A simple Bayesian procedure for forecasting the outcomes of the UEFA Champions League matches


  • Jean-Louis Foulley


This article presents a Bayesian implementation of a cumulative probit model to forecast the outcomes of the UEFA Champions League matches. The argument of the normal CDF involves a cut-off point, a home vs away playing effect and the difference in strength of the two competing teams. Team strength is assumed to follow a Gaussian distribution the expectation of which is expressed as a linear regression on an external rating of the team from eg. the UEFA Club Ranking (UEFACR) or the Football Club World Ranking (FCWR). Priors on these parameters are updated at the beginning of each season from their posterior distributions obtained at the end of the previous one. This allows making predictions of match results for each phase of the competition: group stage and knock-out. An application is presented for the 2013-2014 season. Adjustment based on the FCWR performs better than on UEFACR. Overall, using the former provides a net improvement of 24% and 23% in accuracy and Brier’s score over the control (zero prior expected difference between teams). A rating and ranking list of teams on their performance at this tournament and possibilities to include extra sources of information (expertise) into the model are also discussed.