Fascinating Ways Big Data Is Reshaping The Future of Football

Big data is making an impact on the future of football. Predictive analytics are changing how coaches, athletes, and fantasy football players strategize.

September 12, 2018
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The world of football is big business, and the future of football is changing. It is an industry that saw a big boom 25 years ago, thanks to the amount of money that was spent by television companies who were craving live content for their channels.

Big Data Drives Financial Boom For Professional Football

This boom has shown no signs of slowing down over the next few decades. Millions have been paid by media giants. Those have now turned into billions. Due to this, it has meant that the clubs involved have received huge swathes of money.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t always been spent efficiently. A lot of money has been spent on eye-watering transfer fees. However, it’s not just financial inducements that are helping the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool compete at the top, there has also been another revolution in the game.

One that comes in the form of data. It’s not just about tactical systems and making sure that the players you buy are the right for your team, it is about getting the best out of the new signing that could cost somewhere in the region of £50m.

This is where the reams of analytics that are now available to clubs such as the ones competing in the Premier League. Thanks to the emergence of tools such as ProZone or companies such as Opta, the football landscape has changed forever.

This is where big data is going to play a huge role. In 2015, Forbes published an article on the ways that big data is helping the football industry. The industry seems to have invested even more heavily in big data since.

Is Big Data Causing A Changing Of The Guard?

Football is one of the few industries still growing in the UK alongside tech-heavy industries such as online gaming and the rise of slots websites despite much higher increase in compliance, but like gaming, will football prove that it can continue to grow continuously?

It took a while to pick up momentum, but data is changing the future of the industry. Most of the ‘old-school’ coaches viewed the use of analytics in football with skepticism. This was especially true in scouting.

However, even industry veterans recognize that traditional scouting doesn’t cut it anymore. Now it is all about making more informed decision and that is where the use of data plays a huge part.

Everton was under the stewardship of former manager David Moyes, after joining the club from Championship outfit Preston the now 55-year-old had the foresight to revolutionize his scouting department. Moyes changed the industry in a fascinating way around the same time the computer game franchise ‘Football Manager’ was doing big business.

The huge player database that was created, powered by an army of researchers around the globe that fed back the information to the game’s creators Sega. It then played the role of the best scout on the planet.

Moyes identified that this huge amount of player data could give Everton a real leg up in the transfer market and it is something that you would have to believed bore fruit as the Merseyside club finished 4th in the Premier League in 2005.

That has been their bestfinish to date. Although they did qualify for the Champions League the following season, any hopes of mixing it with Europe’s elite where then cut short after a play-off defeat to Villarreal from Spain.

Since then the intel that Everton stole on their nearest rivals has been minimized, as every club worth its salt now has a state-of-the-art department tracking the huge amounts of analytical data that is now available.

Big data isn’t just helping coaches or players on the front lines either. Players that get involved in fantasy football are also benefiting.

Predictive Analytics And Deep Learning Lead To More Informed Insights

Analytics is not just used for identifying transfer targets either. It is also used to compare how players have performed during on match days and where more importantly the room for improvements can be made the following week.

Every movement is now tracked during the 90 minutes of action that takes place, meaning that nothing slips under the radar any more. Therefore, there can be no hiding from a poor performance especially if a player is not putting the effort in.

Whether it be the number of headers, passes or tackles made, each player now has a quantifiable set of data attached to a performance. So, if they lost 30% of aerial challenges in their previous game, this is something that can be worked on in training in the next few days.

The data allows the club’s coaching staff to not only unlock the true potential of their prized assets, but also making sure they are getting the value required out of them after spending such a huge transfer fee.

Failure to maximize their return on investment, would be like buying a sports car and then putting the wrong kind of petrol in it. Quite simply an action that stops you getting the best use out of your new purchase.

People may argue that there is too much data creeping into the game and that some categories of analysis perhaps give the wrong results. For example, if you were to look at pass completion rate, this is an area which can return anomalies.

Say a player has a 94% pass completion rate, but at the same time only passes sideways and of a distance of five yards is that necessarily better than a player that has a 78% completion rate but also creates more attacks because of the riskier nature of his distribution.

It does show that there still some areas of the analytical side of the game that need to be fine-tuned, but at the same time you will find very few people who will now say that the introduction of data in to the game has been a bad thing.

With so much money involved in the game these days, there margins between glory and agony are so fine that any additional elements that can push a side to victory are always encouraged. Data may have taken a while to be embraced in Football, but now it is here to stay.

Big Data Is Changing The Future Of Football Forever

Professional football is changing forever, largely due to changes in big data. Football teams are investing in deep learning, predictive analytics and other impressive big data models. This will increase the value of the market for years to come.