Football Season: Data and Real-time Analysis

The summer of 2020 has been one for the record books, and as the Olympics have enthralled us with amazing displays of strength, speed, and precision, it’s easy to forget that the UK soccer season is back.

As the excitement for the new Premier League season grows, it’s easy to overlook how vital data is in every club’s preparations. Victory today isn’t reliant on player performance alone; rather, it is bolstered by club staff and coaches who carefully examine real-time match and training statistics.

A data strategy has become just as essential as scouting, player signings, or the players’ nutrition plan from top-flight clubs to lower divisions. Why? According to statistics, 16 players with six balls can produce around 13 million data points in ten minutes – providing valuable information on everything from player run rates to touches of the ball and passing. And this is just on the training field.

The number of data sources available to football has significantly increased, according to IDC’s forecast of unbridled growth in unstructured data by 2025. If clubs want to consistently perform well on the field and get ahead of the competition, they must effectively manage a slew of new data streams now flooding the game.

The new 12th man

As the value of data-derived insights rises, we’re seeing a shift in soccer. We’re now closer to our favorite clubs and players than ever before, with instant access to stats like player heatmaps and expected goals from companies like Opta or Squawka. At a club level, we’re seeing a modern technology trend where those who outpace their competition have a digital mentality and invest in strong IT infrastructure to handle unstructured data so they can provide constant data insights for real-time changes during matches.

The story of a new entrant to the Premier League demonstrates the importance of acting like a technology business. Brentford FC has dramatically advanced its use of data over the last decade. Recognizing the impact that real-time data analysis may have, the club has effectively tracked how and when its players pass the ball or shoot at goal, as well as the team’s defensive structure and off-the-ball positioning. As a result, bolstered by this intelligent data, the club discovered a competitive advantage – it rose from League One to immediately becoming one of England’s top clubs.

It takes time to transform a conventional sports team into one that is more like a de facto technology company, and many will attempt it. Many people will try to imitate the success of their method, but few will be able to do so this season, at least not yet.

Overcoming unwanted legacy

Most clubs today use legacy IT infrastructure, which causes slow and unpredictable search results, preventing fast access to data points that may lead to important discoveries being overlooked. Furthermore, player monitoring requires specialists with unique skills and training, which means they have to be separated from one another in order to get meaningful insights from their overwhelmed analytics platforms. The difficulties of managing these legacy architectures and complicated operational structures might cause progress in performance to stall as teams struggle to extract useful insights from their overburdened analytics platforms.

We’ve all been there before: waiting for a website to load on slow Wi-Fi. It distracts your attention and each minute counts in high-stress careers like professional sports. Clubs can’t afford their technology to get in the way at any time.

Modern infrastructure solutions such as a Unified Fast File and Object (UFFO) storage platform are being used by teams and their data scientists to take full advantage of the information at their disposal. UFFO storage scales with the large amount of data generated by clubs’ sensors and technologies, combining file and object data in one location to eliminate silos and offer real-time consistent and reliable data. This enables staff to quickly discover value and insights that help them make better decisions.

Reaching the next level

It’s critical for organizations hoping to start their digital transformation journey as the new season begins to remember that tackling the amount of disaggregated data generated by today’s game is not an impossible task.

Working with Pure, Southampton FC has successfully met goals in its athletic and commercial departments.

Previously, the team’s existing platforms were running out of storage space, and data-intensive criteria necessitated a new strategy. Nowadays, the club counts on Pure to connect data from all areas of the club for optimal performance on and off the field.

Their overall application performance increased by 37 percent through replacing old infrastructure, among other changes. This supports the club’s aim of being able to analyze, measure, and optimize every aspect of its operations, from discovering the league’s newest hot prospects in its youth teams to assisting senior players in making a quicker recovery from injury. In order to differentiate from the competition, this is seen as a method for differentiating oneself.

Data as the playmaker to success

As the new campaign begins, organizations must have a modern, effective data strategy in place if they want to improve their chances of success. Brentford FC and Southampton FC are excellent examples for Premier League and above teams that need to have the ability to manage numerous data streams, minimize divisions, and deliver consistent real-time analysis that may change tactics and lead to superior performance.