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Is Football Finally Coming Home? Lets Ask the Machines!

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Say hello to the new editor of Fear The Wall, GPT-J-6B

Ukraine v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Quarter-final Photo by Eddie Keogh - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

I like to think I’m relatively rational when it comes to assessing my team’s chances. I’m probably a little too optimistic, more often than not, but I’m not away with the fairies. Except when it comes to England. I go into every important game assuming the absolute worst. I expected England to lose to Germany, but they won 2-0, and I thought they would slip up against Ukraine, which they won 4-0. I can’t help but expect the worst against Denmark. My brain has been broken by years of disappointment.

So it’s no good me trying to work out whether we’re actually going to win anything. I simply can’t view it rationally. Instead, I turned to a rational observer, the machines!

I fed an autoregressive text generation model, GPT-J-6B (for more information on the model itself, check out this blog post by Aran Komatsuzaki), a text prompt about England’s progress in the tournament so far, for it to give us the definitive view on whether football is coming home.

The prompt was as follows:

English football fans have waited a long time to see their team win another major trophy, but maybe they won’t have to wait much longer? England will play Denmark in the European Championships semi final, having beaten Ukraine 4-0 on Saturday. Perhaps football is finally coming home.

And this is what our friend GPT-J-6B had to say:

Fulham FC manager, Roy Hodgson, claimed that his team were the best in Europe and the World Cup could be England’s best chance. “Fulham is a very hard place to come and play against,” said Hodgson. “It is very attractive.”

Football continues to be a game of great beauty, history and intrigue, and the beauty is in the game of football, it is in the speed of the ball, the silence of the pitch, the skill of the players, and a tremendous sense of theatre and romance, especially in old European stadiums.

Portugal v Holland, Russia v Sweden and England v Ukraine all pit the best in the world against the best. When the world’s best do battle it is the drama of sport in full flow. The fact that teams such as England, Germany and Spain have even had to battle it out to get to the last four says a lot about the strength of the competition and the rise of England’s once lowly status in world sport.

I wrote the following for the front cover of the ICFO Radio programme, What Sport For?, which was broadcast on BBC Radio London on 29 September 2006. I hope you like it.

How To Start A Football Club

How to start a football club in Britain and Europe has changed a lot since England, along with Scotland, won the World Cup for the first time in 1966. In 1966 you could buy a football club for half a million pounds. And half a million pounds in the 1960s is a fortune. Half a million pounds might buy a car today.

The idea that you can start a football club from scratch and within a couple of years be playing at the World Cup would be completely impossible in this day and age. And with the problem of football’s finances the half a million pounds you would need to buy the club might not be the sort of money that you have.

But that was 1966 and the game has moved on. Now it is all about marketing, of course. By marketing we mean producing a product that people want to buy. If we produce something people don’t want to buy then we lose money. And as long as football clubs keep producing products that people do want to buy and spend their money on then they will survive. The problem of course is that people always want more than we can produce. So we have to find a way to keep producing enough for people to buy it.

Which is where the government comes in.

A government can help you to start a football club and get it off the ground. They can give you money to buy players and the kit they wear, and maybe the stadium where you play matches. You can also borrow money from your bank. It is the government’s job to borrow the money on your behalf so you can spend it on the club.

It is also the government’s job to see that you repay the bank so you can have the money to spend on the club.

There is a legal problem with this.

In British football it is still a rule of thumb that you can’t buy a club and not repay the loan from the bank. Even the most famous modern day football club, Manchester United, had to pay back their money to the bank.

This is a problem.

The only way to change the law is to put it in the rules of the game. There are problems with this, because the people who run the game won’t let you change the rules. If they allow people to buy clubs and not repay loans then they would lose a lot of money and the people who run the game will let them do this.

Oh... Okay. Thanks, I guess?