It might seem like a matter of time before the NFL and London stop flirting and start going steady. Six NFL teams have flown across the Atlantic to play a football game this year — most recently, the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars, who squared off on Sunday in the third and final London game of the season. (Just as if they were playing on home soil, the Jaguars lost badly.) The league would have to inconvenience only two additional teams1A 16-game regular season would require eight visiting teams to travel to London. to host a franchise in London full-time.Most commentary on the possibility of a London NFL team has been skeptical. Bill Barnwell, of Grantland, worried last year about travel and timing logistics and the potential disadvantages a London franchise would face in recruiting free agents.My view is more optimistic, at least when it comes to whether a London team could find a sufficient fan base. I’m not sure a franchise in London would be a smashing success. But even given conservative assumptions, London’s huge population and revenue base are probably enough to outweigh the relatively low level of NFL interest there. Perhaps more important, in contrast to some U.S.-based candidates for expansion or relocation, a London team would not cannibalize much of the fan bases of existing NFL franchises.Still, if London got first dibs on a team, the NFL would be overlooking a couple of more obvious candidates much closer to home.Last year, I looked at the National Hockey League’s allocation of franchises, estimating the size of each market’s NHL fan base using the population of its metropolitan area and the number of Google searches for the term “NHL.” (The analysis concluded that the NHL is overextended into smaller U.S. markets while underserving Canadian fans.) Here, I’ll perform the same analysis for the NFL, comparing cities that already have a team to potential new markets in North America and Europe.As with the hockey analysis, I’ll assume the popularity of the NFL in a given market is proportional to the number of Google searches for NFL-related topics,2The distinction between Google search topics and search strings is explained here. Topics are more comprehensive — for instance, Google searches for both “NFL” and “National Football League” will be grouped under the same topic. However, I default the search string for the term “NFL” in countries where topic-level estimates are not available, adjusting them upward to account for the less comprehensive search coverage. as according to Google Trends. Google searches might not be a perfect measure of popularity but they correlate reasonably well with other measures of franchise success3In the NHL, for instance, our Google-based estimates of each team’s fan base correlated strongly with its profitability. and allow us to compare domestic and international markets by the same standard. The only ad-hoc adjustment I’ve made is to lump Green Bay together with Milwaukee for purposes of calculating the Packers’ fan base.Otherwise, this is pretty simple: We’re just multiplying a metro area’s population4Market sizes are drawn from the estimates of metro-area populations put together by Demographia earlier this year. In the past, I’ve preferred to use estimates based on TV market sizes, which are slightly more inclusive of outlying areas that have a cultural affinity with a particular metroplex. But these aren’t widely available outside the U.S. and Canada. by the volume of Google searches it conducts on NFL-related topics. The estimated number of fans in each market is calibrated to the U.S. national average of 28 percent of Americans who say they are “very interested” in the NFL. Our estimates of the number of NFL fans in the 30 existing NFL markets5There are 32 NFL teams, but the New York and San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose metro areas have two teams each. — and about two dozen plausible expansion destinations — follow6Google Trends data is less detailed in some other countries than it is in the U.S. For cities in Canada, Germany, Spain and Mexico, I use data taken from the state or province level rather than the metro area. For London, I use data from the city level rather than the metropolitan area.:In contrast to the NHL (or college football), the level of interest in the NFL is fairly consistent from place to place in the United States. There’s also relatively little difference between those markets that have an NFL franchise and those that don’t.In some ways, these are signs of the league’s success: The NFL has conquered Sunday afternoons in just about every nook and cranny of the United States. And it’s principally a television sport. In the NFL, it’s not quite as important where the franchises are located — so long as you can transmit a TV signal from there.But partly because of the NFL’s pervasiveness, it has run out of highly attractive American markets other than Los Angeles. (Other than that, Mr. Goodell, how was the play?) Even Los Angeles provides some evidence of the league’s saturation: NFL interest there is only mildly lower than the national average despite the city not having hosted a team since 1994. Let’s say, however, that the NFL comes to its senses and places a team in Los Angeles soon. Where else is there to go in the U.S.?Las Vegas has high levels of NFL avidity and ranks as the next-largest untapped U.S. market by the number of NFL fans. But given the NFL’s longstanding paranoia about associations with gambling, putting a team there would be as much of an adventure for the league as going to a foreign market.After this are a series of markets — Orlando, Florida; Sacramento, California; Virginia Beach, Virginia; San Antonio; Austin, Texas; and Columbus, Ohio — where a team would play in the shadow of a more established franchise: The San Francisco 49ers in the case of Sacramento, for instance, or the Dallas Cowboys in the case of San Antonio. We’ll seek to measure the effect of this in more detail later on. It’s not that these markets are necessarily any less NFL-worthy than, say, Nashville or Jacksonville. But they’d reshuffle existing fans around more than they’d allow the league to expand its footprint.The foreign markets are more intriguing. Let’s start with London.I estimate from the Google data that only about 4 percent of Londoners are NFL fans now. However, the city’s metro area has about 10 million people. That means it has about 400,000 NFL fans. That isn’t great, but it’s comparable to a few existing NFL markets (Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Kansas City) and slightly larger than a few others (Buffalo, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Nashville). A London franchise might be the equivalent of a “small-market” team — but it would hardly be a huge outlier.There are a number of reasons to think this underestimates London’s potential. London is wealthy, with a GDP per capita of somewhere around £37,000 ($60,000 at current exchange rates). That means higher ticket prices and more billionaires to buy the team when it goes up for sale. London is also among the most-visited cities by tourists in the world with about 15 million international visitors a year.7Assuming that the average tourist visit lasts three to four days, that means there are about 150,000 international tourists in London at any given time. That’s small compared to London’s baseline of 10 million permanent residents, but it’s a nice little bonus. And it doesn’t account for travel there from within the United Kingdom, which is also significant.More important, our estimate that 4 percent of Londoners are NFL fans is based on the volume of Google searches since 2004. Those searches have increased recently, and there’s reason to expect a further increase in fan interest if a team is located in the city permanently. As measured by Google searches, interest in the NHL increased by about 80 percent in the province of Manitoba, Canada, after the league relocated a franchise to Winnipeg in 2011. The NBA experienced a similar increase in Oklahoma City when it moved a team there.8It also helps that the Oklahoma City Thunder have been much better than their predecessors, the Seattle Sonics. Because the NFL is already so saturated in the United States, I wouldn’t expect an 80 percent increase in NFL interest if you placed a team in Orlando or Austin. But London, and other foreign markets, have a much lower baseline and more room to grow.A London-based team could also have some appeal across the rest of England and the United Kingdom. One precedent comes from the Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Raptors, the only Canadian teams in Major League Baseball and the NBA, respectively. Each one generates about 20 percent to 25 percent as much search traffic in other Canadian provinces as it does in its native Ontario. That doesn’t sound great, but it’s higher than most U.S.-based franchises, many of which generate only about 5 percent as much search traffic outside their home states. With no other franchise to compete against geographically, a London team could be regional in the way the Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys and Boston Red Sox are, covering a larger footprint than you’d infer from its metro area alone.You might think these are pie-in-the-sky assumptions; I think they’re pretty reasonable. The only issue is that there are two other international destinations that rank better still.They’re not among the more exotic choices. Paris, Dusseldorf9Essen-Dusseldorf, which also includes several other mid-size cities, is the most populous metropolitan area in Germany. and Madrid almost certainly would not have the fan bases to support an NFL team at the present time. A second U.K.-based team, in a place such as Manchester, would not do much better. Nor in all likelihood would San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is a baseball town.But the Toronto metro area is highly populous and NFL interest is already reasonably high there. I estimate T Dot has about 1 million NFL fans — more than the majority of U.S. markets to host an NFL team. As with the Raptors and Blue Jays in their sports, there could also some residual gains in NFL interest across the rest of Canada.Mexico City ranks even higher. Although only about 7.5 percent of people there are NFL fans, 7 percent of 20 million residents is still 1.5 million NFL fans.Could those Mexico City fans afford tickets and licensed replica jerseys and the products sponsors might want them to buy? Mexico gets pigeonholed as a developing country and that’s true for much of the nation, but Mexico City itself has developed into a thriving, bustling city with many of the creature comforts available in the other great metropolises of North America. Mexico City’s metro-area GDP is about $30,000 per capita and GDP per capita is nearing $50,000 in the city proper, comparable to that in U.S. cities. Levels of NFL interest in Mexico City, while not extraordinarily high, are higher than in London: An NFL game there in 2005 drew more than 100,000 spectators.The international markets also offer the advantage of being unconquered territory rather than existing in the shadow of any current NFL team. To measure this, I ran another series of Google Trends searches on topics related to individual NFL teams (e.g. searches for topics related to the Seattle Seahawks) to see how they compared to interest in the NFL as a whole.In existing NFL markets, Google search traffic for the local team is generally about 65 percent to 70 percent as high as that for the league as a whole. See here for the Detroit Lions, for example. Of the Detroit area’s roughly 840,000 NFL fans, Google search volume would suggest we’d allocate about 480,000 of them to the Lions. Another 200,000 or so would go to the next-most popular NFL teams there, the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. That leaves relatively few “free agent” fans.In the foreign markets, however, including in Canada, fans are largely not committed to any one NFL franchise. In the table below, I’ve estimated the number of fans for the three most popular teams in each market and calculated how many fans remain after allocating fans to those teams.10The calculation is a bit rough for some of the less promising markets. Interest in the NFL is low enough in Dusseldorf that we don’t have a great idea of who the most popular teams are there. Also, in England, the most popular team according to Google topics is nominally the Cleveland Browns. But this appears to be a false positive, with Google having picked up on other contexts in which the word “Browns” is used. Searches for the text string “Cleveland Browns” as opposed to the topic “Cleveland Browns” are quite low in England. In Mexico City, for instance, the Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and Broncos are probably the most popular teams. But searches for those three teams combined represent only 20 percent to 25 percent of searches for NFL-related topics as a whole. Contrast that with Columbus, where searches for the Cleveland Browns, Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals represent about 90 percent of searches for the NFL as a whole. That’s not to say a Columbus-based team wouldn’t pick up some fans of its own, but they might come largely at the expense of the Browns, Bengals and Steelers rather than acquainting new fans with the league.Toronto, like Mexico City, has only about 20 percent of NFL fans allocated to one of the three most popular NFL teams there. The Buffalo Bills have sometimes protestested that Toronto is part of their market, but NFL fans in Toronto take only a modest interest in the Bills according to search data and other metrics like merchandise sales.I estimate there are about 50,000 Bills fans in greater Toronto. That isn’t nothing when there are only about 300,000 NFL fans in metro Buffalo itself. But that’s Buffalo’s problem, not Toronto’s. If the NFL wants to have a franchise in Buffalo, it should have one in Buffalo. It should also have one in Toronto. The league would come out ahead if it had to slightly subsidize the Bills with the extra revenues it gained from a Toronto team.How about Montreal or Vancouver instead? If you could combine the virtues of the two — Montreal’s larger population with Vancouver’s greater NFL interest — you’d have an NFL-worthy city. As it stands, however, both are decidedly inferior to Toronto. Montreal comes out slightly better than Vancouver in our reckoning because, while each has about the same number of NFL fans, a fair number of those in Vancouver are committed to the Seattle Seahawks.Among U.S. cities, Los Angeles remains No. 1 with a bullet after allocating fans to existing teams. Las Vegas’s numbers also hold up well. So, to a lesser extent, do Orlando’s, a surprising result given that there are three other NFL teams in Florida. But Orlando, like other cities in the state, has a lot of expats from the north who root for teams like the New England Patriots and New York Giants and who might or might not be intrigued by an expansion team. The state of Florida has produced its fair share of disappointments in cultivating loyalty toward new franchises. Most of the other American candidates could wind up like Jacksonville — at best just barely big enough to support a team on its own and with that team having barely any footprint beyond the city’s borders.A final question is about the NFL’s endgame. If the NFL merely needs a couple of credible candidates for relocation — whether as leverage against existing teams or as genuine alternatives — Los Angeles and London should more than suffice. But if the league is thinking about expansion, it might have to do it in a big way. Thirty-two teams is a convenient number, readily divisible into two conferences and eight divisions of four teams each. A 33-, 34- or 35-team league would be awkward, however. The next equilibrium would be 36 teams instead, which could be divided into six divisions of six teams each.In that case, the NFL ought to return to cultivating the Mexico City market and treat Toronto as more than a token alternative for the Bills. An expansion to those cities along with London and Los Angeles would be the boldest thing the league has done in years — and possibly the smartest.CORRECTION (2:15 p.m.): An earlier version of a chart in this article misstated the number of unallocated NFL fans for Mexico City. That number is 1.15 million, not 1.49 million.
Matt Ginsberg’s technology may be able to tell us mortals what the universe already knows — it may let the universe whisper in our ear. We may not have to wait for a resolution. We may, for example, have been able to hear Cinderella’s death knell just a little bit sooner. Rather than “keep your eye on the ball,” it’s now “keep your eye on where the ball will be.”Sportvision — the company behind football’s 1st & Ten, baseball’s PITCHf/x, sailing’s LiveLine and other tech — has undertaken some real-time projections of a different sort. It has tech that tells TV viewers when one car is expected to pass another in NASCAR, for example. But Hank Adams, Sportvision’s CEO, told me he wasn’t aware of any other technology like Ginsberg’s. It seemed reasonable. “I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he could predict, with some accuracy, whether a ball was going to go in or not,” Adams said.Adams also mused on the implications of Ginsberg’s technology. Its use as a TV storytelling tool may be limited, he said, given the mere second or two that it allows us to see into the future. He was also skeptical that the NBA would allow any in-game use by teams. It could be a valuable coaching tool, he thought. Or in training. Perhaps in a golf telecast. Maybe for players in a volleyball game. Neither of us was really sure. Truth No. 1: Most of us watch sports to see the unexpected. Truth No. 2: Plenty of us want to predict the future.Somewhere, where those two contradictory truths meet, there has been a movement afoot. For decades now, sports-crazed statheads — the sabermetricians and forecasters and moneyballers bent on winning their fantasy leagues, assembling an actual professional team or simply understanding the sports world — have been honing their techniques, trying to find the signal hiding in the noise. In baseball alone, an alphabet soup of player projection systems have been born — ZiPS, CAIRO, CHONE. We just introduced CARMELO to basketball. The movement is trying, in other words, to predict the unexpected.There are some in the movement who want to project the future, quite literally, on the screens in front of our eyes. Somewhere in the foothills of Oregon’s Cascade Mountains, an astrophysicist and his son are working, with the backing of an outspoken billionaire, to bring us just such a glimpse. Armed only with a camera, a laptop and their custom code, they’re working on a system that calls a 3-pointer a swish or a brick, a volleyball serve in or out, a soccer shot over the bar or in the goal, all before the ball completes its flight. If the system works — and that’s a big “if” — it would be equivalent to a minor superpower: flash precognition. The sports fan would become, if only for a second or two, a superhero.And the system is almost done. This, right here, could be the future of sports: But the system’s not perfect — not yet. It occasionally doesn’t even recognize a shot is happening, or it thinks a pass is a shot, or it simply makes the wrong call after identifying a shot. Here, it thinks a long pass is a long shot: Again, the idea is simple. Almost comically so, judging by illustrations in the patent application.The execution, on the other hand, is not simple. Matt Ginsberg’s training is in astrophysics. He got his Ph.D. from Oxford when he was 24 years old. His doctoral advisor there was the famed mathematical physicist Roger Penrose, and he recalls rubbing elbows with the academic rock stars Stephen Hawking and the late Richard Feynman. He created an artificial intelligence crossword puzzle solver called Dr. Fill and a computer bridge world champion called GIB.Unsurprisingly, there’s pretty heavy math involved to make this real-time sports predictor work. For one element of the system’s calculations, Ginsberg sent me a pdf with eight dense pages of physics diagrams and systems of equations and notes on derivations. It uses something called the Levenberg-Marquardt algorithm. It requires Jacobians and the taking of partial derivatives and the solving of quartics, and code efficient enough to calculate it all up to the split second. If predicting the future were easy, I suppose everybody would do it. (See Truth No. 2, above.)One thing this project can’t predict, however, is its own future. Its uses are, so far, largely speculative, and cashing in on a minor superpower might not be easy. Even gamblers who bet during play would struggle to make much money from a half-second heads-up that a shot is going in. But Ginsberg’s system would find a natural place in the long line of sports technologies that have been used for a singular end — TV. The development of this tech, which looks quaint in retrospect, was a major undertaking. In 1994, an executive vice president at News Corp. promised to develop glow puck technology within two years, for $2 million, according to a 2003 article in IEEE Spectrum. He scooped up a team of 10 with military engineering experience — in radar, underwater sensors and radio-positioning systems — and sought outside help from other defense engineers. It was all hands on deck to track a hockey puck.But the system was discontinued after three years. FoxTrax’s main problem was probably aesthetics. It was distracting, and the puck’s “tail” looked better suited to a comic book than a hockey game. Hockey fans protested, the broadcast rights changed networks, and the phenomenon died.But its developers were undeterred. They turned their attention to a problem that sounds easier, but was much trickier. A couple years later — on Sept. 27, 1998 — the middling Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens met in Baltimore. At 8:20 p.m. local time, a technology called 1st & Ten debuted. It’s better known as the yellow first-down line. The yellow line isn’t official — as anyone who’s ever watched a football game on TV could tell you — but the yellow line is beloved. I had 13 good football-watching years under my belt before its introduction, but I can’t remember watching a single game without it. The yellow line is ubiquitous. The yellow line won an Emmy. The yellow line is here to stay. Watch FiveThirtyEight’s Oliver Roeder and Jody Avirgan talk about Ginsberg’s invention. Matt Ginsberg is tall and fit with sharp features and, aside from his closely cut grey hair, resembles a 40-year-old rock climber more closely than the 60-year-old technologist and businessman that he is. He’s affable but deeply serious. I first met him in Stamford, Connecticut, in March, at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, where he was operating Dr. Fill, his artificial intelligence crossword puzzle solver. In the crossword community, he’s both loved and hated — he’s the guy who might be a little too clever for his own good who’s trying to ruin all the fun with his fancy computer program.His would-be revolution in sports technology grew out of his role as unofficial statistical analyst for the University of Oregon’s women’s volleyball team. He has, among other things, imported basketball’s adjusted plus-minus system to volleyball, and convinced the team’s coach that the way timeouts were traditionally used was inefficient. Last November, while Ginsberg was watching a game, a player hit a serve that, from Ginsberg’s bleacher seat, looked like it was sure to go out. The returning players should’ve simply let the ball go out but they didn’t. Ginsberg was annoyed. “I can fix this. We can have a computer help,” he told me. “I did not realize how hard it would be.”While the development of FoxTrax and 1st & Ten resembled military contracts, Matt Ginsberg’s purported crystal ball was developed in a son-and-pop shop in Eugene, Oregon. Navarre Ginsberg is a 21-year-old programmer and Matt Ginsberg’s son. When I reached Navarre Ginsberg by phone in early October, his dad told me not to take up too much of his time — he had to get the camera working. It was the younger Ginsberg who first suggested to his dad that this technology could be taken far beyond just volleyball. Matt is in charge of the big picture; Navarre is responsible for handling coding issues as they arise, and making sure the damn thing works.The result looks like this. Here’s a Rajon Rondo shot that misses right — as correctly called by the computer: The vast majority of our collective sports-viewing is on television. Around 21 million people watch an average Sunday Night Football game on TV, for example — some 300 times more than the 70,000 who are able to see it in person. Our sports experience is, to a first approximation, a television experience. I’ve seen Tom Brady play dozens of times, even though I’ve never seen Tom Brady play.And television has been enhancing — or, at the very least, altering — how we watch sports ever since TV was invented. NBC coverage of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, the first sporting event ever televised, used slow motion footage to “show the form, the poetry of motion” of a pole vaulter.It seems a natural fit. Cameras and technology can do many things our eyes can’t. If we can see closeups of Pluto, surely we deserve a crystal-clear view of Odell Beckham Jr.’s catch. “Keep your eye on the ball” is the child’s earliest and most universal sports lesson. And nowadays we can see just about every little thing that happens to the ball. Or puck.Nearly 20 years ago, on Jan. 20, 1996, at the NHL All-Star Game, FoxTrax made its debut. FoxTrax is better known as a glowing hockey puck whizzing around the screen. The Ginsbergs are aware of their system’s imperfections, but they share an enthusiasm for what it can become. And they want to get it out into the world, perhaps as soon as this NBA season.“If we haven’t figured out why that’s valuable to a sport yet, we just haven’t thought hard enough yet,” Navarre Ginsberg said.Looking for investors, and an eventual outlet for his project, Matt Ginsberg approached Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Mavericks, in January. The idea had applications beyond volleyball, Ginsberg had realized. Cuban was hesitant, Ginsberg said, until Ginsberg proposed a deal: Give me $50,000, he said, and I’ll develop it, and the Mavericks can use it in one game.“$50,000 to win an NBA game of your choice is incredibly cheap,” Ginsberg recalled telling Cuban. “And you don’t care about the 50 grand but I do. And I’ll also give you a right of first refusal across the NBA.” Cuban wanted two years, and Ginsberg could keep the right of first refusal. Ginsberg agreed. A lawyer came in to iron out the finer points of the deal. The lawyer was suspicious. What the hell were the Mavs even buying? It could be unicorns.Cuban described his involvement in the project to me as “active” — providing tech and design recommendations. But Ginsberg is the brains behind the coding, he said in an email last week. The most promising use of the project, in Cuban’s view? “Real-time predictions on court that can be relayed to the sidelines.” He wouldn’t comment on how the Mavericks intend to use it, if at all.When I asked Cuban how he thought the NBA would respond, he deflected a bit: “It will have amazing real-time applications in the future — things like detecting whether or not a shot was goaltended, in real time, and relaying that information to officials or displaying it on the backboard.”“If we can make basketball more fun to watch on TV, how much is that worth? I am completely clueless.”Ginsberg’s views on the technology’s uses have been evolving dramatically since we first talked in March, but they’ve always been broad. Some uses seem doable; some no doubt pie-in-the-sky. Goaltending, as Cuban suggested, is one humble but useful application. The technology could ensure that goaltending is always called correctly — it analyzes a ball’s arc, so finding the apex of a given ball’s trajectory to check for goaltending would be easy pickings. Another use is volleyball serves. A system like this is legal in NCAA volleyball — or at least it’s not illegal. Yet. (The Ginsbergs are unabashed Oregon Duck homers. “I’m excited about helping my team,” the elder said.) Another is for soccer goalies. The tech could prevent them from ceding unnecessary corner kicks. Another is tennis. Tennis players could train with the technology, and learn in real time what types of passing shots they should let go at the net and which they should go all out to try to volley.But the killer app, in many of our conversations, has been basketball tactics. Imagine, Ginsberg would describe, if the home team’s players knew when their opponents’ shots were going to go in. They’d be signaled — a flashing light, maybe — and most of them could immediately race down to their offensive end, knowing they needn’t play any more defense on that play. A huge advantage; a sea change in basketball strategy.Now, whether that’s practical or would be allowed by the NBA seems questionable, at best. And Ginsberg has backed off this idea somewhat. At the very least, he doesn’t want this tactic available to just one team.“I don’t want to have every basketball fan who doesn’t live in Dallas hating me,” he said. “That would not make my life better.”So what about TV?“There are going to be media applications that I can’t predict, because I’m not a media guy,” he said. “The other thing that’s really become apparent to me, as we’ve gotten closer here, is that I don’t know what I’m doing. In the sense that there’s huge economic value to this. If we can make basketball more fun to watch on TV, how much is that worth to NBC? And I am completely clueless” — so clueless he didn’t realize the NBA hasn’t aired on NBC since 2002. The footage is from a Dallas Mavericks game against the San Antonio Spurs in March. What you see was calculated in real time, but for demonstration purposes the shot itself is slowed down. A computer tracked the ball’s position as well as its projected position, and the three red bars underneath the action indicate the system’s confidence that the ball would miss left, go in, or miss right, respectively. In this clip, it was a Monta Ellis jumper that went in, just as the tech predicted.“Many decisions in sports relate to the trajectory of a ball or similar object, such as a puck or shuttlecock,” reads the patent application for this technology filed in late August. There are three names on the patent application: Matthew L. Ginsberg, Navarre S. Ginsberg and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. The Ginsbergs have ambitions to spread their technology far and high, including to the NBA and its billionaire owners, including Cuban.When Matt Ginsberg first mentioned this project to me, back in March, he began the conversation like this: “I’m going to revolutionize sports.”His idea is simple: Find a ball with a camera and have it tell a computer what’s up with the ball (or shuttlecock or javelin or frisbee or whatever). Then have the computer calculate, in real time, where the ball’s going. Then turn that into some useful piece of information, knowing what sport we’re watching and the dimensions of that sport’s infrastructure — lines on the ground, baskets in the air, and so on. Have the computer tell you, maybe along with some measurement of its certainty, “that basketball will go in the basket” or “that volleyball will land outside the lines.”Then do something interesting with that fact. Have a red light go off to signal an out-of-bounds serve to the returning team. Have a soccer goalie’s smartwatch buzz if a shot is going to clear the bar, telling her she needn’t parry it and concede a corner kick. Put it on the TV screen for the folks at home. Technologies like these told us more about what we were looking at by putting a visual layer between us and a game on our TV. FoxTrax told us where the puck was at all times. 1st & Ten tells us where a team is trying to go. But they were just building blocks. Data was the next frontier.A torrent of new innovations followed in their wake. The NFL and Zebra Technologies have strapped radio-frequency identification chips onto players this season. The camera-tracking system SportVU has been hailed as the future of the NBA by our friends at Grantland. ProTracer technology has given golf fans something to stare at other than the warm plasma-screen glow of the summer sky. Hawk-Eye technology in tennis powers replay challenges and can track a ball to within mere millimeters. LiveLine, another Emmy winner, does its best to make sailing interesting to watch. And one word — in press releases, company websites and media coverage of these technologies — appears over and over again: “revolutionary.” Layering data on top of a sports broadcast is the frontier.But, as with most revolutions, there is a staunch establishment that leans against the shifting winds. In April, Vice published a philippic against K-Zone, the imaginary strike zone projected on the screen during baseball games. “The calculus at the root of this experiment seems to be that we prefer perfect information to beauty, precision to custom,” Robert O’Connell wrote. And some even rebel against television itself. Each season, the supremacy of radio-baseball to TV-baseball is vocally declaimed by acolytes. “Listening to a game on the radio, while driving along through the night hits some sort of cosmic level of perfection, especially if you can find it on an AM station, with a slight whine from some other signal, scratchy static calling the game in from across time and space,” Todd VanDerWerff, Vox’s culture editor, wrote in his newsletter earlier this month. “The fall of baseball could certainly be tied to the slow decline of radio as well,” he added.The natural-human-beauty-vs.-cold-mechanical-statistics sports debate has been thoroughly litigated, including on FiveThirtyEight. The jury is hopelessly hung. Do you want a dressed-up broadcast? Do you want a television screen augmented with pitch counts and wind speeds and strike zones and Bryce Harper’s velocity running to first? Or do you simply want to tune your dial to AM 720 for the crack of the bat and the passionate, pained voice of Ron Santo, may he rest in peace?I’d guess the split is largely generational. As the aesthetics of real televised sports approach those of sports video games, with their elaborate heads-up displays and options, the younger set may feel more at ease. But there’s more than just aesthetics that sports share with video games. The outcomes of events in both are pre-known, if you know where to look. When you kick a field goal in Madden 16, for example, the path of the ball is already written. Sure, you’ll see the ball fly through the air for a few seconds, and perhaps drift slowly toward the right upright, causing you to clench. But the game and your Xbox already “know” if it’s good or wide right — the kick’s power and distance, the wind, etc. have already been thrown into whatever algorithm and the result already spat out. The anticipation is just an illusion. But isn’t that the same in real life? When Butler’s Gordon Hayward launched the shot that would’ve beaten Duke in the 2010 NCAA final, it hangs in the air for-seemingly-ever — in fact it’s just shy of two seconds — and we don’t know whether it will go in or out. (See Truth No. 1, above.) But the universe “knows.” Physics “knows.” This technology’s future may become a lot clearer very soon. Ginsberg has been taking meetings over the phone. This month, he talked with an NBA executive vice president to discuss what impact this technology should have on the game. And he talked with Marc Lasry, the billionaire hedge-fund manager and co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, who Ginsberg thinks can help advise him on the economics.But here’s the thing about predicting the future: You’d better be right. In the 13-minute video Ginsberg sent me, the computer was right on 23 of its 30 calls — about 77 percent accuracy. It also didn’t recognize a shot, or thought a pass was a shot, on 10 occasions. Even just miscalling a few shots in a game could doom a project like this. If this tech is ever integral to the game — for a broadcaster or a pro team — it’ll be a fine line between the computer as Oracle of Delphi and the computer as useless hunk of junk.The Ginsbergs know this, and have been so busy hammering away at the last pesky nails sticking out of their project that they haven’t even named the thing yet. The patent application calls it Real-Time Sports Advisory System Using Ball Trajectory Prediction — and RTSASUBTP doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. My suggestion: The tRuth. The technological Babe Ruth. He called his shot, after all.
On second thought, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said he would have traded LeBron James instead of being in the weakened position of allowing James to bolt as an unrestricted free agent to Miami with his team receiving no compensation.Gilbert had expressed anger and dismay when James announced he was “taking his talents to South Beach” two years ago. Gilbert even said in a scathing open letter that his Cavaliers would win a championship before James.Tuesday night, Gilbert said that if he and then-general manager Danny Ferry could do it all over again, they would have assured the team would get some assets in return instead of allowing James to leave a huge hole in the organization.“The key thing, whoever you are and wherever you are, you cannot wait,” Gilbert said. ”The big lesson was if a player is not willing to extend, no matter who they are, no matter where they are playing, no matter what kind of season you had, you cannot risk going into a summer and having them leave in unrestricted free agency and get nothing back for it.”Gilbert admitted there would have been some backlash to trading James at the height of his career.“I’m sure the player or whoever would have said, ‘Of course I would have stayed. You guys screwed up and ruined the whole franchise.’ You’re in a no-win situation,” Gilbert said.His proclamation of winning a title before James came back to haunt him in June, when James concluded a brilliant season with his first NBA title. That, according to Gilbert, should close that chapter of the aftermath of James’ departure.“If you’re going to predict something that doesn’t happen and you’re going to do it publicly, you’d for sure take it back,” Gilbert said. “When that happened, when they won, it was the end of the end of the end of that whole thing. Now there’s nothing more to talk about.“In a way it was like a little bit of a relief. If they didn’t win it, it would’ve been still another thing of who’s going to win it [first]?”As for his team, “We want to win as much as the fans do,” Gilbert said. “No matter how long it takes, and no matter what it takes, we’re just going to keep going until we get there.”
For every team in the College Football Playoff hunt, the path forward remains an arduous one, filled with peril at every turn. But some of those paths are at least relatively straightforward; others involve a bunch of different moving parts. Today, let’s take a look at what each significant playoff contender needs to go its way — keeping things vaguely within the realm of the likely — in order to get to at least 90 percent playoff odds in the eyes of our prediction model. In each case, we’ll try to get it there in as few results as possible,1It’s important to note that this is without regard to chronology. So for instance, winning the conference championship could be the simplest way a team gets to 90 percent playoff odds, but that team would also need to win some easy games beforehand to make the conference title game matter. Our approach would still consider a conference title game win to be the simplest path, because the high probability of getting to that game in a position to make the playoff is “baked in” to the conditional probabilities. (Yes, my head hurts, too.) which is easier said for some teams than others.ClemsonCurrent playoff chances: 87 percentPath to 90+ percent:Clemson wins the ACC championship (Week 14): +9 percentage pointsConditional playoff chances: 96 percentChance of happening: 85 percentAlabamaCurrent playoff chances: 76 percentPath to 90+ percent:Alabama beats Georgia in the SEC championship (Week 14): +23 percentage pointsConditional playoff chances: 99 percentChance of happening: 64 percentGeorgiaCurrent playoff chances: 39 percentPath to 90+ percent:Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC championship (Week 14): +52 percentage pointsConditional playoff chances: 91 percentChance of happening: 36 percentThese three are pretty basic. The undefeated Tigers and Crimson Tide are both practically assured of making the playoff if they just win their respective conference title games — even if they don’t otherwise win out. There are a few scenarios in which the two teams could miss the playoff with losses in between now and championship Saturday, but our model says the Tigers would still have an 80 percent playoff shot even if they lose to, say, Boston College this weekend but win the ACC. Likewise, Bama would be at 92 percent if it loses the Iron Bowl against Auburn but still wins the SEC.Alabama and Clemson’s chances if they win all their remaining games except the conference championship are 45 and 44 percent, respectively. But for the one-loss Bulldogs, that number is 12 percent. So for all intents and purposes, they have no choice but to hand the Tide a huge upset defeat if they want to extend their national championship hopes. The good news, though, is that if we assume UGA plays to the model’s expectations in its other three games (against Auburn, UMass and Georgia Tech), the SEC title game is the big win-and-you’re-in matchup to circle on the Bulldog calendar. In other words, for all three teams, the simplest playoff road leads through the conference championship.Notre DameCurrent playoff chances: 58 percentPath to 90+ percent:Notre Dame beats Florida State in Week 11: +5 percentage pointsNotre Dame beats Syracuse in Week 12: +15 pointsNotre Dame beats USC in Week 13: +14 pointsConditional playoff chances: 92 percentChance of happening: 49 percentOklahomaCurrent playoff chances: 41 percentPath to 90+ percent:Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State in Week 11: +4 percentage pointsOklahoma beats Kansas in Week 12: +1 pointsOklahoma beats West Virginia in Week 13: +21 pointsOklahoma wins the Big 12 championship (Week 14): +24 pointsConditional playoff chances: 91 percentChance of happening: 37 percentOhio StateCurrent playoff chances: 18 percentPath to 90+ percent:Ohio State beats Michigan State in Week 11: +12 percentage pointsOhio State beats Michigan in Week 13: +32 pointsOhio State wins the Big Ten championship (Week 14): +28 pointsConditional playoff chances: 90 percentChance of happening: 18 percentNotre Dame doesn’t have a conference and therefore doesn’t have a chance to pad its resume with another signature win, so it has no room for error. Luckily, the Irish’s remaining schedule is quite reasonable. Florida State is a shell of its former self, Syracuse is having a good season but not on the Irish’s level, and USC isn’t what it used to be either. And our model says an undefeated Notre Dame is essentially a playoff shoo-in. The only cause for concern might be the health of quarterback Ian Book, who will miss Saturday’s game against FSU with a rib injury. But the Irish are still 16½-point favorites over the Seminoles even with backup QB Brandon Wimbush at the helm.Oklahoma and Ohio State can basically control their own destinies as well — the model says both have playoff chances of greater than 91 percent if they just win out. An Irish loss could potentially help the Sooners and Buckeyes, too. Oklahoma has a greater than 90 percent playoff probability conditional on just three outcomes: beating West Virginia and winning the Big 12 while Notre Dame loses at least one game. And any Notre Dame loss would nudge OSU’s chances above the 90 percent threshold as well, provided the Buckeyes beat Michigan and win the Big Ten.MichiganCurrent playoff chances: 40 percentPath to 90+ percent:Syracuse beats Notre Dame in Week 12: +9 percentage pointsMichigan beats Ohio State in Week 13: +28 pointsMichigan wins the Big Ten championship (Week 14): +15 pointsConditional playoff chances: 92 percentChance of happening: 13 percentUnlike Notre Dame, Ohio State and Oklahoma, Michigan can’t get to 90 percent simply by winning its remaining games. (That maxes them out at 82 percent.) The Wolverines need help, then, most likely in the form of an Irish loss against Syracuse at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 17. Michigan has other potential paths — Boston College beating Clemson this weekend, for instance, would push UM’s odds to 88 percent if coupled with Wolverine wins over Ohio State and whomever they’d play for the Big Ten title. But watching some other team vicariously avenge Michigan’s early season loss in South Bend would be a fitting way for the Wolverines to stamp their ticket into the playoff.West VirginiaCurrent playoff chances: 12 percentPath to 90+ percent:West Virginia beats TCU in Week 11: +2 percentage pointsWest Virginia beats Oklahoma State in Week 12: +6 pointsWest Virginia beats Oklahoma in Week 13: +19 pointsWest Virginia wins the Big 12 championship (Week 14): +38 pointsMichigan loses the Big Ten championship (Week 14): +14 pointsConditional playoff chances: 91 percentChance of happening: 2 percentWVU needs even more help than does Michigan. And in fact, it might need help from Michigan. Generally speaking, it needs whoever wins the Michigan-Ohio State game — which will torpedo the chances of one member of the one-loss club — to then proceed to lose in the Big Ten title game. (Our model gives West Virginia slightly higher odds under the configuration where Michigan beats OSU, then loses.) Either way, the one-loss Mountaineers need as many teams with a similar resume as possible to move aside. But West Virginia isn’t necessarily putting all its eggs in the Big Ten basket. It could also see its playoff odds soar into the high-80-percent range if Notre Dame loses one of its remaining games (while WVU wins out).Washington StateCurrent playoff chances: 13 percentPath to 90+ percent:Washington State beats Colorado in Week 11: +5 percentage pointsWashington State beats Arizona in Week 12: +3 pointsUSC beats Notre Dame in Week 13: +5 pointsWashington State wins the Pac-12 championship (Week 14): +48 pointsMichigan loses the Big Ten championship (Week 14): +17 pointsConditional playoff chances: 91 percentChance of happening: 1 percentOne-loss Wazzu is in the same boat as West Virginia in terms of benefiting from a Michigan defeat in the Big Ten title game. (Assuming it wins its own remaining games — including the Pac-12 title, most preferably over Utah.) Washington State could get another boost if USC beats Notre Dame since both teams would then have one loss, against the Trojans in each case. It’s unclear how realistic this actually is (since our model doesn’t have a specific Notre Dame adjustment reflecting its tendency to, um, get the benefit of the doubt), but the Irish make the playoff only 18 percent of the time in the scenario laid out above, compared with the Cougars’ 91 percent mark.Central FloridaCurrent playoff chances: 4 percentPath to 90+ percent:¯\_(ツ)_/¯I’m kidding. But not really. This one is far more difficult to pin down than the others above, just because it’s so rare in our data for UCF to make the playoff (and the specifics of each scenario are rarer still). So I’ll just list some of the common outcomes in what few simulations give UCF a relatively large probability of making the playoff:UCF wins all four remaining games, including the American championship. (Duh.)Both Notre Dame and Washington State lose at least one remaining game, and at least one loses twice.Oklahoma and Michigan both fail to win their respective conference championships.Chance of happening: less than 1 in 2,000These probably aren’t the only scenarios under which UCF makes the playoff, but there just aren’t very many UCF-friendly combinations that come up in the simulations. Their 4 percent overall probability of making the playoff is more about adding up a bunch of fractional chances over the course of many simulations — where they’re not overly likely to make it in any given one, but there’s enough uncertainty that they could potentially get in.And that’s the important thing to remember when discussing UCF’s playoff chances: The selection committee has never taken an undefeated Group-of-Five conference team2Schools from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference and the Sun Belt Conference. in four years of picking playoff squads, and similar undefeated candidates (UCF last year, Western Michigan two years ago) have been denied entry by the committee. So all of this is, by definition, theoretical. Our model bases its predictions on the way in which college football’s power structure has traditionally grouped teams into tiers and given priority to different types of resumes, which is why there are at least some universes where a team like UCF can get real consideration if all hell breaks loose elsewhere. But more likely, they’re getting stray points of probability from the fact that we still don’t always know how the committee will react to a team like the Knights.Of course, a cynic would say we do know — and the answer will always be “no.” But that’s part of what’s interesting about the playoff. There’s much we still don’t know when it comes to who will win upcoming games, and that’s one source of uncertainty built into our model. But we also can’t perfectly predict how the committee itself will react. All UCF and the rest of this year’s contenders can do is win the games in front of them and hope for the right combination to fall into place around them.Check out our latest college football predictions.
Heading into the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, England was not the sexy choice. The Lionesses were undefeated in World Cup qualifiers, outscoring their opponents 52-1, but few insiders expected them to challenge the game’s giants: Germany, the United States and Japan.Then came the victory over Norway in the Round of 16 and the upset of host Canada in the quarterfinals. England still only has a 10 percent chance of winning the tournament, according to our Women’s World Cup forecasting model, but its chances nearly doubled after the Norway win and then more than doubled after the victory over Canada. The squad, which features no recognizable stars and has not won a match in this tournament by more than one goal, now finds itself on the brink of history.England has never made it this far in a Women’s World Cup, and this is the furthest any English team, men or women, has come in a World Cup since 1990. Tonight, the squad, led by coach Mark Sampson, will take the field in Edmonton against defending champions Japan for a spot in the final against the U.S., which upset Germany 2-0 in its semifinal match Tuesday night.Japan is favored to win the game 61 percent to England’s 39 percent, according to our model. Its chances of winning the tournament are 20 percent — double England’s but still a far cry from the U.S.’s 70 percent.Japan has quietly arrived at this stage of this competition. The team played its most complete game of the tournament in its 2-1 victory over the Netherlands in the Round of 16 and labored to a 1-0 win over Australia in the quarterfinals. Japan’s attack remains the game’s best; its tiki-taka passing style in the midfield is a beauty to watch for spectators and baffling for defenses. The midfield, led by 36-year-old former captain and 2011 World Cup hero Homare Sawa and star Nahomi Kawasumi, has dominated possession in every one of the team’s matches but has failed to convert that dominance into goals. Japan has averaged just 1.4 goals per game in the tournament, and England’s stingy defense will need that run to continue if it’s to have a chance.The Lionesses’ leading scorers in the tournament are two defenders, Karen Carney and Lucy Bronze. England’s lack of offensive firepower and struggles in the final third could prove decisive against what is a small, but well-organized Japanese backline. With both Carney and Bronze likely to have their hands full with Japan’s speedy attackers, they will have fewer chances to direct counterattacks as they did against Canada. As a result, outside of set pieces, they are unlikely to impose themselves on offense.If Japan can do a better job converting its chances, it should win this game, maybe even comfortably. But, then again, in this tournament, nothing has been comfortable for the big teams.
1991ConnecticutSweet 1616.6+0.8—— Wichita State, also an 11 this tournament, had higher Pythagorean and SRS ratings than the Zags. But the Shockers lost in the second round to Miami after getting hosed with a play-in game against Vanderbilt, another strong 11-seed, and a first-round meeting with Arizona, which was underseeded as a 6. The 2014 Tennessee team, which tops both the SRS and Pythagorean charts in terms of strength versus its opponents, had a much easier path in its region — the Volunteers faced 14-seed Mercer in the round of 32, a team that had upset Duke in the first round and one of the weakest opponents an 11 has ever faced.2Among opponents of 11-seeds, Mercer had the second- and fourth-lowest Pythagorean and SRS, respectively. Even though Tennessee made the Sweet 16 and nearly upset 2-seed Michigan, the massive differential between it and Mercer — 17.34 to 5.33, by SRS — disproportionately affected its statistical résumé. That game saw an Elo discrepancy of 194 points (1912 to 1718), the second-largest margin of any game an 11-seed has played. Tennessee also played Massachusetts at an Elo advantage of 148 points, the fourth-highest such margin. Meanwhile, Gonzaga’s two games so far rank 12th and 30th all-time.If Gonzaga is so good, though, why was it seeded so low? The Zags are a high-major squad playing in a mid-major conference — the West Coast Conference has cracked KenPom.com’s top 10 conferences ranking just twice.3These rankings also date to 2002. This means the team can pick up only a few high-profile wins during WCC play. Few typically schedules an aggressive nonconference schedule to boost the squad’s Rating Percentage Index, the official and preferred evaluation metric for the NCAA selection committee. This season, though, Gonzaga struggled to pick up a key win, losing to Texas A&M, Arizona, UCLA and Southern Methodist by a total of just 20 points.4The losses to Texas A&M, Arizona, UCLA and SMU were by 1 point, 5 points, 5 points and 9 points, respectively. Even with the Bulldogs’ five top-100 wins, their RPI profile was terrible. If Gonzaga hadn’t beaten Saint Mary’s in the WCC Tournament title game to win the league’s auto bid, the Bulldogs would probably be competing in the NIT (which is what happened to the Gaels).That would have been a shame, because Gonzaga’s underlying metrics are superb — at the close of the regular season, it was one of two teams with an offensive and defensive effective field goal percentage in KenPom’s top 20. What makes Gonzaga special, though, is how efficiently the team’s offense operates, particularly in the half-court. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Gonzaga scores 0.99 points per half-court trip, a rate that is tied for first among tourney teams and fifth overall in Division I. Indiana is the only NCAA Tournament team with a stronger effective field-goal percentage in the half-court than the Zags (55.8 percent, per Hoop-Math.com).Against Saint Mary’s in the WCC final, the Zags used just 58 possessions to score 85 points (1.47 points per possession). Saint Mary’s defense will never be mistaken for Virginia’s, but that level of offensive efficiency is astounding.Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer are the team’s high-profile names; Wiltjer transferred to Spokane from Kentucky, and his 6-foot-10 frame belies a big who moves gracefully around the perimeter and can score just as effectively within the arc (53 percent on 2-pointers) as he can from deep (43 percent, which leads the team). Wiltjer has an array of shot fakes, step-backs and step-throughs to get his shot off with even the longest defender crowding his space. Sabonis is an unmovable object on both the offensive and defensive glass, and he’s the best post-up man in D-I. Per Synergy, 42 percent of his possessions come in the block, and he scores 1.15 points per possession on those plays. Against Utah and the Utes’ star big Jakob Poeltl, Sabonis used his quick feet, body awareness and agility to score 19 points on an effective field goal percentage of 70.8 percent.But while Wiltjer and Sabonis draw most of the attention, it’s the team’s backcourt that will largely determine if Gonzaga not only makes its first Final Four but becomes the first 11-seed to reach the national championship. Eric McClellan (a swingman), Josh Perkins (a point guard), Silas Melson (a point who can also play off-ball) and Kyle Dranginis (a three who is essentially a hybrid wing) struggled at the beginning of the season but have finally begun to match the offensively brilliant output of the team’s frontcourt.From a higher seed, this sort of late-season surge would be cause to start thinking about a run to Houston and the Final Four. For Gonzaga, the odds are still long, but 17 percent is a far cry better than most 11-seeds see.Check out FiveThirtyEight’s 2016 March Madness Predictions. 2015TexasRound of 6416.2-0.50.872+0.010 2010WashingtonSweet 1615.60.00.835-0.046 2013St. Mary’sRound of 6414.5+2.80.861+0.014 SRSPYTHAGOREAN 2016MichiganRound of 6413.9+1.80.766-0.025 2014TennesseeSweet 1617.3+4.10.897+0.097 YEAR11-SEEDMADE IT TO …PRE-TOURN.DIFF. FROM TOURNAMENT OPPONENTSPRE-TOURN.DIFF. FROM TOURNAMENT OPPONENTS 2016Wichita St.Round of 3217.5-1.00.912+0.037 2015UCLASweet 1612.1+0.10.8060.000 Mark Few’s Gonzaga hasn’t been a proper Cinderella for more than a decade now, having outgrown the designation some time ago. This season’s squad, however, entered the 2016 NCAA Tournament in an unfamiliar position — an 11-seed. Matched up with the streaking 6-seed Seton Hall, which had just won the Big East Tournament, Gonzaga was predicted by many to be bounced in the first round.But 11-seeds have replaced 12s and 13s as a trendy upset pick, and the Zags have since rolled through the first two rounds of the tournament, beating the Pirates and then embarrassing 3-seed Utah late Saturday night. On the eve of the second weekend of play, Gonzaga now has a 7 percent chance of making the title game and a 17 percent chance at the Final Four; before the tournament began, those chances were 1 percent and 3 percent, respectively.What’s remarkable about Gonzaga this tournament isn’t just how well it’s played as an 11-seed, but how it has come into its games with a stronger statistical profile than its opponents — which really shouldn’t happen unless something goes wildly wrong in seeding. In fact, FiveThirtyEight’s power ratings had Gonzaga as a 6-seed, one of the bigger seeding discrepancies in the field, and so far this tournament, the team has had better pre-tournament Pythagorean winning percentage and Simple Rating System metrics than each of its opponents (including Syracuse, whom the Bulldogs face Friday in the Sweet 16). Gonzaga won’t encounter that scenario unless they make the Elite Eight.We went through all 156 11-seeds1There have been 37 NCAA tournaments during that span with 148 “natural” 11-seeds. In 1984, there was a preliminary round that featured two 11-seeds (Northeastern and Long Island University). And since the field expanded to 68 teams in 2011, there have been seven additional 11-seeds in the tournament’s first round (the first four in 2012 included 12- and 14-seeds, so there was not an additional 11 that year). since 1980, when the field expanded to include at-large teams, to the present, and tracked their tourney progression and how each matched up through SRS, Ken Pomeroy’s Pythagorean ranking (which began in 2002 and contains 67 teams) and our Elo database. Then, for each of those ratings, we found the difference between the 11-seed’s rating and the average of its tournament opponents. According to SRS, at least, not many 11-seeds have been as strong relative to their opponents as Gonzaga.Most 11s lost in the first round, especially in the early years of the expanded bracket. Even the 11s that made significant runs — LSU (1986), Loyola Marymount (1990), VCU (2011) — began March as considerable underdogs, posting a negative differential in both ratings with their opponents. Only 10 teams had positive differentials in either rating. 2016Gonzaga—17.2+2.50.890+0.043 1984NortheasternRound of 643.1+2.0—— Note: Pythagorean rankings began in 2002Source: kenpom.com, Sports Reference 11-seeds with better power rankings than their NCAA Tournament opponents, 1980 to present
Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has been the presumptive Best Pitcher In Baseball for so long that it might as well be printed on the front of his baseball card. Since his debut during the 2008 season, Kershaw has over 10 more wins above replacement than any other pitcher in the game — his former Dodgers teammate Zack Greinke is a distant No. 2 — and he has consistently managed to fend off any challenger to his crown as the game’s greatest.But this season, Kershaw has shown a few surprising cracks. (Yes, this is basically akin to saying, “some of Mozart’s concertos were just great, not brilliant.”) Despite throwing six (only six?) shutout innings on Saturday, Kershaw’s earned run average is the highest it’s been since 2012, and his fielding independent pitching, which measures a pitcher’s dominance in the factors he directly controls (strikeouts, walks and home runs), is at its worst since Kershaw’s rookie year. He’s been giving up an uncharacteristic number of home runs (a career-worst 17, and it’s not even July), perhaps having been swept up in the juiced-ball power surge that’s jolted so many pitchers over the past few seasons. Two starts ago, he let the lowly New York Mets take him deep four times, the only four-homer game he’d ever suffered in his entire career. As a result of all this, Kershaw’s status as the game’s unquestioned top ace is in danger for the first time in a while.FiveThirtyEight’s MLB Elo ratings have a component that assigns each starting pitcher a grade, reflecting how much influence he wields over his team’s chances of winning. Kershaw usually has the top mark in baseball; up until the past two weeks, he’d held it for 37 of the previous 38 weeks of MLB action, including 31 consecutive weeks between mid-May 2016 and late April 2017. But Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals passed Kershaw a few weeks ago, thanks to his ongoing run of six consecutive starts with double-digit strikeouts, and Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale has edged ahead of Kershaw as well. (Sale passed Kershaw as No. 1 for a week in April, but Kershaw quickly reclaimed the top spot and held it for six more weeks.)Now, Kershaw ranks “only” third in our starting-pitcher ratings. The last time Kershaw sat so low was midway through the 2015 season, when for one week in July he dropped behind Sale, Scherzer and then-Cincinnati Reds ace Johnny Cueto, who’d just finished spinning an 11-strikeout complete-game shutout. But within two weeks, Kershaw had climbed back to No. 1, the place he’s spent 106 total weeks (out of a possible 142) since early in the 2013 season. Only three pitchers in the expansion era (since 1961) — Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens and fellow Dodger Sandy Koufax — have logged more weeks in the top slot than the 29-year-old Kershaw has in his career.Since Kershaw first rose to No. 1 in 2013, the most consistent assault on his top ranking has come from Jake Arrieta of the Chicago Cubs. For 13 straight weeks between the 2015 stretch run and the first month of the 2016 season, Arrieta ranked first in Elo as part of his stunning ascent from washout to Cy Young winner. That’s the most weeks (consecutive or not) anybody has stood between Kershaw and the No. 1 slot since 2013; the Rangers’ Yu Darvish ranks second with six weeks of sporadic challenges.Right now, Scherzer is in his third week (second in this particular bid) atop Kershaw’s throne. His peripheral stats — and, even more so, Sale’s — have been superior to Kershaw’s on the season so far. Maybe this is the season Kershaw’s grip on best-pitcher status loosens.Given how much Kershaw’s dominated that distinction over the past half-decade, though, I’ll believe it when I see it.Check out our latest MLB predictions.
Given the way the championship’s scheduling works, Carlsen will play with the white pieces — and its first-move advantage — for the next two games. It will prove a critical gauntlet for Caruana’s title hopes. Here’s a visualization of how things have gone, and we’ll keep the chart below updated throughout the match. This is a rare move in this position at the game’s highest levels, and it’s an aggressive one — one often reserved for speed-chess games, rather than the lengthy, classically timed games of a world championship. Carlsen had faced this move with the black pieces only once before, according to ChessBase — in a 2005 game against the Dutch grandmaster Daniël Stellwagen, when Carlsen was just 14. (That game ended in a draw.) Given Carlsen’s prodigious memory for positions, it would be no surprise if he remembered that game well. And he claimed not to be troubled.“To be honest, I was pretty happy about the opening,” Carlsen said after the game.Lichess’s analysis tool calls that sixth move the “Sicilian Defence: Nyezhmetdinov-Rossolimo Attack, Gurgenidze Variation.” Gurgenidze was the Georgian grandmaster Bukhuti Gurgenidze, and “one of the most original and striking players of the Soviet era,” wrote ChessBase upon his death in 2008. The early part of Thursday’s game was striking, too. Grandmasters called it the sharpest opening they’d seen in world championship history.Generically, this sort of move, a pawn to b4, is called a wing gambit, and it can be ventured in a few different openings. White sacrifices a pawn to potentially gain an advantage in the center of the board and in the mobilization of his pieces — the claiming of territory and the arming of his troops. Indeed, it was perhaps the first time in the match that the player with the white pieces had been able to sustain anything one might be able to call an attacking advantage.Yet Carlsen was able to parry the threats. He appeared calm throughout the game, occasionally throwing one arm over the back of his chair, ever so suave in his gray suit.By Caruana’s 19th move, he was perhaps regretting that his brief advantage had fizzled. And indeed it had. He spent nearly 32 minutes on that move, head often in both of his hands, pondering the board. Carlsen and Caruana agreed to a draw after 34 moves and just over 3 hours, in the position below. The match now sits level, 2.5-2.5. 87654321abcdefgh Game 5 of the World Chess Championship began under a cloud. Not a literal cloud, though there were those in London, too. Rather it was the lingering hubbub of a published and deleted video. Since that video was released, a prominent chess writer resigned and, oddly, the event’s organizing body announced that it had hired a security firm that was ready to sweep for illicit electronic devices and deploy polygraphs on the players if necessary. Was the latter related to the video? To some other bit of intrigue yet to fully emerge? Or just because chess’s governing body is, how do you say, filled with plenty of intrigue of its own?I have no answers for you. But I do have some chess to relay. To catch you up if you’re just joining us: Magnus Carlsen of Norway is seeking his fourth world title. His challenger Fabiano Caruana of the U.S. is trying to become the first American world champion since Bobby Fischer in 1972. The pair began the day’s game tied 2-2 in the best-of-12 title match.1Wins are worth 1 point, draws 0.5 and losses 0. It didn’t end much differently.The two grandmasters started Thursday’s game with the Rossolimo variation of the Sicilian Defence — the third time they’ve opened with that sequence of moves in the match’s five encounters. But then came a lightning bolt that briefly illuminated the match. It was known as “6. b4!?”Caruana’s sixth move — his white pawn to b4 — electrified the encounter. This is what the board looked like after it struck.
Members of the OSU women’s volleyball team during a game against Michigan on Nov. 14 at St. John Arena. Credit: Lantern file photoThe Ohio State women’s volleyball team has a new mantra coming into this season: tribe. It is a concept that the team was introduced to in February by Olympian Kerri Walsh-Jennings when she visited the program. It was the saying Walsh-Jennings used during her Rio Olympics run with April Ross and means more than just coming together as a team.“It goes beyond being teammates. It goes to being sisters,” senior middle blocker Kylie Randall said. “It creates a bigger bond between us, and it’s something we’re going to live and die by this year.”The Buckeye sisterhood welcomed seven newcomers to the team this season, including six freshmen, as well as Abby Fesl.Fesl is a senior transfer from the University of North Florida, who earned more than 2,400 assists during her time with the Ospreys.“Abby’s added a lot of culture to our team,” OSU coach Geoff Carlston said. “It’s always great when you have a senior with that much experience coming in.”Carlston praised the maturity of his veteran players and their part in helping to shape preseason attitudes.“Our seniors are not juniors anymore, and I think they’ve really embraced that role,” Carlston said. “I think our returners have done a great job of mentoring and being patient with our younger players to get them on board.”One of Carlston’s returnees already expected to make a big splash this season is senior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe. She was named to the Preseason All-Big Ten Team on Tuesday morning for the second consecutive season.Sandbothe finished her junior year with a .366 attacking efficiency and crashed into the top five in four different Ohio State women’s volleyball record categories. “I love to see those things come out, especially before we’re even getting a chance to play as a team, kind of show what we’re about,” Sandbothe said. “It’s a huge honor, and I’m blessed to be a part of it.”A goal echoed by multiple members of the team is to reach the NCAA Tournament Final Four, which will be held in Columbus this December. OSU has fallen in five sets in the regional semifinals the past two seasons. “While we’re proud of sort of where we’ve come from, we also want to make that jump, but the reality is with our preseason schedule and our Big Ten schedule, we’ve got to stay super grounded in the daily grind of getting better,” Carlston said. Sandbothe echoed his sentiments, emphasizing the team goal of playing in Nationwide Arena when December comes around.The Buckeyes will put in their first weekend of work on Friday as they play Texas State, North Texas and Texas A&M — all unfamiliar teams to OSU — in the North Texas Challenge tournament.Texas A&M poses a big threat, as it brought home the Southeastern Conference championship last season and pulled together for 14.09 kills per set. Texas State posted a 19-12 record in 2015, and is picked to be the Sun Belt Conference runner-up this season. “I think we just have to be on our toes and willing to run down balls that wouldn’t necessarily happen in the Big Ten,” sophomore setter Taylor Hughes said.Carlston is choosing to look at their lack of first-hand knowledge about this weekend’s teams as an unusual gift, as it allows his team to better examine and perfect their own skills and play.“It’s actually kind of nice not to have a ton of video and a ton of stats. It’s pretty much just raw volleyball,” Carlston said. “For us, it’s really try to out-defend and whatever they give us, we’re ready for it.” Carlston and the women’s volleyball tribe kick off their season at 1:30 p.m. on Friday against Texas State at the North Texas Volleyball Center in Denton, Texas.
It’s a sibling’s dream come true: little brother getting the opportunity to beat up big brother. The Posey sibling rivalry was in full force during Ohio State’s 43-7 win over its “little brother” school, Ohio University. “It’s always been our dream and now it’s kind of our reality,” DeVier Posey said. The Buckeyes took home the win, and wide receiver DeVier took home bragging rights from big brother Julian, a Bobcat cornerback. Julian might have two years on his little brother, but on Saturday, that’s all he had. DeVier remembered the last time the two teams faced off against one another in 2008, when Julian promised a beat down. The Buckeyes edged their way to a 26-14 victory that day. Saturday’s game wasn’t as close. Early in the game on his first catch, DeVier offered Julian a stiff arm to the face mask and a little bit of trash talk. “I just told him, ‘you better get in the weight room,’” DeVier said. In the first quarter, Julian escaped for a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown before a penalty called it back. “I was happy for him. At first I was like, ‘Oh man, I’m not gonna hear the end of this,’” DeVier said. “It’s hard to stop a guy with the last name Posey,” Julian said. The brothers caught up with one another after the game. “He says he got robbed on that kickoff return but you know he’s going to think that the rest of his life,” DeVier said. Growing up, Julian wasn’t always the bully. The loss of their father in 1999 made the two extremely close. Julian took the big brother role seriously and served as a role model, DeVier said. They are best friends and don’t go a day without talking, but this week DeVier said they hadn’t spoken since Wednesday. There wasn’t much trash talk on the field. DeVier had a different strategy to rattle his brother. “I was trying to steal all of his accessories,” DeVier said. “I think there was one time I stole his towel.” More than 40 family members donned T-shirts that boasted “Posey Bowl II” in support of both teams. Proud mother Julie Posey had a colorful jersey, split scarlet and gray on one side and green on the other. “I am really, really glad it’s over and I’m ready to party with my babies now,” Julie said. “It was a good time and kind of crazy to go against him, but it really wasn’t as emotional as I thought,” DeVier said. Looking down the road, DeVier knows what he’s going to tell his family. “The first thing I’m going to say is like, ‘Dang do you remember that score? We like whooped ya’ll man,’ and it’s just gonna silence all talk after that,” DeVier said. Julian’s prepared to hear it. “Man, I gotta live with this the rest of my life,” Julian said. At the end of the day, who got the best of whom? “I mean, you saw the scoreboard,” DeVier said.
If winning a Rose Bowl wasn’t enough to make Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee eat his words, perhaps a billboard will be. On Thursday afternoon, 20 billboards around the Columbus area began displaying a message congratulating TCU on its 21-19 Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. The ad takes a direct shot at Gee, who hurled insults at TCU and other non-BCS conference schools in late November. “I do know, having been both a Southeastern Conference president and a Big Ten president, that it’s like a murderer’s row every week for these schools. We do not play the Little Sisters of the Poor,” Gee told The Associated Press on Nov. 24. Gee was also chancellor at Vanderbilt from 2000–07. That infamous line capped off the billboard, which read, “Congratulations to TCU for their Rose Bowl victory — Little Sisters of the Poor.” The ad runs on the digital billboards once per minute, for eight seconds. After receiving public backlash, Gee acknowledged that his comments were out of line. “What do I know about college football? I look like Orville Redenbacher,” Gee told The Columbus Dispatch on Dec. 1. “I have no business talking about college football.” Gee was not immediately available for comment. Robert Rankin, president and general manager of Clear Channel Outdoor Columbus, which operates the digital display, would not disclose the price of the billboard ad or reveal who purchased the ad space. “It’s certainly TCU interests, and they are outside of the state,” Rankin said. “I haven’t sensed that there’s anything going on here except for gamesmanship. There’s no malice.” TCU officials denied any university affiliation with the billboards. “TCU did not create the billboards surrounding Ohio State, nor did it have a role in placing them there,” said Lisa Albert, TCU spokeswoman. “The university does not have any information about who did create these billboards.” Rankin did not say when the billboard would be removed. “It’s a short-term proposition,” he said. “We’re not sure yet how short-term.” Rankin did say the process in which the message was proposed, and then accepted, was fairly quick. This can be typical of digital ads, he said. “This all came down in short order, certainly less than 72 hours,” he said. “That’s one of the beauties of what is still a relatively new medium, in central Ohio anyway.” TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte responded to Gee’s comments in November, by challenging the Buckeyes on Dallas radio station KESN-FM. “Anytime, anyplace, anywhere,” Del Conte said. “Buckeyes against the Horned Frogs. Tee it up. Let’s go.” TCU will join the Big East Conference, effective July 1, 2012. The Big East is one of six conferences that have an automatic qualifier for a BCS bowl.
The No. 4-seeded Ohio State men’s tennis team had a season goal to win the team’s first-ever national title. That dream fell short, however, as the Buckeyes lost to No. 1-seeded Virginia, 4-2, in the semifinals of the NCAA Championship Tournament on Monday. OSU started strong with a 1-0 lead after winning the doubles point early in the match. Doubles pairs senior Shuhei Uzawa and junior Chase Buchanan, along with senior Balazs Novak and Blaz Rola, helped clinch the doubles win for their team. Rola and Novak defeated Virginia’s Alex Domijan and Sanam Singh, 8-6, and were followed close behind by Buchanan and Uzawa, who defeated Jarmere Jenkins and Julen Uriguen, 8-6, as well. OSU doubles pair senior Matt Allare and redshirt freshman Peter Kobelt didn’t get a chance to finish their match, but left it with an 8-8 tie against Virginia’s Drew Courtney and Michael Shabaz. “The doubles point is huge,” redshirt sophomore Devin McCarthy said after OSU’s win against Baylor in the quarterfinals Saturday. “It gives everyone a little bit of leeway.” The Buckeyes might have won in doubles, but they fell short in singles, giving up four points to Virginia. While OSU struggled more in singles than in doubles, the singles matches all were very close. Four of the six went into third-game tie-breakers. Virginia scored its first point of the match when OSU’s Buchanan fell, 6-2, 6-2, to Domijan. The Cavaliers then earned a second point when Rola lost to Shabaz, 6-4, 6-4. After giving up two points to Virginia, OSU answered when McCarthy beat Virginia’s Justin Shane, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, earning OSU its second point. The Cavaliers then earned their final two points of the match, giving them the best of seven points and the match win. Virginia will advance to the finals against USC, the two-time national champion and team that beat OSU in the quarterfinals last year. Coming into the tournament, the team knew Virginia would be one of its biggest challenges on the road to a national title. “Virginia hasn’t been beaten at all,” Allare said before the tournament. Novak agreed, noting that Virginia was on OSU’s side of the draw, which ultimately gave the team trouble. The team made it to the semifinals after beating Ball State, Notre Dame and Tulsa, each 4-0, and then defeating Baylor, 4-2, on Saturday. The Buckeyes end their 2010–11 season with a 34-3 record. Despite the loss, four of its members — Rola, Buchanan, Allare and Kobelt — return to Stanford’s Taube Tennis Center for the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championship May 25–30.
The NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision is steadily progressing toward a four-team playoff system to crown a national champion. After discarding eight and 16-team playoff models, presidents of the Bowl Championship Series member conferences and Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick appear to have settled on a four-team playoff system during meetings last week in Hollywood, Fla., according to multiple reports. The new playoff format would begin for the 2014 college football season, according to the reports. The BCS’s official statement after the meetings said the goal all along has been to protect the regular season. “From the start, we set out to protect college football’s unique regular season, which we see as the best regular season in sports,” the BCS statement reads. Like it or not, it seems the BCS is moving in the direction of eliminating the algorithms associated with the system. “Having carefully reviewed calendars and schedules, we believe that either an eight-team or a 16-team playoff would diminish the regular season and harm the bowls,” the statement read. “College football’s regular season is too important to diminish and we do not believe it’s in the best interest of student-athletes, fans or alumni to harm the regular season.” The location of the semifinal games under the proposed plan has yet to be determined. Multiple reports say an integral factor in the proceedings would be preserving the Rose Bowl and possibly the other BCS bowls. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said he’s open to the idea of change as long as it isn’t too extreme. “Not all change is manageable,” Delany told The New York Times. “You want to control change. You want evolution, not revolution, because you don’t know what the unintended consequences will be.” The BCS officials and other conference commissioners are scheduled to meet again in Chicago in June, according to ESPN.com Some students said they think the Buckeyes will do well in the new system. “I think (a four-team playoff) would be a lot more entertaining and exciting,” said Anthony Chambers, a second-year in biology. “I think (Meyer would) do great. I don’t think that a different format is going to change how good of a coach he is because he’s already proven himself at another college in the existing format.” President E. Gordon Gee told The Lantern in February that he still opposed the idea of a playoff system, but is starting to warm up to the idea. “I’m very much on record of being opposed to a playoff system,” Gee said. “Saying that, one of the things you have to do at my age, you have to understand that the world is changing around you, so therefore you have to take a look and see what the possibilities are … I want to think about it.” Andrew Tirpak, a fourth-year in environmental engineering, said he supports the four-team playoff model and he thinks OSU coach Urban Meyer will succeed in the proposed system. “I mean, (Meyer is) a really good coach and I think he would really shape our team for that kind of system,” Tirpak said. Katelyn Pruchnicki contributed to this story.
Three Ohio State men’s basketball players were honored by the Big Ten for their play throughout the regular season Monday. OSU junior forward Deshaun Thomas garnered first-team All-Big Ten honors from the media and coaches while his teammate, junior guard Aaron Craft, was named a first-team all-conference selection by the media and a second-team pick by the coaches. Additionally, Craft and sophomore guard Shannon Scott were named to the Big Ten’s All-Defensive team. Outside of the Buckeyes, here’s who earned what in the conference: Player of the Year: Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke Coach of the Year: Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan Defensive Player of the Year: Indiana junior guard Victor Oladipo Sixth Man of the Year: Indiana junior forward Will Sheehey Freshman of the Year: Michigan State guard Gary Harris OSU (23-7, 13-5 Big Ten), which finished No. 10 in the final Associated Press poll of the regular season, is set to play in the Big Ten tournament which starts Thursday. The No. 2-seeded Buckeyes are slated to play the winner of a first-round matchup between Purdue and Nebraska Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the United Center in Chicago.
While he’s still waiting to hear about two national awards, Ohio State sophomore defensive lineman Joey Bosa picked up a pair of Big Ten honors Monday night.Bosa was named the Big Ten’s Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year on Monday, while he is already a finalist for both the Lombardi Award and the Chuck Bednarik award. He was also named first team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media in a unanimous vote.The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native has totaled 46 tackles in 12 games this season, while he is in the top five in the nation with 13.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss. His sack and tackles for loss numbers put him atop the Big Ten standings. Bosa has also forced four fumbles this season.He needs just half a sack to tie Vernon Gholston’s school record of 14 in a season.Bosa’s sack of Penn State sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg sealed the Buckeyes’ 31-24 win against the Nittany Lions in double overtime earlier this season.He’s the seventh Buckeye to be named the conference’s defensive lineman of the year. John Simon was the most recent OSU player to win that award in 2012.Bosa and the Buckeyes are scheduled to return to the field Saturday to play in the Big Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin. Kickoff is set for 8:17 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Experts said patients were being put at risk by a scarcity of family doctors Credit:Alamy Forecasts suggest that on current trends, Britain will face a shortfall of almost 10,000 GPs within four years. Rising numbers of family doctors are retiring early, partly fuelled by Treasury rules which have increased tax rates for those with pension pots worth more than £1 million. In total, 10 of 104 commissioners of out-of-hours care said there had been occasions when patients had no out-of-hours GP cover at all in 2016, the investigation by Pulse magazine found.In Peterborough, there were nine shifts where 230,000 patients were left without access to an out-of-hours GP. All children under the age of four were “defaulted” to A&E.In Tower Hamlets, east London, no GP was available on 12 occasions. This meant a population of more than 250,000 was told to contact A&E or the “community night team”.In Doncaster, nurses and paramedics had to cover a population of 300,000 patients on three occasions, with no GP even available by phone on one occasion. And in the Scottish Highlands, there were 31 times when out-of-hours centres were closed due to staff shortages. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. National quality standards say all patients should be able to access a GP face to face at any time if it is clinically appopriate.In 2012, private out-of-hours provider Serco was criticised after a whistleblower revealed the company only had one GP covering a population of 500,000 people in Cornwall.But GPs suggested the situation is rapidly deteriorating, with many areas now sometimes left with no cover at all. Four million patients have been left without a GP available at night or weekends at some point in the last year, an investigation has found.One in ten areas did not have a single doctor available to cover the shift, heaping pressures on Accident & Emergency departments, new figures show.Senior doctors said the findings exposed “worrying” holes in patient safety, which meant patients had to rely on those without medical qualifications or turn to A&E. The national shortages have contributed to lengthening waiting times to see a doctor and a sharp rise in the number of practices refusing to take new patients. Official figures show the number of patients waiting at least a week to see a GP has risen by one third in three years, with more than 14 million patients waiting a week to get an appointment, or giving up, in 2015.
We are aware that some locum doctors have told hospitals that they may withdraw services following new tax rules coming into effectSusan Goldsmith, deputy chief executive of the GMC Last week NHS managers said agency doctors were threatening to withdraw from shifts at late notice, unless rates of pay were increased, with some demanding a rise of as much as 56 per cent.Health regulators say the actions amount to an “organised campaign” by doctors who were aware that hospitals could struggle to maintain safe services without them.The dispute comes as hospitals attempt to prepare for a likely surge in pressures over the four day Easter weekend, when many GP surgeries will be closed. Locum doctors have been warned that they could be struck off if they cancel shifts in an attempt to extort more money from the NHS.The General Medical Council (GMC) has issued guidance after agency medics were accused of an “organised campaign” to hold the NHS to ransom as pressures mount.The crisis stems from new rules – introduced last week – which attempt to clamp down on tax avoidance.NHS trusts are now supposed to subtract tax and national insurance from pay packets at source from workers supplied to them via agencies or personal service companies.Some doctors say the changes will mean a drop in income of up to 30 per cent.But others say earnings will only be reduced if workers were paying too little tax in the first place. NHS hospitals normally experience a spike in pressures over the four day Easter weekend Credit:Chris Radburn/PA Now the GMC has issued guidance, warning doctors that any “unreasonable withdrawal of staff” would conflict with their essential duty to provide safe care.Susan Goldsmith, GMC deputy chief executive said: “We are aware that some locum doctors have told hospitals that they may withdraw services following new tax rules coming into effect.”While matters of pay and contracts are for individual trusts to resolve with those staff, our chief concern is patient safety.“Health services are under severe pressure and we know that providers and the medical profession are working hard to cope with demand.“Any unreasonable withdrawal of staff may exacerbate that pressure, and we would expect doctors planning to withdraw their services would give sufficient notice in line with their contractual agreements.”Meeting such obligations was part of the “core” guidance for doctors, she stressed – meaning failure to do so could see their fitness to practice come under investigation. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Consumers will have to get used to ugly apples for the next year as British fruit has been damaged by frost. Alison Capper, chairman of the National Farmers’ Union horticulture board, said that harvests would be affected by a cold April, reducing the size and affecting the appearance of the crop. “The risk of frost from now on is low, but the damage has been done,” she said. “The frost that we had two or three weeks ago has caused the damage that’s starting to emerge now.” Cold weather damages fruit and reduces the quantity that a plant produces. Ms Capper runs a hops and fruit farm on the border of Herefordshire and Worcestershire border.The unseasonably dry weather is also affecting British farmers, with many irrigating their crops much earlier than they normally would. Vineyards also suffered from frost, with this farm in Hampshire using candles to keept the cold awayCredit:Andrew Matthews /PA Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. The UK suffered a cold snap in AprilCredit:Alamy Harvested apples are stored in fridges and sold in supermarkets until the following spring, so the effects will be seen for at least a year from now. Britain was hit by flurries of snow in late April this year. Areas as far south as Norfolk experienced the unseasonable weather as Arctic winds pushed cold air south from Scotland. Ms Capper said her own harvest, which includes Gala, Braeburn and Red Windsor apples, could drop by 70 to 80 per cent as a result of the cold weather.It can also produce a “russeting” effect which makes the fruit look less attractive. The weather will also affect British pears, plums and cherries.The apples being sold in supermarkets now are from last year’s harvest, so buyers will not yet be seeing the effects of the cold weather.The apples are harvested from August through to October, so consumers might see fewer English apples being sold in the shops from late summer onwards.
Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Divorces rose by six per cent to 106,959 in 2016 from 2015’s figure of 101,055. The overall number peaked in 2004, when 152,923 divorces took place. Paul Brencher, health and protection director at Aviva said: “Aside from the costs of a new home, separating couples across the UK spend £1.7bn getting back on their feet after the breakdown of a relationship on costs including legal fees, buying a car or paying for a newfound need for childcare. Show more Living under the same roof as an ex is most people’s worst nightmare. But it’s a reality for an increasing number of estranged couples who are forced to stay in the marital home even after a divorce.Rising house prices are behind the trend, with one in six former couples forced to live together following their split, a report has found.The figure has risen from one in 10 since the last report, by insurer Aviva, was produced in 2014. In London, where property is more expensive, it is 28 per cent of couples. Almost 90 per cent of those who stay living together do so for more than a month, with 39 per cent living in the same house for more than three months. Some couples stay living together for a year or more because they cannot afford to separate. The survey suggested that the rise was down to increasing house prices which made it more difficult for individuals to buy a property alone. Figures from the Office for National Statistics published last year showed that average house prices had reached record levels, at 7.6 times average England and Wales earnings. In some central London areas the figure is as much as 38 times. “As a consequence, it is little surprise that they are drawn towards their savings for support or borrowing from friends and family. Many additionally find themselves priced out of the property market. One in six couples did manage to buy new homes, and spent an average of £144,600 per person, almost £100,000 lower than the average UK house price, suggesting that they were forced to downsize into smaller accommodation following their split. Many couples who had owned a home were also forced to rent for an average of 4.7 years, with one in five divorced people still renting a decade after their split. Renters were pessimistic about their future buying prospects, with 70 per cent saying they did not think they would own their own home again. Women were more likely than men to remain in the marital home and fully own it after divorce or separation, possibly because they were more likely to live with the couple’s children until they became adults.In more than one in five cases, parents said their children had been forced to move home following a split. The overall cost of divorce had risen from £12,432 in 2014 to £14,561 per couple in 2016, a 17 per cent increase.The largest expenses were on legal fees, with UK couples spending an estimated total of £337.8m on this, and childcare costs, which came to £216.9m.
Road conditions remain dangerous with motorists across much of the UK warned against driving unless absolutely essential.The AA said £10 million worth of damage has been done to cars in just three days with an estimated 8,000 collisions, two thirds of them due to snow and ice.In Hampshire, police declared a “major incident” on Thursday night as motorists were stranded for several hours on the A31. And the page was flooded with messages of gratitude. One person wrote: “What dedication! The NHS wouldn’t run without people like you all.”Paediatric nurse Lisa Gerrett, 38, from County Durham, was brought in to work by a volunteer driver in a 4×4 and will stay over at the hospital so she can work on Friday.The mother of four said: “I am on shift today and tomorrow and even if I could get home tonight, I would still have to manage to get in again in the morning, and I’d be relying on another 4×4 driver.”If I stay, it means the driver can collect other nurses. It also means I can cover for night staff who cannot get in, if necessary.”Staff at Sunderland Royal Hospital were praised by the public and fellow medics alike: Girlfriend off to work with extra uniforms & toiletries so she can work through the night/sleep there incase hospital staff can’t get in due to the weather, so that patients still get the care they need. Nurses/NHS workers are a different breed. #NHS @NHSMillion #NHSSleepover— chris (@crsklte) March 1, 2018 #NHS #QueenElizabethUniversityHospital Salute to the NICU staff Queen Elizabeth University Hospital 4 staying for the night after a 12 hr day shift to cover 4 those who couldn’t make it to work due to the weather.I have no words to appreciate & thank u all hats off a BIG THANK U— Dr Asma Anwar (@MrsAnwar) March 1, 2018 This is crazy. Hoping that we can all get home soon! #m27 #A31 #Traffic pic.twitter.com/g5z28IxokF— Francesca Goodall (@frangoodall) March 1, 2018 Mr Snell warned: “Generally many places on Thursday will struggle to get anywhere near -1C, a few people will come up above, but many of us will be firmly below freezing.”What the different weather warnings mean Elsewhere, a young boy had a lucky escape when he was rescued from a frozen lake.Firefighters rescued the youngster, who tried to run to the middle of a frozen lake and got trapped when the ice broke up at Laindon near Basildon, Essex on Wednesday afternoonHe was said to have been cold but otherwise unhurt.Dozens die in freezing European weatherFresh heavy snowfalls and icy blizzards are also expected to continue lashing large swatches of Europe as the continent shivers in a deadly deep-freeze that has gripped countries from the far north to the Mediterranean south. “She is operating today on someone who has bowel cancer, she knew that had to be done and so she has made extra effort to get in here to make sure that was actually delivered.”Record number of rough sleeper alertsA record number of homeless alerts have been sent to a major charity. More than 3,600 alerts were sent to the app StreetLink, which connects the homeless to local services, between Monday and Tuesday morning – the highest total ever for a 24-hour period.This app allows concerned pedestrians to alert local authorities about people sleeping rough in the cold weather. Several other roads in Lincolnshire have also been shut, including the A17 and the A15 between the M180 and Lincoln. A woman makes her way through the snow in Balloch, ScotlandCredit:Jeff J Mitchell /Getty Lincolnshire Police warned overnight that the A52 was “impassable” between Boston and Skegness due to drifting snow, and warned that drivers faced becoming stranded.”We are not in a position to recover you,” the force tweeted.The fire and rescue service added that even a snowplough was unable to get through to clear the route. A stranded car covered in snow in Whitley Bay in Tyne and Wear on ThursdayCredit:Owen Humphreys /PA A&E departments face ‘perfect storm’A “perfect storm” of appalling weather, persistently high hospital admissions due to flu and a renewed spike in norovirus put accident and emergency departments under considerable pressure last week, with the prolonged cold conditions set to put them under even more strain.NHS England warned that the current bout of freezing weather could increase health risks for vulnerable patients such as the very young, very old or those with chronic diseases.Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said the severe weather is an “added burden on top of the recent ‘usual’ winter” and hospitals are likely to be forced to cancel routine procedures. “We are in communication with industry partners and are closely monitoring the situation.”The stark warning came as snowfall brought parts of Britain to a standstill, trapping motorists on roads and threatening air, rail and road journeys across the country.Roads, rail and air travel – latest updatesSevere weather has caused another day of travel disruption on the roads, to flights and to trains. Travellers were urged to check the latest situation before setting off on their journeys. Here are some of the latest reported issues:RoadsIn Scotland, 300 motorists remained stuck on the M80. Around 1,000 were there overnight as heavy snow fell.The motorway was closed southbound between junctions 8 and 9.Police Scotland warned people not to travel unless they were an emergency worker. Jock the Shih Tzu plays in the snow in Alexandria, ScotlandCredit:Jeff J Mitchell /Getty Icicles form on seafront railings at Penzance in CornwalCredit:Ben Birchall /PA The victims also include 18 people killed in Poland, six in the Czech Republic, five in Lithuania, four each in France and Slovakia, two each in Italy, Serbia, Romania and Slovenia and one in Spain.How well prepared was Britain for the snow? Join the debate by leaving a comment below. A frozen canal in Little Venice, north LondonCredit:Ben Cawthra/LNP Petra Salva, director of London’s rough sleeper services, said that deaths on the streets over the bitterly cold snap were “a horrific possibility”. Soldiers from 3rd Bn The Rifles and 2nd Bn The Royal Regiment of Scotland transported staff from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and the Western General. Temperatures plunged to a widespread low of between -6C (21F) and -4C (25F) overnight, and forecasters have warned it could feel as cold as -11C (12.2F) during the day as the winds continue to strengthen. Gusts of up to 60mph could also bring “blizzard-like conditions”.Storm Emma, which wreaked havoc in Spain and Portugal before moving up over the Atlantic, is expected to dump up to 50cm (15in) of snow by Friday.”If you don’t have to go anywhere over the next few days, stay at home,” warned Met Office forecaster Simon Partridge.The storm, a band of low pressure, will mix with freezing temperatures and strong winds brought to Britain by the “Beast from the East”.As the storm hits, there is a chance of freezing rain and black ice, adding to the already dangerous driving conditions. Commuters at Plaistow station in east London facing travel disruption on Thursday morningCredit:Gustavo Valiente/i-Images Schools are shut and weather agencies predict the brutal cold will continue as the death toll from the freezing snap rose to around 48 since last Friday, with icy conditions causing accidents and endangering vulnerable rough sleepers. The Couple, a sculpture by Sean Henry on the coast at Newbiggin-By-The-Sea in NorthumberlandCredit:Owen Humphreys /PA So much respect for the NHS this evening. My neighbours, both doctors, are choosing to leave their kids at home with friends to sleep at the hospital & cover colleagues who are affected by snow. They aren’t obliged, they just care, how lucky are we?!— Lucy Oliver (@LucyOliver_7) February 28, 2018 The M90 near Newbridge, in Midlothian, on Thursday morningCredit:Katielee Arrowsnmith/SWNS A rough sleeper sheltering near Westminster Cathedral in LondonCredit:Teilo Colley /PA The A66 in Cumbria was closed in both directions between Scotch Corner and Brough, due to “severe snowfall”, while the A56 in Lancashire was likely to be closed for “several hours” due to a lorry crash between the M65 and A680.Highways England said the A1 remained closed in both directions glasgbetween the A192 and the Scottish border and shared images on Twitter of lorries stranded in the snow on the stretch of road. Northumbria Police said the A68 was closed between Corbridge and Ridsdale. In Derbyshire, the Woodhead Pass was shut in both directions between Tintwistle and Flouch. Cheshire Police said there were around eight miles of tailbacks on the M62 as officers with 4x4s, Highways England patrols, contractors and snowploughs attempted to clear snow between junctions 21 and 22 eastbound.By 8.30am on Thursday morning the AA said it had already answered calls from more than 100 drivers stuck in snow, with East Anglia and the North East the worst-hit regions.AA president Edmund King compared driving on many “atrocious” UK roads to skating on ice rinks, and said they had added extra patrols and 4x4s to cope with the severe conditions. “There are three UK standby battalions held at high readiness to respond to UK contingencies and emergencies, including support to local authorities.”We have the right people with the right training to respond to a range of contingencies.” Mr Swinney told BBC Radio Scotland the country was experiencing “the most significant snow incident we’ve had since 2010”. And he said the M80 had been a “particular pinch point” after traffic ground to a halt.Speaking on the Good Morning Scotland programme, the Deputy First Minister said: “The M80 has presented much more significant challenges to us overnight and there has been a very strong operation to try to gain traction over the course of the night.”Although many people were stuck for a long time we did get the road moving quite significantly, but there are people who have been stuck there for a long time.”That’s a combination of the intensity of the snow, but also the fact that we have had quite a number of jack-knifed lorries on that particular stretch of the road and the minute that happens the road gets blocked and nobody can get through.” ⚠️Important update⚠️Paddington Station will close from 0800 on 01/03/18 owing to severe weather conditionsAll High Speed Services will start and terminate at Reading Further updates to follow as and when information becomes available— GWR Help (@GWRHelp) March 1, 2018 Streetlink has asked concerned pedestrians to report the time, place and appearance of anyone sleeping rough in these temperatures.A volunteer will then seek out the rough sleeper and offer them a warm bed for the night.Either download their app or contact them online using the link above or call their 24-hour hotline on 0300 500 0914. She said: “If we don’t act, then people could die and… we don’t know yet what the consequences of this prolonged cold weather has been.”She said her mouth had “dropped open” after she walked into the church and saw a homeless person her team have been working with for four years, who, until now, had not accepted offers of a bed inside.She said: “If tonight, he was the only one who came in, it would make it worthwhile.”How to help rough sleepers in cold weatherCouncils across the country have implemented Severe Weather Emergency Protocols for rough sleepers, meaning if passers-by report concerns to their local authority, they will send someone from the Rough Sleeper Team to help.Check with the local council for individual contact details or speak to Streetlink. This is also activated across London, meaning local authorities have a duty to offer emergency shelter to any rough sleepers. Virgin Trains East Coast asked passengers “not to travel” today or tomorrow across the entire East Coast Main Line between London and Scotland.London Paddington, the UK’s seventh busiest station, was closed for several hours from 8am, meaning long distance services had to start and terminate at Reading.Hundreds of flights were also cancelled.Video: Weather so cold even the sea freezes over Man dies after being pulled from icy lakeThe Metropolitan Police named the man who died after being pulled from the water at Danson Park, near Welling, south east London on Wednesday, as Stephen Cavanagh.A statement said: “In respect of the death of a man following an incident in Danson Park, Bexley on Wednesday, 28 February, the deceased has been formally identified as Stephen Cavanagh, 60, who lived locally.“The family of Mr Cavanagh have requested that they are not contacted by the media at this difficult time. We ask the media to please respect their wishes.” A council worker breaks the ice on the fountain in London’s Trafalgar SquareCredit:Henry Nicholls/Reuters A woman battles wintry conditions on a housing estate in Alexandria, ScotlandCredit:Jeff J Mitchell /Getty Around 50 stations in Kent and East Sussex were closed on Thursday as operator Southeastern advised commuters to work from home if possible.Northern said the severe weather had left several routes blocked, with delays and cancellations across the whole network.FlightsAirports have been severely affected by the conditions, with hundreds of flights cancelled.Heathrow was badly hit, with airlines forced to reduce schedules on Thursday and Friday following discussions with airport officials and air traffic control provider Nats. In severe conditions, the civilian authorities can call on the military for help, in situations such as #StormEmma ❄️ Experienced drivers of No 2 MT Sqn from @RAFWittering1 have been assisting the emergency services. pic.twitter.com/BzufPaLLp3— Royal Air Force (@RoyalAirForce) 1 March 2018 Due to the current weather & road conditions, we are being assisted by members of the RAF. This kind chap was able to get through the snow & help one of our 999 control room colleagues get in today, helping to protect the county. pic.twitter.com/zljnB6F0Er— Lincs Fire & Rescue (@LincsFireRescue) March 1, 2018 Thursday’s low temperatures set a record for the UK’s coldest spring day. In Tredegar in Wales, the mercury never got above -5.2C, beating the previous record low of -4.6C at Cassley in Sutherland, Scotland, on March 2 2001.Nearly all train operators warned of cancellations and disruption and all cross-border trains between England and Scotland were suspended. A woman was forced to give birth on the storm-battered A66 near Darlington when she became stranded in terrible conditions.Sienna Waring was delivered by her father Andrew as he tried to get her mother Daniella to hospital. She was born near Stockton-on-Tees moments before paramedics arrived at the scene.Mr Waring, from Catterick, North Yorkshire, said: “Having been present at the birth of our two other children, I just copied what I had seen then.”I opened the passenger door and knelt in the snow.” “There’s been more information this morning, I know it’s been tricky for (the airport) because of maybe a lack of workers and it’s difficult for everyone.” “If their flight is in the European Union or their airline is an EU carrier, customers will be entitled to food, refreshment and overnight accommodation or a refund of proportionate costs and will be flown home as soon as is possible at their airline’s expense.”Honeymoon couple heading for Maldives among hundreds stranded in airportA newlywed couple are having an unexpected honeymoon – stranded in Glasgow Airport amid the wild weather.Chris and Vicky Robinson, from Stranraer, got married last weekend and were looking forward to a luxury holiday in the Maldives when heavy snow closed the airport on Wednesday.Instead of enjoying 30C heat in the Indian Ocean, they spent the night in chairs in Glasgow Airport’s main terminal – catching a few hours sleep as they waited for news on a rescheduled departure.Mr Robinson, 29, said: “We were about to board the plane yesterday at 1pm, and 15 minutes before we were to take off they cancelled it and we’ve been here since (in the terminal), slept here with a lack of information through the night.”It was very subdued, people were quiet and a bit confused because there wasn’t much information. We’d heard about camp beds and blankets, but we got no information about that. A bicycle covered in snow outside The Colosseum in RomeCredit:Simona Granati/Corbis News Motorists reported being stuck for up to 13 hours, with some spending the night in their cars, and others abandoning their vehicles on the motorway.Emergency responders and volunteer agencies, including mountain rescue teams, checked on stranded drivers, with some good samaritans also handing out food. Several sports fixtures have been disrupted by the weather conditions including the postponement of four Super League rugby league games and the Premier League Darts in Exeter being cancelled.Seven-year-old girl dies in collision in CornwallDevon and Cornwall police confirmed that a seven-year-old girl died in Looe, Cornwall.In a statement the police said: “Police were called at around 2.30pm today to reports of a Nissan car colliding with a house on Bodrigan Road.“A seven-year-old girl, believed to be a pedestrian, suffered life-threatening injuries and was declared deceased at the scene.“Her next of kin has been informed. Localised closures area in place as emergency services attend this incident.”Elsewhere a 75-year-old woman has been found dead in a snowy street in Leeds. She was found partially hidden beneath a car in the Farsley area of the city.Royal Air Force drafted in to help relief effortsThe Royal Air Force (RAF) has been drafted in to help relief efforts in snow-hit Lincolnshire, with 10 4×4 vehicles and some 20 staff aiding emergency services.A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The RAF is assisting in helping to transport health staff to hospitals and support health workers in visiting vulnerable people in the community in Lincolnshire following heavy snowfall. Emergency vehicles manoeuvre past stationary traffic on the M80 in GlasgowCredit:Andrew Milligan /PA Queuing traffic stuck on the M80 in Scotland overnightCredit:Gavin Rodgers/Pixel He said the “overwhelming majority” of Scots had heeded warnings to stay at home. Weather map for Thursday and week ahead One person was taken to hospital after a crash involving 16 vehicles on the M66 southbound between the Ramsbottom and Bury junction. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) said two fire engines and an off-road vehicle were sent to the scene at 11.25am.TrainsNearly all train operators across the UK are suffering cancellations and disruption on Thursday.All cross-border trains between England and Scotland were suspended.The West Coast Main Line was closed until at least midday between Carlisle and Scotland, with no trains or replacement buses. Meanwhile, it has emerged that a Glasgow surgeon walked for eight miles in the snow to operate on a cancer patient.The unnamed medic walked from Anniesland to Paisley so she could get to work on Thursday morning.Her colleague, Glasgow-based colorectal surgeon Andy Renwick, told BBC Radio Scotland: “I won’t give her name because she would be genuinely upset with me.”She walked from Anniesland to Paisley – it took her two hours and 50 minutes. I saw her come in, she had snow goggles on, Gortexed up, top and bottom, snow shoes and walking poles. If you see rough sleepers out in the snow during daytime hours, please remember that you can use our app to locate the nearest day centre so that the individual can get into the warm, and get some food and advice on how to end their homelessness. https://t.co/rlxzLP2NvS— Street_Link (@Tell_StreetLink) March 1, 2018 Virgin Trains East Coast asked passengers “not to travel” on Thursday or Friday across the entire East Coast Main Line between London and Scotland.ScotRail halted all operations in the affected red area until late morning.London Paddington, the UK’s seventh busiest station, was closed at 8am. Long distance services are starting and terminating at Reading. Frozen Britain: Snowy scenes around UK British Airways cancelled more than 180 flights, affecting long haul and short haul routes.Other airlines to cancel flights at the west London hub include Virgin Atlantic, Lufthansa and Flybe.A total of at least 76 flights serving London City Airport were cancelled on Thursday. He added: “Today and the next few days will particularly stretch trusts, with staff struggling to get to work and ambulance trusts having immense problems getting patients to and from hospital.”A lot of hospitals will cancel routine work over the next few days as a consequence of both of these. Overall NHS staff are pulling together and making immense efforts to keep people our hospitals safe.”The latest data shows more than 12,300 patients had to wait longer than 30 minutes to be seen after arriving at A&E units in ambulances last week, with more than 2,870 patients having to wait more than an hour, both down on the week before.’What dedication!’ NHS staff camp out on wards to defy snow – and surgeon walks eight miles for cancer operationNHS staff who slept in wards to ensure patient services could continue despite the weather have been praised by the public.Medical staff stayed overnight at Sunderland Royal Hospital, while others who were brought in by 4×4 volunteer drivers will do so on Thursday night into Friday.When the City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust posted a message about its staff and asked for the public to thank them, more than 20,000 people “liked” it. The Met Office said the highest temperature in the UK on Wednesday was 1.7C (35F) recorded in Katesbridge, County Down and the coldest in Braemar, Aberdeenshire at -5.3C (22F). Traffic is directed as the M876 to Glasgow is closed due to heavy snowCredit:Andrew Milligan /PA Conditions to worsen as ice set to form on snowThe extreme weather shows no sign of letting up, with fears snow in the south west could turn into freezing rain on Friday – making conditions “even more treacherous”.Heading into Friday the snow in the south west might turn into freezing rain and could give a glaze of ice on top any lying snow – making conditions even more treacherous.Video: Latest Met Office weather forecast Newly wed couple Chris and Vicky Robinson at Glasgow AirportCredit:Paul Ward /PA Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, said: “Our service personnel are showing great dedication and a spirited sense of duty as they support local authorities and keep the British people safe.”Meanwhile energy minister Claire Perry was forced to try and downplay the National Grid’s gas deficit warning, as she told people: “Do carry on using your gas heating and cooking meals as normal.”An unusual red weather warning, the second in 24 hours, was issued for south-west England and south Wales as Storm Emma moved in with strong winds, “blizzard conditions” and “severe drifting”. The warning, valid until the early hours of Friday, is just the third issued in seven years and means “widespread damage, travel and power disruption and risk to life is likely”. Some parts of the south west could see up to 50cm (1ft 8in) of snow.Met Office forecaster Sophie Yeomans said: “Things could yet get worse, there is more snow on its way. The problem will be when the snow gets trodden down and compacted and turns to ice.”Meteorologically, it’s the first day of spring but winter is clinging on and giving us a right old kicking. “It’s still in control.” The Environment Agency activated five coastal flood warnings urging the public to take ‘immediate action’, with two in Cornwall, one at Swanage in Dorset, and others for the Tyne Estuary and one for the North Sea at Whitley Bay.Sixteen further flood alerts have been issued telling people to ‘be prepared’ across South West and North East England due to strong winds combined with high tides. In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon criticised transport company bosses who had continued to send drivers out on to the roads despite official warnings to avoid non-essential journeys.Army and Royal Air Force personnel were called in to ferry health workers through blocked roads in Lincolnshire and in Scotland. Ten RAF 4×4 vehicles with 20 airmen began transporting health staff from dawn in Lincolnshire after an urgent request from local police. A car is covered in snow in Saddleworth, Greater Manchester, as motorists in parts of Britain are urged to only travel if necessaryCredit:Mercury Press and Media A gritter on the M9 in ScotlandCredit:Andrew Milligan /PA National Grid warns of gas supply shortageThe National Grid has issued a “gas deficit warning”, as fears mount that supplies could run empty amid extreme weather conditions across Britain.The power operator said the warning has been issued in response to a series of “significant supply losses resulting in a forecast end-of-day supply deficit”.Household supplies are not expected to be affected, but shortages could hit industrial users as the Grid attempts to balance supply and demand into Friday.It plans to do this by limiting industrial use and buying in more gas if necessary. According to the National Grid’s forecast, there is a shortfall of around 50 million cubic metres. It said in a statement:”National gas demand today is high and due to the extreme weather conditions, there have been gas supply losses overnight.”At 5.45am this morning we issued a ‘Gas Deficit Warning’ to the market.”This is an indication to the market that we’d like more gas to be made available to ensure the safe and reliable operation of the national gas network. A motorway in Glasgow covered in snow is closed to traffic on Thursday, as more sub-zero temperatures are forecastCredit:Andrew Milligan /PA A man has died in hospital after being pulled from the water at Danson ParkCredit:Danson_WSC/Twitter Glasgow Airport announced it will remain shut for the second day in a row due to heavy snow.The closure had originally been expected to last until 11am on Thursday, which was then extended until 3pm. However, continuing extreme conditions have forced the airport to close for the rest of the day. Edinburgh Airport tweeted that most airlines had cancelled services until lunchtime. There were also cancellations and delays at Gatwick Airport.The runway at East Midlands Airport was temporarily closed on Thursday morning, and travellers were warned it could affect flights.Ryanair said it has cancelled all flights to and from the following airports for the rest of Thursday: East Midlands, Leeds Bradford, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cork and Kerry. The low cost airline also cancelled a number of flights serving Dublin Airport.Here are the number of flights cancelled at some airports in the UK and across Europe, according to flight data website Flightradar24:Dublin: 194Heathrow: 157Edinburgh: 129Glasgow: 105Geneva: 96Gatwick: 77Amsterdam: 69London City: 67Bristol: 48Charles de Gaulle (Paris): 41A spokesman for travel trade organisation Abta said: “Customers who are overseas and whose flight arrangements are delayed or cancelled should liaise with their tour operator or airline regarding changes to their travel itineraries and new flight arrangements. Some parents have let their children dress up regardless, whereas others have sent them into school in ‘weather-appropriate’ costumesCredit:Twitter World Book Day costumes wasted as schools closedParents who toiled over making costumes for their children have spoken of their dismay as the snow meant many World Book Day events were cancelled across the country, reports Helena Horton.Some schools remained open, but called off the dressing-up event because they feared pupils would get too cold in their fancy dress outfits.Others have closed and some parents said they were worried the effort that had gone into the costumes was wasted.But some parents let their children dress up in their costumes anyway during their “snow days” at home, setting up activities at home such as themed painting. Click here to read more. I’m making sure nobody has to sleep out in the cold. My team here at City Hall are working hard with charities and councils to make sure emergency shelters are open across London and everyone can be cared for properly. One way you can help is by donating: https://t.co/hLm3VLzYXR— Mayor of London (@MayorofLondon) February 28, 2018 The force said they were unable to move the vehicles off the carriageway for “at least the next few hours”, but were working to evacuate the most vulnerable people from the scene. Around 500 extra beds in shelters, hostels and churches have been made available in the capital through local authorities, charities, faith and community groups after a Swep (Severe Weather Emergency Protocol) plan was triggered.In response to the bitter conditions, St Mungo’s homeless charity and the City of London have opened a new emergency shelter – in the Guild Church of Saint Mary Aldermary – which took in seven people on its first night.St Mungo’s has said London is experiencing its most prolonged period of freezing conditions for seven years, which could prove deadly for people sleeping outside. “Many people have responded to those warnings very significantly but we do face challenges at particular pinch points, and the M80 has been our most difficult situation to try to manage,” he said.”I assure members of the public there has been an extensive operation in place to try to maintain traction on that road and to get motorists on the move as quickly as possible.”He also stressed people should stay at home today unless they are essential workers.Driver stuck in West Yorkshire films treacherous conditions As well as the red alerts, amber warnings have also been issued for the north-east of England and the central belt of Scotland, in place between 10am and 8pm on Thursday, and for south west England and south Wales from 12pm until 8am on Friday. Panic-buying and snowbound delivery lorries left supermarket shelves empty of food in some parts of the country.Theresa May has been forced to move her long-awaited Brexit speech from Newcastle to London, while households are being urged to “carry on cooking” after the National Grid issued a “gas deficit warning”, prompting fears of a shortage. On top of these, yellow snow warnings have been issued for vast swathes of southern, central, and northern England, Northern Ireland and Wales – in place for most of Thursday.The prolonged cold spell will collide with Storm Emma, which is hitting southern and western parts of the UK. Blizzards, strong winds and travel disruption are predicted for southern, western and central England, as well as parts of Wales and Northern Ireland. Seven-year-old girl is latest victim of extreme weather RAF helps with relief efforts as roads, trains and flights halted and schools closedRed alert for south Wales and south west EnglandMajor rescue operation underway in HampshireNational Grid warns UK will not have enough gas to meet demandChangeable weather could fuel rise in heart attacks, study suggestsPanic buying leads to empty supermarket shelvesThe Armed Forces have been forced to step in as police and hospitals struggle to cope with freezing weather sweeping across Britain.Nearly every part of the country was hit by snowfall and gales as the Met Office said Thursday was the UK’s coldest spring day on record.Forecasters are warning of life-threatening conditions and said winter “is still in control” as Storm Emma arrived with the country already in the grip of Siberian cold air nicknamed the Beast from the East.The death toll from the storms rose to 10 after a seven-year-old girl died whilst playing in the snow in Cornwall when a car hit a house.More than 1,000 schools were closed during disruption which is being described as the worst “in a generation”, and hospitals cancelled non-urgent operations and appointments. Police said they were also carrying out a “rescue operation” to help people stranded in their vehicles across Somerset, including about 100 vehicles stuck in snow on the A303 at Ilminster.In Greater Manchester, dozens of volunteers have been battling through snow to take supplies to people stranded on the M62 motorway. Police say wind speeds over the Rakewood Viaduct in Greater Manchester have reached 90mph.Eleanor Kelly, 19, said local residents in Milnrow, Rochdale, had been taking hot drinks, food and blankets to those stuck on the carriageway – including to a father with a baby and toddler in the car.The South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, which provides services in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire, has appealed for help from 4×4 owners to move its staff around in the adverse conditions. Mrs Robinson, 27, said she had shed a few tears on Wednesday.”If we don’t get away by tonight then we’ll probably not go because it’s only a week we’re going for and it’s too far to go for any less than that really,” she said.”There was tears to start with but there’s not much you can do. We had the perfect wedding so you can’t ask for everything.”My suitcase isn’t going to work out for this weather in Glasgow for a week so we might need to go home.”The airport said it has faced an unprecedented weather situation. Many staff also stayed at the airport overnight to help with the situation, and runway teams have been working since Tuesday night to try to clear flight paths.Drivers stuck for up to 13 hours as good samaritans hand out foodExtreme weather and jack-knifed lorries combined to cause “significant challenges” on one of Scotland’s main roads where motorists were stranded overnight.Deputy First Minister John Swinney said there had been an “extensive operation” taking place to try to get traffic on the M80 motorway – which links Glasgow and Stirling – moving again.