Transformation Goals: Big Data as a Game Changer
Analytics is vital in every industry, including sports. This has been common knowledge since the Brad Pitt movie Moneyball, although many people don’t realize just how deeply football has been transformed by Big Data.
Football – in the US referred to as soccer – clubs across Europe are being transformed by the power of analytics. Scottish club Hearts recently caused a stir by appointing Ian Cathro as their manager, a 31-year old who relies on analytics for his coaching and tactics.
Elsewhere in Britain, clubs such as Leicester and West Ham have used technology to improve their scouting network, resulting in the signing of world-class players at bargain prices: N’golo Kante, for example, was discovered for under €1 million and sold a year later for almost €50 million.
Key decisions are based more and more on analytics that predict future performance. With data on any topic you can think of, the hardest part is to figure out which data to use. That’s why sports clubs hire professionals who can analyze the relevant data to predict for instance who is going to be the star player, or what formation they should play in.
However, these new methods have met with some resistance.Executives at West Ham were initially skeptical about Rory Campbell, technical scout and analyst of the club. He brought players like French star Dimitri Payet to the club, but when he started working there, he encountered a great degree of structural inertia from incumbents who wanted to stick to tried-and-trusted recruitment methods, even though these methods can lead to millions being wasted on ineffectual players. Convincing the club to adapt was one of the more difficult steps on his journey.
You can read an extended interview with Campbell here.