Is it time football teams rebranded as technology businesses?

This is a guest blogpost by James Petter, VP International, Pure Storage.

All eyes at this year’s UEFA European Football Championship have been on the performances of the players and managers. The tactics and skill on display have once again captivated the continent – and the world – as teams fight for success.

However, success is not dependent upon player performance alone, but also by the close scrutiny by staff and coaches of the match and training data collected in real time. From monitoring run-rates to touches of the ball and player health, football teams use data and real-time analysis much in the same way business IT teams do, to enhance performance.

Whether it’s sports teams, retailers or manufacturers – the use of data to define strategy and create tactics has become an essential route to optimal performance. With IDC predicting unbridled growth of unstructured data by 2025, football clubs need to act like modern technology businesses: adept at managing different data streams, removing silos and providing consistent insights that can deliver real-time changes during matches.

The new 12th man

This evolution in mindset shows that we are on the cusp of unlocking real transformation in the game. From a fan’s perspective, we’re now closer than ever to our favourite clubs and players, as we have all the insights such as goals scored and assists etc. readily available from companies like Opta or Squawka. While the effective management of data, and deployment of data scientists, has already born fruit for some clubs.

An example is Brentford FC. Over the past decade, the club has turned to data analytics to effectively monitor how and when its players pass the ball, shoot at goal, as well as the team’s defensive stability and off-the-ball positioning. As a result, backed by smart data, the club has risen quickly from League One to the Premier League – a real fairytale story for fans. While at the international level, England’s climb through the Euros group stages and into the knockout rounds is no coincidence. In recent years, the team has pivoted its approach to accommodate the use of technology: using vests from the likes of Catapult to improve positioning or sleep monitoring devices to observe resting conditions and ensure match-day readiness. It’s clear that effective data analysis produces results on and off the pitch.

While real time data analysis is the ultimate goal, very few organisations are able to achieve it. Challenges like slow and unpredictable performance in search queries preventing fast access to insights, siloed and segmented data creating inefficiencies and gaps in data pipelines, producing inaccurate or less effective results. Legacy architectures and complex operational structures can stall or even stagnant growth as organisations battle to glean more insights from their overwhelmed analytic platforms.

To take advantage of the data at their disposal, teams have turned to leading edge technologies such as Unified Fast File and Object (UFFO) platform. UFFO can scale in tandem with the huge volume of data produced from the club’s sensors and technology, consolidating file and object data in one place to eliminate silos and deliver consistent and reliable data, often in real-time. In turn, this empowers analysts to swiftly derive value and insights that can inform strategy or tactics.

Reaching the next level

Brentford and England are two shining examples of football teams who have moved fast to implement a digital strategy to great success. But for those sporting organisations beginning their digital transformation journey, it’s important to note that tackling the volume of disaggregated data produced by the modern game, and analysing it for real-time insights is not an insurmountable challenge.

The business transformation of Southampton FC is a good example. Working with Pure, the club is achieving targets across its sporting and commercial operations. Previously, its existing systems were running out of storage space, and data-intensive requirements needed a new approach. Now the club relies on Pure to join up data from every aspect of the club for optimum performance on and off the field.

By overhauling legacy infrastructure, among other improvements, their average application performance increased by 37%. In practice this supports the club’s vision of being able to analyse, measure, and optimise every aspect of its operations, from discovering the latest hot prospects in its youth teams, through to helping senior players make a faster recovery from injury. The club sees this as a means of differentiating from the other clubs in the league.

Data as the playmaker to success

It’s clear that data is at the heart of the modern game. The clubs that want to maintain their competitive edge will need to have a modern infrastructure in place that can consolidate, store and analyse the data in real-time, to ensure they are gaining every crucial insight they can. That’s how the teams of tomorrow will compete, and secure those all-important results.

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