Professor Stephen Hawking unveils just how England can win the World Cup in Paddy Power stunt

By on Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Irish troublemakers Paddy Power unveiled its ‘pre-World Cup campaign’ at a packed London press conference at the Savoy hotel this morning.

Why was it packed? Well, the brilliant Professor Stephen Hawking was there on the bookies’ behalf to tell attendees just how England could win the upcoming World Cup – using SCIENCE. The campaign is called ‘Hawking Talking’:

PR agency Taylor Herring asked the theoretical physicist to lead a study ‘delving into the science of England’s World Cup performances’. His findings include the following points:

  • Temperature: Temperate climates are best. A 5⁰C rise in temperature is expected to reduce England’s chances of winning by 59%.
  • Altitude: England are twice as likely to win when playing below 500m above sea level.
  • Distance from home: England are 22% more likely to win when travelling short haul. Cultural differences and jet lag take their toll.
  • Kick-off: England are creatures of habit and their chances of winning could improve by a third when starting at 15.00 local time. The evening kick-off against Italy is bad news.
  • Formation: A confident 4-3-3 has a success rate of 58% compared to 48% when playing 4-4-2.
  • Shirt colour: Wear red. England’s success rate has been 20% higher in coloured shirts. Red makes teams feel more confident and can lead them to being perceived as more aggressive and dominant.
  • Nationality of referee: European referees give England the best chance of success. 63% of games are won with a European referee compared to 38% when the referee is from elsewhere.

Here’s the formula that answers the question ‘How can England win the World Cup?’. I know what you’re thinking… simplistic innit.

Paddy Power Stephen Hawking 2

The genius also considered how England could succeed in a penalty situation, using data from the 204 penalties taken during all 22 World Cup final penalty shootouts. Here are some key points:


  • Player position: Forwards have the best scoring record for penalty shootouts at 81%, but their teammates aren’t too far behind with midfielders scoring 67% and defenders scoring 65%.
  • Player’s hair type: Blondes and baldies have more fun. Fair-haired and balding players have a success rate of 84% and 71% compared to darker haired player who have 69% success.
  • Run up: There is only a 58% probability of scoring if your run-up is three steps or under.
  • Side footed: Place the ball with the side foot and you are 10% more likely to score than if you kick it with your laces.
  • Aim: 84% of penalties in the top corner go in. The highest percentage of any area.
  • Goalkeepers: They are 18% more likely to save the ball if they move from side to side.

Paddy Power Stephen Hawking

It’s likely many will feel aggrieved that British treasure Professor Hawking has agreed to be part of the PR campaign, but as with most Paddy Power stunts, that will only help it go further. Sure, the SCIENCE bit and scripting are PR-friendly, but the level of detail surprised me. Perhaps one of the safer and more detailed campaigns we’ve seen from the bookmakers. I look forward to seeing what else they have in store over the World Cup period.

Read more: Taylor Herring press release


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