Coincidence versus Causality: Fairy Tales and Foxes

Both in the sporting world and in my personal research world the conundrum of coincidence or causality has cropped up this month.

Coincidence being (according to google) “a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection” a notion regularly used to explain the illogical. Causality is (according to google) “the relationship between cause and effect” a principle leading most people in their creation of logic.

For example, Leicester City Football Club are one game away from winning the British Premier League this season, yet the scientific, media, betting and other odds were all stacked against them. Going into the 2015/16 football season the spotlight was on the traditional and established clubs, such as Manchester United, that were spending £250million plus on world leading players. This traditional spotlight is driven by the economic dominance of the league, TV rights deal being reported in February are now worth £8.3billion for the upcoming seasons. The league is driven by the logic of money, resources, and good old capitalist free market competition. However, Leicester, who finished just outside the relegation zone last season; then became embroiled in a preseason tour misconduct incident; and given the odds of 5000-1 to win the league in August of last year– are one win away from the title. Is it a coincidental fairy tale turnaround of their fortunes or can causality be found?

With this example, and the parameters of this blog, I cannot answer that question. Although I do hope academics in sport science, social sciences, history etc. consider the situation, as it is so extraordinary.


What I can do is apply this conundrum into my own research. This month as part of my studentship at the University of Worcester, I had to orally defend the proposal of my PhD. One of the main points being- what is the relevance and what will be the contribution or impact of your research. I am a qualitative researcher at the beginning of her career, so feeling slightly like Leicester City Football Club at the beginning of the 2015/16 season. I could aim and claim that I am going to win the premiership. But, in reality I do not know. There are logical ways of what I expect or plan to do. However, my fundamental standpoint on causality is that in sport and especially the social science side of sport there is no definable logic or expected outcome.

Yep, I am not a scientist and do not search for logic. I research in order to understand what has happened but cannot be logically explained. That is not very fashionable as articulated in this recent article on the pressures of academics. What I will end with, is a thank you to Leicester City Football Club, because in being the fairy tale club that wins the premiership this season it shakes up the status quo and logic driven structures. Plus is just great fun.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.