Head-shaking at the deep hole
This is meant as an art piece

Pain, but no gain

Reader Chris P. wasn't amused by this infographics about World Cup economics created by Mint.

Each section has its various problems; I'll take a close look at the middle part titled "No Pain, No Gain".

Mint_worldcup_sm Let's start with the conclusion: Revenues and costs have increased over the past ten years. 

Even without a graph, this statement can at best be based on either two or three data points (depending on the starting year in the decade being referenced). Two or three data points do not a trend make.

When looking at the change in currency amounts over time, we must be take into account inflation. Currencies should be expressed in "real terms", or else any "growth" can merely arise from inflation. The US$0.5 billion earned in 1994 is worth about $0.7 billion in 2009 dollars.

For revenues that were earned in foreign currency, we must also be careful with the choice of exchange rates used to convert to US dollars. The designer should definitely explain how this was done in a footnote.

Back to the conclusion: if growth in revenues and costs is the key message, this chart showing drastic ups and downs fails to convey it.


The chart itself is all pain, no gain.

  • The two sections should use the same scale: the bars above bear no relationship to the bars below, even though they are paired up in an inviting manner so that the same height means different values on each chart
  • If plotted on the same scale, it becomes clear that hosting the World Cup is a terrifically unprofitable activity; the costs dwarfed the revenues in each case. Assuming that we have accounted for all the primary revenues and costs (questionable).
  • Does a football really bounce like that? Perhaps the physicists could tell us.
  • I suspect the distracting diagonal lines running down the canvas reflect something in real life but I'm not sure what... perhaps the way the grass is cut on the pitch? But then the lines were aligned in order to send slanted sun rays down, so perhaps it's sunlight?
  • There is no need to fade out the 2010 projections - we can assume that readers are literate and know what "* PROJECTED" means, speaking of which, one of my pet peeves is the use of a stranded asterisk not linked to anything, or in this case, confusingly linked to the 1998 revenues number which clearly could not have been a projection. 

Here is an alternative:

Redo_worldcupecon I like to run against convention once in a while; here, I order the host nations from most profitable to least profitable, dropping the standard chronology. 

I did this because I don't think the chronology matters. Each World Cup is unique, held in a different country (even continent), with different organizations, under different business cycles.

What we see on this chart is that all World Cups are unprofitable, some vastly loss-making; and the current one is projected to be one of the least profitable of the past two decades.


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Wow, nice optical illusion there: my brain is rather strongly convinced that the x-axis is trending upwards.


Same here. Had to do a double take to make sure.

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