Analytics in Football – A Double Edged Sword

Sports as we know it today has come a long way. There were times when watching sports on television was considered a massive step forward in terms of technology. Fast forward 60 years, watching sports on television has become the most basic thing. Today we watch sports on the go on our mobile phones or any device with a screen and internet connectivity. Proud of how far we’ve come, aren’t we? Hopefully I can change your opinion on that by the end of this article.

What is sports all about? Sports is a bunch of people getting together to play a game with pre defined rules and a referee to ensure that these rules are adhered to during the passage of play. I am a sport lover and play sports all time. My love for tennis and soccer in particular cannot be defined. My issue when it came to technology and advanced analytics was with the game of soccer in particular. Soccer is such a beautiful game. The strategies that the coaching staff come up with and the way it is executed on field by the players, it actually is a thing of beauty. I was a soccer player myself (just an average one at that) and have been part of various teams. I know firsthand how strategies are built, how much thought goes into one single run of play.

Enter -> Advanced Analytics

Most of you would’ve seen the movie Moneyball. The movie was based on the book Michael Lewis wrote in 2003. It talks about how a jock turned luminary uses advanced statistics to gain a competitive edge over his better funded opponents. This book brought about a revolution is sports. Fans and boards of soccer clubs didn’t want to settle for subpar statistics or analytics anymore. What Moneyball did is, it took an old cliché – «sports are businesses» and made us move on to the next logical question – «how do we do things smarter?»

Now let’s talk about advanced analytics. Advanced analytics in today’s world plays a massive role in every business sector. Advanced analytics has been a boon for us. Moving from descriptive analytics to prescriptive analytics, we actually have come a long way. In various businesses, where the requirement is demanding, advanced analytics are of utmost importance.

When we look at soccer, its a game that does not require too much machine intelligence, it is a game that needs the human element. When you bring in analytics and technology and try to reduce the human element in the sports, it simply just crushes the spirit of the game.

Relying on analytics heavily killed the Premier Leagues long ball game and brought in the pressing, continual passing tiki-taka. Each league for that matter had its own style of play. The Premier League had the brash and brazen style of football that was termed «The way real men play football». There were beautiful long balls, harsh tackles but all the players just sucked it up, walked it off and it was all up to the referee on the pitch to penalize the offender or not. There were arguments and fights, the passion from the fans was crazy, that was the football that screamed of passion, when players got in the face of other players not fearing punishment. The Eric Cantona’s, the Ivan Genaro Gattuso’s, the Jaap Stam’s of the football world went missing soon enough and the diving and the biting began. Then there was the tiki-taka style of football that was played in the Spanish La Liga, the silky style of play that caught everyone off guard. The legendary Pep Guardiola and his army at Barcelona were the masters of the tiki-taka. There was Real Madrid who were always a star studded line-up with excessive parts of their play relying on lightning quick counters which most often than not left the opponents stunned. There was Manchester United who had their own brand of football being managed by the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson. That United team was a team of sheer grit and character. Each of these leagues had their own beauty and the teams had their own style of play.

When you bring in excessive technology and analytics, there emerge sorry technologies like VAR (Video Assistant Referees).

There are 3 stages as to how the VAR works:

Step 1

Incident occurs

The referee informs the VAR, or the VAR recommends to the referee that a decision/incident should be reviewed.

Step 2

Review and advice by the VAR

The video footage is reviewed by the VAR, who advises the referee via headset what the video shows.

Step 3

Decision or action is taken

The referee decides to review the video footage on the side of the field of play before taking the appropriate action/decision, or the referee accepts the information from the VAR and takes the appropriate action/decision.

Now the referee can consult with VAR for basically any doubts he wants clarified. What does this do?

• Removes the human element from the game.

• Takes up excess time and brings too many stoppages within the game, a game that was previously free flowing and continuous.

This makes it similar to Formula 1 racing. The analytics which brought about the fuel weight management systems and the numerous pit stops took the continuity out of the race and viewership reduced with the increase in technology. A pretty similar trend might occur in football if this implementation becomes mandatory.

The Positive Side of Advanced Analytics in Soccer:

Analytics are not all that bad in football. Let’s take the case of when Simon Wilson joined Manchester City in 2006. Simon Wilson was a consultant for an analytics startup called Prozone initially. He joined City to start a department of analytics and hired the best data analysts under him. He wanted to change the way how data was used by football teams. He saw that, after a defeat there was no introspection as to why they had lost and what needed to be done next time. City were a mid table club at that time. In September 2008, when the club was acquired by the Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment, a private-equity outfit owned by a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, the team suddenly found itself with the resources necessary to mount a challenge for the Premier League. Today, Wilson is Manchester City’s manager of strategic performance analysis. He has five departments under him, including the team of performance analysis, which is now led by a sports scientist named Ed Sulley.

After each match, the team’s performance data would be examined. The list is extensive. Line breaks (a rugby term), ball possession, pass success rates, ball win/loss time ratio were what used to be analyzed. «Instead of looking at a list of 50 variables we want to find five, say, that really matter for our style of play,» says Pedro Marques, a match analyst at Manchester City.

«With the right data-feeds, the algorithms will output the statistics that have a strong relationship with winning and losing.» Wilson recalls one particular period when Manchester City hadn’t scored from corners in over 22 games, so his team decided to analyze over 400 goals that were scored from corners. It was noticed that about 75 percent resulted from in-swinging corners, the type where the ball curves towards the goal. The next 12 games of the next season saw City score nine goals from corner.

Teams are investing heavily in analytics today and it is working in their favor. Look at where Manchester City are today, sitting atop the Premier League table and not being threatened at all. Look at Manchester United this season, their game has been such where their possession percentages are low but their goal conversions are high. The Manchester Derby on 7th April 2018 saw United have only 35% of the possession but they managed to trump City 3-2. Each team has their set of analysts who provide inputs as per the strength of the team.

Advanced analytics is like the coin Two Face in Batman has, «Heads you die, Tails you survive!»

It can reap crazy rewards from a team’s point of view but at the same time can disrupt the lovely game by bringing in unnecessary stoppages, replays and by taking the human element out of it. The numerous replays and the different angles, show the fans if the referee has made an error or not. Let the error happen, after all to err is human. Refereeing in soccer is not an exact science and it’s all real time. Let there be arguments about a decision, let the passion in the argument come through. Do you want to watch a football match like the El Classico or the Manchester Derby and sit with your bunch of friends and say «it was a very clean game, the best team won!» Hell NO! Don’t drive the passion out of soccer with technology and analytics. Let soccer be soccer and let technology stay away!

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The Best Selling Soccer Jerseys

Every year what jerseys are the most popular tends to change depending on not only the design of the shirts and how the team is performing but also who signs for the club. The success of teams on the park tends to be the biggest indicator as to what soccer shirts will be the biggest sellers but this year we have seen the players who sign for clubs influencing the shirt sales more and more, before it is known whether they will be successful for the club.

The best example of this can be seen with Real Madrid this. Real Madrid spent over £200 million in the summer signing some of the best players in the world, the most notable of which were Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo in particular caused a huge soccer jersey buying frenzy when he was signed for a world record fee. Real Madrid shirts sold poorly last season with fortunes on the pitch not living up to their high standards, but this year Real Madrid shirts are set to outsell every other soccer kit on the market.

Barcelona soccer jerseys are also set to be one of the most popular after their success last season, when they won the league, the cup and the Champions League. Barcelona’s shirt sales were boosted again by the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic from Inter Milan, who when combined with the likes of Messi, Xavi and Henry, to name a few, makes Barcelona jerseys one of the most popular.

Other teams that are likely to be amongst the biggest sellers of the 2008-09 season are the likes of Manchester United, Inter Milan, AC Milan and Liverpool. These teams have a huge following and consistently sell well worldwide. There will of course be a few surprise top selling soccer jerseys this year as teams play well and win tournaments but until the end of the season we won’t be able to tell who these teams are and how many soccer jerseys they will sell.

The sales of soccer jerseys will be boosted by the World Cup next year as well as the African Nations Cup with national team shirts likely to be some of the biggest selling shirts in 2010. In 2008 Spain shirts were one of the biggest selling shirts of the year after their win in the Euro 2008 tournament and this will likely be repeated with whoever performs well and wins the 2010 World Cup. The World Cup soccer jerseys are already getting released in preparation for the big tournament next year.

There is a long way to go in the season yet, so the success and failure of teams could determine the number of soccer jerseys sold for teams but it will take a lot of to topple the Real Madrid and Barcelona soccer kit sales this season. International shirt sales are likely to be the biggest selling jerseys for 2010 with next years World Cup in South Africa set to be one of the biggest yet.

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Soccer Coaching – Practice Players Vs Game Players

Ever notice that there are some players whose performance in practice is fantastic, but they are not contributors at game time? There are also players who do not seem motivated at practice, but are extremely effective during the game. Why is this?

I think it has to do with psychology. Some players are very comfortable with the practice environment, because they know the players around them. There is an element of security and familiarity that is not present on game day. Some players also suffer from performance anxiety, so they think too much about the outcome and not enough about the task at hand.

It is also common for players to have mental blocks, so they associate failure with certain scenarios. These players typically stress after a mistake and it takes them very long to recover. Some never do and their performance deteriorates as the game progresses.

Then we have the player that coasts through practice and is your best player on Saturday. This is also a psychological issue. This player loves a challenge and rises to the occasion on game day. He / she is confident and wants to prove to himself / herself as well as to the opponents that they can play. This player is not motivated at training because they have the incorrect interpretation of its purpose. To them it is just practice and they do not see the need to go all out against their teammates.

There are pitfall with both players. The player that works at practice, but can't translate this to game time has to overcome their personal fears. This takes time and experience. Some coaches do not have the patience and these players are left out. Especially at the higher levels. I know you are thinking how does a player with the ability, not translate it to the game? Well here is a possible reason. This player may have played for a coach when he was very young that stressed results … a screamer. This coach probably took players off every time they made a mistake and never offered a solution.

The game player is really no better off in the long run because they never get to full fitness. The training habits begin to catch up with them as their talent alone will not see them through at the next level. Training habits and discipline are key to success, so unless this player gains an appreciation for the intangibles, then they too will be left out eventually.

How is this type of player created? Here is another possibility. He / she was always physically gifted and the team relied heavily upon them for success when they were younger. He / she never had to push themselves at training because they were way ahead of the rest, so it was acceptable to the coach. This player played the entire game and was the focus of the team. They got the ball to him / her at all times regardless of outcome.

Obviously this player gained tremendous confidence, because of the treatment received from the coaching staff. The sad thing is that when these players become part of team where everyone is treated the same and is expected to work at all times, they sometimes fail. They now have to perform a function clarified at practice (an environment they have never taken seriously) and the game no longer revolves around them.

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How to Become a Powerful Influence On People

How Influential Are You?

Have you stopped lately to think about what level of influence you have on people? To put it another way; Do people listen to you and respect your opinion? This is especially important on your job, whether you are rank-and-file or in management. People follow leaders, whether they hold a title on their job or not. If you are not able to persuade people, and win them over to your way of thinking, you may be relegated to the lower rungs of society.

Every day we are presented with opportunities to influence others. It may come in the form of a law enforcement officer ready to issue you a ticket, or your boss challenging parts of your presentation, or when you have to return a pair of shoes to the department store without a receipt. How you handle these everyday challenges, in turn, help or hurt your ability to shine in high profile situations, where your persuasive skills are on display for all to see.

Your Most Powerful Tool

Do you want to know the most powerful tool you have at your disposal when it comes to influencing people? I learned and perfected this strategy over a 4 year period, while working as a contracts negotiator for the Department of Defense. I must have learned my lesson well, because I was named one of the top negotiators in my area, and received the coveted sustained superior performance award for high level achievements.

This tool is so powerful, most people (on all levels of organizations) completely miss it, yet it has been proven to be extremely effective in studies after studies. What is it you ask? It is the "psychology of a smile." That's right; a smile. Why is it so powerful? Because it has no language barriers-none. I have tested this theory all around the world. No matter where I travel, every single person, in every language understands its message. A smile is the universal language of winners. The reason I call it a tool is because, like any tool it works in the right situation.

It was President Abraham Lincoln who said that a man is extremely responsible for the condition of his face. How true this is. So the next time you are tempted to use the tool of anger during one of your daily challenges, try employing a simple smile instead, and see if the results are different. I have used it on flights across the country, and witnessed flight attendance to be more attentive to me v. others. I have used it when I really should have gotten a ticket for speeding, only to get a warning to slow down. I have used it at restaurants and watched servers be just a little kinder to me and my party, over all others. I have watched frowns turn to smiles, simple because I took the time to smile.

The Smile Strategy

Do not dismiss this as some flaky strategy used by flakes and geeks. The "smile strategy" has been used effectively by such greats as Henry Kissinger, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Oprah Winfrey, Melinda Gates, Nelson Mandela, Richard Bronson, Warren Buffet, Barack Obama, Napoleon Hill, Angela Merkel, Michelle Obama, Laurene Powell Jobs, and so many more.

Do you want to become a powerful influence on people? Then start with a smile. Watch stunningly successful people (even in your immediate circles) and you'll see that they have a tendency to smile more than others. Frank Irving Fletcher wrote that; a smile cost nothing, but creates much. It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give. It happens in a flash, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.

Conclusion

One of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal when it comes to influencing people is simply to smile .. A smile is the universal language of winners.

© 2014 Cubie Davis King. All rights reserved. Unlawful to duplicate or use in any way with the express written permission of the author.

Travel Style Tips: How To Dress Appropriately In Qatar

With Qatar winning the rights to host the 2022 World Cup, this tiny sheikdom on the northeasterly coast of the Arabian peninsula will become an increasingly popular travel destination. Being a predominantly Muslim country, the appropriate dress code may pose a bit of a dilemna for women traveling there from other countries. As the way a woman dresses in Qatar may influence how the locals view and treat her, here are a few travel style tips and simple courtesies that will ensure local values in Qatar are respected and traveling there an enjoyable experience.

The key to dressing appropriately in Qatar is to consider what Qatari women themselves wear. They are completely covered from head to toe in lose, non-revealing robes, with faces more than likely covered by a veil. Although the Qatari’s don’t necessarily expect Western visitors to dress in the same manner, what it does spell out to visitors is that wearing revealing clothes is not appropriate in this country. It is considered more respectful to wear loose-fitting clothes that cover the limbs:

1) Do have a look at the range of long cotton robes for women that can be purchased in the shopping malls, souqs, or even large supermarkets in Qatar. The selection of colours and prints have become wider and more fashionable over the years. Do wear these robes on your visit to Qatar as they will be far more comfortable in the heat and you will be much better received by the locals.

2) Do wear trousers, skirts and dresses that are well below the knee. Shorts, even if they are knee length, are inappropriate, as are skimpy skirts. Do not show any leg.

3) Do leave any tight fitting or low cut clothes at home. They will not be appropriate for Qatar.

4) Do keep the chest and shoulder area covered. Bring blouses or shirts that have either 3/4; or long sleeves. If bringing T-shirts, make sure that they are not tight and have the appropriate sleeve length. Keep the midriff well covered.

5) Take a chiffon scarf that you can fold up and pack into your handbag and use as head cover if required or when visiting mosques.

6) Consider the type of bathing suit that you bring to the Qatari beaches or hotel swimming pool. A bikini will attract unwanted attention. A full piece, with a modest cover-up when out of the water, will be more appropriate.

Women are expected to dress modestly in Qatar. And while most likely no Qatari will ever tell you that you shouldn’t be wearing something, it doesn’t mean that they will not take offense, which may in turn influence the manner in which you will be treated. Taking the time to follow a few simple travel style tips, practice some simple courtesies and conform to local dress standards will not only help to show respect for the local culture, it will avoid offending the locals.

IPTV: How It Is Changing the Sports Broadcasting Industry

Watching your favorite sports event used to mean two things only: buying tickets to see the game live and waiting for it to be broadcast on television. Things have changed nowadays as sports fans now have a better option in the form of IPTV or Internet Protocol Television.

IPTV is a broadcasting method that makes use of Internet lines to deliver video feeds. It does not rely on a browser in order to function. Instead, an IPTV provider connects a decoder box to your television for you to be able to view videos. The videos are given to you online and in real-time. The only important requirement for you to enjoy IPTV service is a high-speed Internet connection (specifically high bandwidth broadband).

How IPTV Works

To receive IPTV content, you will need to have a set-top box or an IPTV box. This box is connected to your television source or Internet line/broadband. The box receives packets that it reassembles so that the video stream is decoded into an acceptable format.

The set-up box is like the menu or the basis for what a viewer wants. An «operator» gets content from producers and broadcasters and this is what is converted in to the IPTV video format.

A high-speed Internet connection is essential in making sure that the packets are received without disruption or delay.

What It Can Offer Sports Fans and Broadcasters

In the past, it was quite difficult to follow a game’s progress if you are stuck in traffic or swamped with tons of paperwork in the office. Today, IPTV has made it possible for sports broadcasters to deliver games whenever and wherever. Viewers are given three options as to how they want the content given to them. Linear or Broadcast TV allows for live streaming of games and sports events. VoD or Video on Demand enables users to choose what they want to watch and how they want to watch it. They can pause, forward or rewind the video. This way, they’re sure to catch every breathtaking moment of their favorite sports games. IPTV users can also choose to use their personal video recorders whenever there’s a match or sports event that they want to record.

Here are other IPTV advantages that both sports fans and broadcasters can enjoy:

  1. IPTV broadcasts are in high-definition so it’s definitely a higher quality experience compared to traditional TV viewing technologies.
  2. Unlike satellite TV, IPTV is not easily affected by storms and other similar weather disturbances. For sports broadcasters, this means uninterrupted delivery of sports events in the easiest way possible. For sports fans, this is equivalent to unparalleled excitement when watching their favorite sports events.
  3. Greater interactivity compared to traditional broadcast TV means users can control what programs to watch and even when to watch them (via VoD).
  4. Viewers are more into the program or game because of the interactivity feature. For instance: they can use their remote to vote for their favorite player of the game. IPTV gives them an opportunity to be part of the most important sports events.
  5. Sports fans can use the camera selection feature when watching games or events. This offers a more personalized way of viewing videos.
  6. For sports broadcasters, streaming live games, matches and events becomes easier and more convenient. IPTV also offers more opportunities for lesser known sports like kayaking and sculling to be exposed to the viewing public.
  7. Sports teams and broadcasters can also use the medium for extra revenue and fan reach through advertising and promotions. Broadcasters can even dedicate one channel to a specific sport – like mountain biking or rugby. Football and sports stadiums in the UK now use IPTV to bring games to larger audiences when they happen and as they happen.

IPTV also works on smartphones, iPods and personal computers. Because of this, sports broadcasters are assured of wider exposure and fans get uninterrupted viewing of video content coming from different parts of the world.

Conclusion

Internet Protocol Television has made sports broadcasting more exciting. Sports broadcasters now have more options (in terms of creativity) in bringing their content to the public. It offers them more choices in getting and sustaining the attention of sports aficionados. It is the perfect choice of broadcasters in delivering live games to those who may not have the time or the means to buy tickets and watch the game personally. Best of all, IPTV presents a lot of opportunities for broadcasters to encourage people to embrace sports as a fan, a follower or as an aspiring athlete.

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