Availability of Free NFL Statistics

As I’ve been trying to work on my program which parses an NFL.com box score, I have to wonder why there is such a paucity of usable statistics, in not only the NFL but other professional sports leagues. Sure there are stats out there, but it seems to be an either/or choice in terms of either comprehensiveness and timeliness (i.e. nfl.com’s stats) or ease of use and downloadability (i.e. the csv files at pro-football-reference.com). Now I can understand why a site like ESPN or SI.com wouldn’t be able to make the stats it shows available for download, since it gets them from the stats conglomerate stats.com. However, the NFL shouldn’t have any legal qualms about making their stats available for download. So you have to wonder what is stopping the NFL from doing this.

Is it an issue of time spent to put them in a format available to download, or a question of technical server demands? I highly doubt it. Is it pressure from companies like Stats Inc. wanting to maintain a quasi-monopoly on the market? Probably not? The most likely reason is money. The NFL is probably trying to work on a way that they can make the stats available, but for a price. So, if the stats are easily accessible for free now, but at some point down the line they decide to make them available for a fee, they have just lost some money.

So if money is an issue, why not start making these stats available for a small fee to personal (non-commercial) use. Or attach a disclaimer that they can only be used for non-commercial use but sell a commercial license? On the surface there seems very little reason for the stats to be available on the site on separate pages for free, but no database dump available for download.


3 Responses to “Availability of Free NFL Statistics”

  1. 1 Dennis March 21, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    I hear you on the lack of decent NFL stats in a work-able format.

    My answer to the problem was to develop an Excel program that parses NFL game-books and dumps 130+ stats per-game into a separate spreadsheet. Many of these stats are from the actual play-by-plays of the game.

    If you are interested, visit my site at http://www.armchairanalysis.com/sample-nfl-database.html. The complete spreadsheet is yours if you want it ($0), with data going as far back as ’94.


  2. 2 Paul May 5, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Sure the spreadsheet is yours for $0, as long as you subscribe to the site for $99.

  3. 3 Robi Ganguly August 21, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    We’ve been struggling with the same issues, not just for Football, but other sports as well (we just focused on the baseball season this year). In general, there are a lot of barriers to getting access to the statistics and we think it’s causing a real lack of innovation around the data analysis. It stands to reason that if more people had access to the data, more people could come up with crazy and hopefully sometimes intriguing analysis. If you’d like to think up some ways to get around this or at least centralize the process of pulling and cleaning stats, feel free to reach out to us (just use my email). Dennis’s comment might be a bit self-serving, but hell, if he’s done what he says he has, it sounds like an interesting start right?

    Robi Ganguly

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