When Arsène Wenger arrived at Arsenal in 1996, it was commonplace for team bonding sessions to take place in a pub. Seen as a way of encouraging camaraderie, it was deemed the sure-fire way of creating a ‘strong dressing room’, where players would fight for one another on the pitch.
This might be true, but alcohol’s never been an athlete’s friend. Putting the health implications aside, if a player drank the night before a training session, his efforts would rarely compare to if he had gone to bed at a reasonable time. This would have a direct impact on matchday performance and cost the team valuable points.
Wenger understood this and slowly but surely started to wean his players off the bad habits which had been allowed under previous managers. His sophisticated approach to player development, and the policies he implemented, were perhaps the catalyst for sport’s keen interest in analytics, at least in English football anyway.
A new report outlines that sports analytics will be worth $4.7 billion by 2021. This is likely to raise a few eyebrows, especially considering that the industry’s current value is around $125 million. This surge in value will be caused by the increasing accessibility to cloud computing and an improved infrastructure which will allow for smart phones and tablets to play a bigger role in training programmes.
One of Arsenal’s rivals, Manchester United, have been keen users of data. We spoke with Tony Strudwick, Head of Athletic Development at the club [https://channels.theinnovationenterprise.com/articles/the-importance-of-squad-balance-at-manchester-united], who informed us that they use analytics to maintain squad balance. Yet soccer is just one of a number of sports making use of analytics. The NBA, for example, ranks its team depending on their analytical ability.
Interestingly, the Los Angeles Lakers, one of basketball’s most iconic teams, have yet to be convinced about the value of analytics. Along with the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks, they are members of the ‘non-believer’ category, which many feel inhibits them from effectively analyzing team performance. The fact that the Lakers’ remain unconvinced shows that analytics still has room to grow.
We shouldn’t just concentrate on elite sport. Amateur sport is having a real impact on the rising valuation of sports analytics as well. Through applications such as ShotTracker [https://channels.theinnovationenterprise.com/articles/a-look-at-shot-tracker-to-create-data-driven-coaches], casual players can also take advantage of data to improve their game. Gamification also plays an important role here, and gives amateurs more incentive to practice.
The $4.7 billion future valuation placed on sports analytics shows just how far the space has come in a relatively short-period of time. There’s a long way to go, but with major sporting institutions and amateur athletes still to tap into, there’s no reason why it can’t meet its valuation by 2021.