Whilst the modern soccer fan still yearns for the pleasures that arise from a goal being scored or a defender making a crunching tackle, they want to be informed as well as entertained, seeking a deeper understanding of the game with the help of sports data.
In order for the Bundesliga to help satisfy this growing thirst for knowledge, German Football League (DFL) subsidiary Sportec Solutions has been growing its data output.
Based in Cologne, Sportec Solutions has been collecting, storing and delivering official match data since the start of the 2017/18 season, it is now an established presence on the German soccer landscape, its growth and reach have expanded substantially. The company now deploys more than 100 freelance staff to collect and process data.
With the information collected by Sportec Solutions the DFL is able to tell the kind of stories required to position the DFL as a media and content specialist. For example, if you connect all the passes of the last year and half; start in Cologne, the last pass would reach the Golden Gate Bridge.
Since its founding, Sportec Solutions’ scouting feed operators have travelled around the world the equivalent of 16.5 times and have monitored 1,059 soccer matches. The result is almost 70 days and 4.45 terabytes of video material. The ability to be flexible and react quickly is key in an ever-evolving marketplace that the DFL believes is one of its core strengths, making the production of the world’s most comprehensive live sports data collection possible.
As well as creating storytelling opportunities to supporters, the process also provides benefits to the DFL’s clubs. They can gain access to the data they need to give them a clearer picture of the strengths and weaknesses of both their own team and of the opposition, allowing them to focus on improving on-field performance.
Giampiero Rinaudo, co-founder and chief executive of Deltatre, the sports data technology company and a joint venture partner with the DFL in Sportec Solutions, is enthused by what the partnership has achieved so far.
He said: “As data storytelling and data analytics become increasingly relevant in sport, it is important that a leading sporting body such as the DFL develops these tools in-house while advancing further development and global marketing alongside strong partners.”
Sportec Solutions has been at the vanguard of several important recent developments. One is the introduction of the Commentary Live System that was rolled out at the start of the 2018/19 season. This complimentary tool provides Bundesliga match commentators with a wealth of extensive live data – including match statistics, player information, and audio assistance on the pronunciation players’ names – that they can then relay to viewers at home.
As an in-house data company, Sportec Solutions has also helped bring about greater transparency in the use of video assistant referee (VAR) technology. Spectators inside the stadium and viewers watching on television now get text updates on their screens explaining why the video assistant has been called to examine a particular incident, whether it is to check the legitimacy of a goal, penalty award, red card or to settle cases of mistaken player identity.
Whilst human recording underpins Sportec Solutions’ data gathering significant steps forward are already being taken to use technology to increase accuracy. Tracking data, currently compiled with the help of a semi-automatic image recognition system, will expand in scope over the next three to five years as new algorithms and performance indicators are created. Working alongside leading providers, player movements can be traced to produce consistent and reliable sports performance data. The ability to virtually recreate scenes from a match on screen is also expected to improve as the technology develops, creating innovative examples of virtual or mixed reality.
The use of predictive statistics will also become more prevalent. Thanks to the growth of artificial intelligence and advanced statistical models, a player’s data can be extrapolated to provide an analysis of likely future performance. Sportec Solutions’ data modelling also helps with the creation of advanced player metrics, for example the use of expected goals as a measure of how many goals a player or team should have scored based on the quality of shots taken.
Underpinned by Sportec Solutions, data storytelling will also become more advanced, placing the numbers and their significance within a wider context. ‘Robo texts’ such as match reports can be created using algorithms and software to interpret the data without the need for human input. Similar technology has been deployed by several large news agencies to increase the speed of production.
As data increasingly becomes woven into the fabric of a rights holder’s offering so Sportec Solutions importance to the Bundesliga will grow.