In praise of Wikpedia's football coverage

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 5 September 2009

When the English language version of Wikipedia recently passed the 3 million article mark with an entry about a Norwegian soap star, Andrew Keen was moved to tweet that he didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

But there are some things that Wikipedia does much better than any 'real' news organisation.

The European qualifying for next year's FIFA World Cup in South Africa includes some complicated maths about teams finishing second in their group qualifying for a play-off, but only if they are one of the top eight 'best runners up'. As the numbers of teams in the qualifying groups are uneven, this involves re-calculating the tables minus the results against the nation who finishes in last place.

The outcome of this dark and difficult formula will determine whether Northern Ireland or Scotland have a chance of ending up in the play-offs, yet the only place I've seen these runners-up put into an ongoing league table is Wikipedia. Not the official FIFA site. Not UEFA who govern European football. Not the web sites belonging to anyone broadcasting the matches. Not football associations. Not newspapers.

The only people who seem to be keeping tabs on which countries are actually above or below the crucial fold in this tournament are some unpaid volunteers on Wikipedia.

And this evening, they were pretty much keeping it up to date in real-time, as these two screengrabs reflecting the fortunes of the 'Home Nations' show.

Wikipedia table after the Scotland match

Wikipedia table after the Northern Ireland match

1 Comment

Yes I'm totally agree with you this is such a very complicated calculation for qualifying in world cup. But when I got the Wikipedia's fine stuff it become clear to me. And it is also true that apart from Wikipedia I didn't get any information about this from any other media.

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