Once upon a time there was a scout
Gone are the days when football scouts, armed with binoculars and notepads, traveled thousands of miles by car and plane. Only to check into countless hotel rooms, board countless cabs to the stadium, and watch all manner of players in countless stadiums.
Gone are the days when scouts filled out countless paper forms and sent them to their club by mail, fax or email. Gone are the days when scouts spent 90% of their time traveling and 10% scouting.
Digitalization forces football clubs to be efficient
Digitization and the pandemic is also forcing football clubs to rethink, digitize and improve their scouting processes. Due to the continuously increasing amount of available data and videos, it is nowadays possible to combine a systematic selection with a standardized scouting process. Even with limited resources.
The challenge always remains the same: To find the perfect player that hopefully no other club has on their radar. It's just that nowadays it's much more difficult than it used to be. In the past, clubs with big budgets could build a worldwide scouting network that would be the first to quickly report a large number of talents from which to choose.
Today, thanks to systematic data collection, a 16-year-old Iranian, for example, immediately stands out if he scores two goals in his first league game with the pros. The next day, half the scout soccer world already knows it.
Wyscout, Opta, Statsbomb, InStat and many more
Through the data collection and the professional data providers, the basis is created for all clubs to operate a qualitative data scouting. Nowadays, clubs can access player statistics from all over the world for little money.
Only, the vast majority of clubs have a very limited scouting budget. The scouting departments often consist of one to three people. They all have access to the statistics data at low cost, but for the analysis and interpretation of the data or corresponding tools or platforms, only very limited resources are available. Associations have to be creative and innovative. Very few teams can afford entire analyst and data scientist departments.
The first scouting decisions are more important than the last ones
Scouting is a classic selection process. With each selection step, the number of players is massively reduced. Since over 90% of players are "sorted out" in the first two selections, we should pay much more attention to them. The more players are left out, the more important the selection step is.
Reduce dependence on player agents
There are still numerous clubs that operate a largely reactive scouting. They get a recommendation from an agent or other middleman. Afterwards, they watch the player's actions on video in a scouting platform.
With this approach, clubs are already focused far too quickly on a small number of players. And often the interests of the clubs are not in the foreground.
The ideal scouting process starts with data scouting
Data Analytics does not aim to replace scouts. Rather, data analytics provides a valuable complement to the talent identification skills of scouts. A good scouting process consists of several phases and begins with data scouting.
This is so that you don't limit yourself to individual players too early and can really consider the entire player potential at the beginning.
Data Scouting - data driven recruitment
The ideal Scouting process begins with data scouting.
The club first defines the selection criteria per position based on its playing philosophy.
After that, a first player selection takes place based on their performance values and statistics.
This step should already generate numerous players that would otherwise not have been on the radar.
Here it is important to narrow down the right criteria. The skills that are difficult to develop are more important than the others. Because a good coach can develop very many dimensions of tactics and personality.
The advantages of data scouting:
The club can make its initial selection systematically based on its playing philosophy.
The club already has many more players in the open field of view at the beginning. This signals many players who otherwise would not have stood out.
The clearer and more individual the search criteria linked to the playing philosophy, the higher the chance of finding the most suitable player...
Because the whole world is not searching for club-specific criteria, this leads to savings in transfer spending. And in turn to higher profits in case of a possible resale.
Data does not have favorite teams or players. Performance is assessed as it was over the entire period. The risk of perception errors is reduced by the additional view of the data.
The club and scouts save massive amounts of resources and time and can use their limited scouting resources more efficiently.
Dependence on agents and other intermediaries is reduced.
Data scouting is possible even in a pandemic.
Video scouting, live scouting and player interviewing
Only then do the video scouting, live scouting (games & trainings) and player interview phases follow. Coupled to the football selection process, information on player personality and mentality should of course also be obtained via networks.
Data alone is not enough: You need analytics
Accessing data is only the first step. Data alone is not enough to discover new things. Data does not automatically lead to insights. It takes analytics expertise and a data analysis platform to profitably interpret the data and gain real insights. Even more so when we are inundated by huge streams of numbers.
Copernicus had the same data as everyone else, he saw, heard and learned the same things as his contemporaries. But he came to completely different conclusions. Because he questioned assumptions which were not for discussion for all others.
Building your own Data Analytics area and platform scares many clubs away. However, this does not have to be expensive. We will show in a later blog ways in which this is feasible even with little resources. And how new potentials can be created in the collaboration between analytics & football expertise.
First the data, then the videos and then the stadium.
Blog from www.footballytics.ch About data analytics in football - improve the game - change the ǝɯɐƃ
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