At PlayerStat Data, we are excited by the return of LOI & WNL football in the coming days and weeks. It seems like a long time since the FAI Cup Final went into its 120th minute – but after what has seemed like an age of new signing announcements, our teams and clubs are preparing to kick off their 2021 seasons.

We have launched our data offerings this season after a lengthy, Covid-enforced test period (testing since last July’s restart). Players, clubs, and agencies are beginning to see the value that accurate, intelligent, and bespoke performance data will bring to their own goals/operations. In Ireland, there is a huge opportunity to change the landscape of performance data in our game (and uses of this data) – 2021 could prove to be a watershed in that respect. Here are some of our thoughts about how data can be embraced across the board this coming season.

Media adoption of game & player data

It is not unusual to see statistical breakdowns of Premier League games and player ratings in British media match reports. Monday supplements in tabloid papers often carry their own version of team of the week and online match reports on the likes of bbc.co.uk/football offer up match stats after each report. We needn’t go into detail on the depth of in-game and post-game data offered up by Sky Sports and BT Sport, never mind the player statistical breakdowns that pundits go into before & after games.

Unfortunately, this is not the case across Irish outlets, with very little in the way of match/player data across TV broadcasts, podcasts, articles, and match reports. We feel there is an opportunity for accurate & detailed data insights to be used to enhance the storytelling in-game and post-game reporting and punditry, across ALL platforms.

(a snapshot of some of our in-game data collection from 12/03 President’s Cup)

ACCURATE player data to drive decision making

For their own analysis (and opposition work), clubs now pay for access to data packages and/or have their own performance analyst in-house. They are clearly embracing the value of this service as part of their own preparations, with the great value of a performance analyst over the season being fully recognised. While the video element of these packages is excellent, the data output can leave a lot to be desired (missed substitutions, incorrect XIs and players completely omitted from tagging). This has happened far too often over the last two seasons & is unfair on those who pay enough to base their analyses on the data provided.

Users deserve access to data output that they can rely on, especially considering the opportunity cost involved in having to pay for these packages. Accurate, bespoke data packages that clubs can use to make in-depth and accurate analysis on players & systems should be a given – but this is not always the case.

In other situations, players have missed out on moves due to a lack of complete data on their performances. We spoke with two players over the Winter who missed out on potential moves due to incomplete data on them across certain platforms. This is wildly unfair on these players and can have a detrimental effect on their career plans. There is no reason for data to be incomplete or inaccurate on LOI and WNL players, data accuracy needs to be a cornerstone of any data provision.

INTELLIGENT data insights to drive conversation & analysis

The depth and range of performance data available on major global leagues is growing season on season – clubs embracing AI for player analysis, injury prevention and other facets of their operations. While this is a huge leap for LOI and WNL clubs, there is no reason why this should not be the norm in years to come – as it stands, current data offerings should be pushed further than they are currently.

Data analysis is still relatively in its infancy in Ireland, with LOI clubs only having blanket access to data provision packages over the last 3 years. With every LOI and WNL game due to be broadcast in some capacity this season (dependent on non-sporting factors), there is an opportunity for users to take more from the footage than they are currently being given. Every club having access to the same data output as every other club nulls the advantage that data can bring. Having their own data insights, broken down into metrics that they want to see as they want to see them, can offer a competitive advantage over their league opposition.

Growth in BESPOKE player performance reports

With players having increased options to further their own careers (increased number of full-time contracts available, increased awareness of nutrition, S&C etc., agents with career plans for the client), there is a growing need for players to have access to their own bespoke data reports – each player wanting to see outputs on different facets of their game and control what they see from their data.

Those players, looking for that 1% edge in their performances, have several additions that can deliver this added 1% – bespoke data, GPS, S&C etc. Our research has suggested that a growing number of players are looking for data insights into their own performances (i.e. strengths & weaknesses, trends over a few games, statistical output benchmarked against others). This will allow them to work on their own training plans, work on facets of their game and to play to their strengths as well.

As more players grow to realise the benefits of having their own bespoke reports post-game (in addition to the club analysis that they will be given), they can progress and push their career progression goals that bit further. A key tenet of these bespoke reports is that they are accurate (i.e., reliable) and produce intelligent insights- the type of insights that will build upon all the information currently available to the player.

The 1% edge can be found in the performance data output!

Other uses of bespoke LOI and WNL data

We have mentioned various uses where LOI and WNL data could drive a few changes and enhancements across the three leagues. Media adoption, club decision-making enhanced by reliable data and players driving their own performance improvements through their own bespoke data access.

In addition, we could see the following areas using bespoke LOI/WNL data in the coming months:

  • Traders using bespoke data to find value in trading markets – with odds compiled from often inaccurate & publicly available sources, there is a growing demand for those on the punter side of the trade to identify under/overvalued prices in the betting markets.
  • A greater use of player statistics in fan podcasts, fan blogs and similar platforms. Fans are reading more and more data articles around top players around the globe and there is a growing presence of data articles in the likes of The Athletic and data-related podcasts. We see this becoming more prevalent in Ireland as accurate and intelligent data becomes available to all.
  • A final initiative (admittedly too late in the day now, for 2022) would be a fantasy football element to the LOI and WNL. A wildly popular offering in the EPL and no doubt, there are some that see the potential of it here in the LOI/WNL also. Greater fan engagement with the league products, greater interest, and awareness in the results and who did what and would ultimately boost the profile of many players.

Data is often mentioned as being the new oil; a valuable asset that can drive change, progress, and drive enhancements in performances, decision-making and in the viewer’s/reader’s/listener’s experience. Covid has forced those in authority in football in Ireland to think differently to keep the ‘show’ on the road, there is now an opportunity for multiple parties to embrace accurate, intelligent, and bespoke performance data solutions.

The LOI and WNL 2021 season is one of change and possibility;

performance data usage can help to lead that change

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