Analytics FC in the Media: “This is Not Football Manager…but It Looks Like It”

Polish football publication Weszlo spoke recently to Analytics FC about new partner club Stal Rzeszów, who have signed up to use the company’s cutting-edge data-scouting platform TransferLab. Leading Polish football journalist Szymon Janczyk sat down with Analytics FC’s Head of Content, Alex Stewart, to find out more about how and why Stal have invested in the use of data. The piece also featured a fascinating interview with Stal’s Sporting Director, Jaroslaw Fojut.

In a wide-ranging interview, Alex and Szymon discuss how Stal have integrated data across the club, with TransferLab a central element to how the club works, and why a top down approach is necessary. As Alex says:

“Stal understands that data is important, so [they] will be able to use it. Some of the most popular examples of clubs that have achieved success through data analytics are Brighton and Brentford. It is no coincidence that in both of them the owner based his vision on this…You can have the best data analyst and a fantastic recruitment department, but if the most important people in the club don’t understand the point of working with data, it doesn’t matter. Stal approached us because they knew what they were looking for.”

From the outset, Stal’s new owner Rafal Kalisz and SD Fojut wanted the club’s direction to be shaped by data. Fojut explains in the piece how Stal is looking to harness the insights that data can bring in scouting.

“Data screening from a scouting perspective is the first step in looking for a footballer. It allows for quick identification and assessment of a player’s abilities. We can find there the style of play, the history of injuries; we can quickly decide whether we are going to the next stage of scouting. Thanks to this, we avoid bias and ensure objective decision-making. We’re not the only ones who do it; the best clubs operate the same way in their recruitment process. [TransferLab] is not a platform that decides on a transfer, but it will help us find a player, taking into account his behaviour and how he functions on the pitch.

He continues:

“We decided on “Analytics FC” for business reasons, looking at the availability and capabilities of tools on the market. “TransferLab” has the best offer. The metrics that are there are a little bit different from the rest. Each platform has its own unique things. For example, the “Analytics FC” algorithm calculates a player’s value and impact on the team while he is on the pitch. If it increases the chance of scoring a goal, they are positive, and in the worst case scenario they are negative…TransferLab also has an algorithm that we can use to assess a player’s potential. A curve that shows the “score” of a given player and his age. We are able to assess in what direction a player is heading, whether he is developing or not.”

And that kind of depth, as well as the range of options that TransferLab can assess, is what drew Stal to work with Analytics FC’s platform. For smaller clubs, in-person scouting of foreign leagues is expensive and needs the kind of up-front focus and precision that data scouting first can bring. As Alex explains, “The group of players who can improve the quality of Stal is huge, but without the right tools it is harder to find them. Data enables you to achieve better results at lower costs. With a smaller budget, you have less room for error. Stal will be able to find a suitable player at a lower price than if they did it in other ways.”

The piece also addresses some other really interesting topics, such as how data is being used by other clubs in Poland, how Stal have created a data-driven structure across the whole club and not just recruitment, and how it’s also already paying dividends in youth recruitment for the club.

You can read the whole piece here.

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