In the past decade, many professional sports teams have dramatically increased their reliance on Management Information (MI). This data, which includes player specific metrics such as average match speed, distance covered and successful tackles, has proven invaluable to coaches looking to develop game winning tactics.
Rugby players, for example, are now tracked via GPS to enable coaches to evaluate an individual’s strength and weaknesses. This allows teams to get the most out of their current crop of players but also to more accurately select transfer targets. Football also heavily relies on data. Opta and Prozone, two companies specialised in the use of performance analysis in football, are now employed by most of the globe’s top tier professional teams.
Bridging the Gap
In “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game”, Michael Lewis examines how the Oakland Athletics baseball team employed an analytical methodology to put together a squad. This approach resulted in the assembling of a competitive unit, despite the relatively low level of investment available.
The book illustrates how a statistical approach can help sports teams ensure purchased players provide a return on investment. In the Premier League, West Ham Manager Sam Allardyce is known for implementing data analysis into his coaching and tactics. This approach is fruitful for teams with smaller budgets and could prove particularly relevant with the arrival of the Financial Fair Play regulations (FFP).
There is no doubt that procurement is more effective when underpinned by accurate MI. The question for many sports teams is whether a data driven recruitment drive can work in their specific environment. Whereas the Oakland Athletics baseball team successfully employed the model in a restricted market, would English football clubs be able to do the same in the open market that is the Premier League?
In this context, Prozone has developed a Recruitment solution which provides a benchmarking service. The key question is whether these benchmarks will open the door for innovative new transfer strategies or simply confirm the current status quo.
Competing with Giants
The wage bill, across all employees, of Premier League clubs in 2011/12 was £1,658m (up 4 per cent from the previous season). Manchester City topped this table with a spend of £202m, whereas at the other end, Swansea City spent £35m.
One of the aims of FFP is to increase the competitiveness of Europe’s football leagues. Clubs such as Swansea could leverage both the FFP and the increased data available, to support their player procurement strategies. In an ideal world, this winning combination would result in a more balanced football landscape.