Netherlands-based data intelligence company SciSports is hoping to change world football through data, motion tracking and machine learning.
Using data and machine learning, the company produces a “SciSkill Index” – an objective ranking of current ability, potential and influence of thousands of footballers across hundreds of different competitions around the world.
The score is determined by the SciSports’ existing data library and from 3D data collected from stadium cameras, which converts movements in practice or during the match into useful information in real time.
“It is the first system that allows you to compare James Troisi with Neymar and check if Milos Degenek has the potential to become as good as David Luiz,” a company spokesperson told Which-50.
“This will enable clubs to increase their scouting scope, decrease their risk of signing the wrong player and enlarge the change of finding the right talent.”
It also helps clubs that adopt ‘moneyball’ strategies and sign players who outperform their contract and reputation.
According to SciSports, Dutch club Heracles Almelo used their system to identify unheralded player Wout Weghorst. Weghorst came to the club on a free transfer and performed well enough to be selected in the dutch youth team. He was then transferred to AZ Alkmaar for a fee of €1.5M and became the top goalscorer at the club.
An excellent result for the Heracles Almelo and perhaps a leveller against the highly resourced large European clubs.
SciSports works with several other top clubs across Europe including “several big English and German clubs” which could not be disclosed due to confidentiality agreements, according to a company spokesperson. They also have their camera tracking technology installed in at least one premier league club’s stadium.
“Every year our involvement in the amount of transfers quadrupled. Last summer, we helped with over forty transfers around Europe,” SciSports told Which-50.
SciSports can help players too. According to the company, they assisted Manchester United star Memphis Depay in his move to Lyon. “His management asked us to advise him on a next step. We then performed a playing style analysis and looked at the competition at several clubs. We combined that with the things Memphis himself found important,” said SciSports cofounder Giels Brouwer.
The SciSkill Index is fed by data from several partners but the Dutch company has developed their own way of sourcing data. ‘BallJames’ is the company’s fully automated tracking system which generates 3D data without the need for any sensors attached to players or the ball.
According to the company, BallJames automatically generates 3D data from video images of football matches. In the stadium, fourteen cameras are installed, which record all the movements on the field. BallJames then generates its own data such as the precision, direction and speed of the passing, sprinting strength, jumping strength, player movements and how close the ball stays to the foot after a first touch.
In addition to its primary function of data collection, BallJames also opens up a host of other possibilities according to former SciSports CTO, Gerrit-Jan van Ahee.
“Think VR, goal-line technology but for the whole field, think second screen possibilities besides watching football on your TV. It is impossible that we will also deliver the end product in all those markets, but with our engine we will fill the role of pure data supplier,” he said in a company statement in March.
The story has been updated to clarify Gerrit-Jan van Ahee is no longer SciSports’ CTO.