn Chesterfield. Hardly glamorous, no offence to Chesterfield. I'm sure had they drawn Oldham at home they'd feel similarly indifferent. The dummy variable on these kind of cup matches suggests they knock something like 60% off the normal gate at a home game.

So from 5,000, that suggests there should be around 2,000, which sounds about right. However, estimating on data up to Saturday's pleasing 3-0 win over Brentford gives a forecast of 3,107, which is way too high. When Oldham made the semi-finals of this competition two seasons ago, the home game in the semi attracted only 2,881 people! However, that was probably because the club decided against offering substantial discounts for that game, which they will undoubtedly offer on Wednesday, and did in previous matches that season - the quarter final, against Tranmere, attracted over 4,000 people, while the second round match against non-league Accrington Stanley drew a crowd of 2,812.

Yet I still think 3,107 is far too high. Inserting dummy variables for a couple of outlying matches (Chasetown in the FA Cup last season, and Carlisle earlier this season), and inserting an intercept correction for the current season, provides a lower forecast of 2,675, which is better. Further, adding these dummies renders some other curious coefficients insignificant, and given their "wrong" sign, and plausible explanation (see paper), it seems sensible to get rid of them. These variables are a dummy for when the game falls on a Wednesday night, and the Days Since Last Home Game variable, which is the number of days since the last home game.

When got rid of, the forecast falls yet further into acceptably low territory: 2,504, and so this is the forecast I'm going with for the Chesterfield match.

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