Football in Europe is in the midst of a major transformation. The use and scale of available data has leapt in recent years and is now being harnessed across the sector.
As might be imagined, the clubs themselves are using ever more sophisticated data analysis to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents, but also to help them understand the abilities of players. With the transfer values of the top professional footballers rocketing upwards in recent seasons, understanding their skills becomes a major part of their investment research.
More visibly, data analysis is being used by broadcasters and the media to assess the performance of players and teams for their reporting. As the number of cameras in a ground following a match continues to rise, so does the ability of the media to analyse and comment on the footage. This has lead to TV stations changing the way they recruit their on-screen pundits, finding more tech savvy and eloquent former managers and players to work with their technology.
More data is also becoming available to supporters. This has been in part lead by in-play betting where very specific events can be wagered on. Big data has also helped to grow the possibilities for people that wish to play fantasy football.
A great example of how this information is being made available to fans can be found at daily fantasy football startup, Oulala. The company launched a monetized version of it’s game earlier in October and is receiving wide ranging praise for the quality of it’s game.
Oulala worked for six months with a team of statisticians to build a mathematical matrix that makes the results of their game as close to the reality of a football match as possible. They then tested the scoring system for more than a year to prove that their creation is a real skill game.
Their scoring system includes 70 football statistics, compared to around 10-16 for most of their competitors. Each criteria is weighted based on the player’s position (goalkeeper, defender, midfielder, and striker), to stick even more closely to the reality of a football match.
Their information comes from live data supplied by a company called Opta. They monitor the contribution of each footballer on the pitch in real time, passing the data to their clients. It is then passed through an algorithm to update the scores of each player in almost live action. This means that anyone can monitor the progress of the players in their squad during the games every weekend. As the footballer contributes on the pitch, his score alters inside the game within about 20 seconds.
The overall trend can clearly be seen as one where higher level skills are being rewarded more fairly in the game of football in Europe. Whether this relates to players and managers earning more, or supporters being able to follow small segments of games for money, this is clearly just the beginning. In another four or five years time, the development will almost certainly make today’s use of technology in top level football look amateurish by comparison.