When I play FIFA I always take a look at the numerous statistics about my players. Wouldn’t it be great if football managers in real life have these statistics and functionalities? Football is one of the most conservative sports, which is strange since it is the most popular sport in the world. A Dutch company called SciSports is trying to change this as they are introducing new technologies to football clubs.
SciSports is founded by Giels Brouwer, an alumni of the University of Twente. One of their most successful systems is BallJames. BallJames can be described as an MRI-scanner which scans the field during a match. It consists of fourteen cameras which observe all twenty-two players (and the ball, of course). A computer is analysing all kind of data, for example speed of headers, shots (on goal) and distance covered. BallJames is making use of ‘voxels’ which are 3D-pixels. A football match can generate up to 60 terabytes of data, but that’s just one part of the story. The next step is to come up with recommendations which can help managers. The data analysts of SciSports can help with this, the bigger clubs like Manchester City have their own data team, but smaller clubs don’t have these resources.
SciSports is growing rapidly, they raised 1.35 million euros which they are going to invest in BallJames. Clubs which are using BallJames are Heracles Almelo, PSV and Vitesse. There is an increasing number of ‘laptop-coaches’, a famous example is Pep Guardiola which is extensively using data to improve trainings and the performance of players. But BallJames is not only useful for football clubs, it can also be used at sports like rugby or even crowd-control on airports. I think that every professional club needs such a system in the future, because it can give them some interesting insights.