Many years ago, the intuition of a good football scout was paramount to the success of their club. The top teams of Europe would hire scouts to watch players from all over the world and in all levels of the game – from the highest echelons of professional football to grassroots youth teams and school leagues. These scouts would be responsible for recommending players to the manager – if they were young boys the players would be offered youth contracts and trained until they were ready to break into the first team. Fully-fledged professionals, however, had to drop directly into an existing squad and perform immediately, and as they boasted such hefty price-tags, failure would have been financially disastrous.
Old school meets new methods
Back then, the scout had to rely upon his intuition and knowledge of the game alone. He would look at his team, assess the areas that needed strengthening and seek out a player that could fill that void. It was ultimately up to the scout to decide which man might come into the team and improve their chances of success – it was a high-pressure job, and it landed on their shoulders alone…
Of course, things are much different today. Players routinely sell for more than £10 million, and as football is now more than ever a global game, players must be cherry-picked who not only offer the abilities to improve the team in question but also the temperament to get on with their team mates and acclimatise to a foreign country. In the majority of the world’s top teams scouts no longer operate alone, and instead rely on detailed and sophisticated data capture technologies to help them compile lists of suitable players.
Minimising financial risk
Sports data capture companies like OptaPro and Prozone analyse every game in infinitesimal detail, and not a pass, tackle or shot takes place without finding its way into their vast databases. Obviously, it’s apparent even to rank amateurs that a player who scores every one or two games will be an immense asset to any team, but data analytics provide far more profound insights than these basic statistics alone. Automated data capture processes, for example, can tell you that a certain player in an underperforming team makes more forward passes or attacking runs than any of his teammates, or that a little-known youngster has identical statistical attributes to Lionel Messi or Didier Drogba.
Data alone never prompted a team to shell out on a player, but it’s increasingly putting a stop to the kind of £50 million Fernando Torres-style flops that used to permeate the professional game. Data is augmenting the role of the scout and preventing professional sports teams – most of which are now striving to be run like profitable businesses – from haemorrhaging money on ill-considered transfers.
The power of data is not to be sniffed at, and it’s incredible to think that teams like Barcelona, Manchester United and Juventus will now consult spreadsheets before bringing a new marquee signing to their clubs. If you want to make the most of the profit and performance boosting properties of data yourself, take a look at our range of automated data capture solutions or contact us to arrange a free, no obligation workshop and discover how they work in person.