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InStat: A vital product for the future of Australian football?

Following the news of the AAFC’s plans for a national second division, Australian football seems to be moving into a new era, as the game manoeuvres around the challenges of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Alongside the national second tier, FFA CEO James Johnson continues his push towards adopting the global standards of football in this country, flagging an integrated transfer system as a priority in the coming months.

In what will be a critical development, clubs throughout all tiers will finally be appropriately rewarded for developing young players.

The local football economy will grow and should lift standards across the board, with ambitious NPL clubs provided with an extra incentive if they are able to be promoted to the A-League.

Clubs will look to invest in resources to improve their operations overall and give them an edge, on and off the field.

Global football resource InStat, currently partners with the FFA, A-League and W-League clubs, as well as a handful of NPL clubs, providing statistical breakdowns of matches for performance analysis.

This improves factors such as game day preparation and player development, through the use of on demand video review.

Australian Manager for InStat, Oliver Civil, claims the product is suitable for many clubs around the country.

“Our mission is to enhance performance, save time, money and resources for professional, amateur and collegiate teams around the globe,” he said.

“Thanks to technology, there is no reason the ‘Moneyball’ concept of analysis, evidence-based scouting & on-field performance can’t also be applied to second division or semi-professional clubs.”

Football Tasmania Technical Director, Michael Edwards, believes platforms such as InStat are important if we want to lift coaching and player performance in Australia.

“I think if we are looking at more professional or high-performance type coaches to improve our leagues, we’ve got to actually support them with platforms, data and different learning opportunities,” he said.

“Not just for the coaches but for the players as well.

“Quite often, you can communicate with a player verbally about what’s happening, but they go ‘oh no, that’s not me, I didn’t do that’, but then to be able to instantly see it on a video clip associated with it, it provides a different aspect to that player’s development.”

Using another example, Edwards said: “You can look at an opposing team and make an analysis: Where are their goals coming from? Who’s the most influential player in their side? So those sort of insights into the way a football match actually pieces together, I think is really good.

“That’s where I see InStat’s value, the fact that it’s almost instantaneous, within a day you can have data available to you and your club, it just improves where we are heading as a sport.”

From a business standpoint, the company’s scouting platform provides users with the tools to support the buying and selling of football talent, a vital service if the game is to introduce an improved transfer system.

“Using our global database, we cover hundreds of leagues and 960,000 players,” Civil said.

“Via our video platform, using statistical analysis, we provide information on key skills, chemistry and characteristics of identified players.

“If your club would like our insight, we also offer current squad assessments, player recommendations and prospective newcomer analysis.

“We can also help support any football department with their scouting analysis & assessment of a player.”

Edwards explained there are a range of scouting options, depending on the outcomes the club using the service seeks to achieve.

“You can use a local only database if you like, or, if you’re at a club at a level that is looking for a quality international player to bring in, it’s there for you to assess in a worldwide database.”

The information gathered by the service is also effective for managers and agents wanting to highlight their player’s abilities, for possible future transfers.

“I think even for the individual player, to have that (information) out there to showcase the player to different clubs at different times, helps the process,” Edwards stated.

When quizzed on the affordability of the service, the Football Tasmania Technical Director claimed he “had been really impressed with the platform and to see this on a regular basis and have it in your club, is just invaluable.

“I think if you value it enough and say we want to progress as a football club, the platform is definitely affordable.”

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Philip Panas is a sports journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and industry matters, drawing on his knowledge and passion of the game.

STATSports leading the way for GPS tracking

Big-name Premier League clubs have chosen to partner up with STATSportswho are industry leaders in providing GPS tracking systems and analysis. 

Up to five of the top six in the league have already made the switch to STATSports, including Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur – while the service is used by the majority of fellow Premier League sides.

These Premier League clubs have worked closely with STATSports as they developed Sonra 3.0 and Sonra Live which is the latest software upgrade that the Premier League will be set to receive – featuring marketing-leading analysis platforms and further improvement on athlete monitoring.

STATSports are widely regarded across professional football – in addition to their big-name Premier League clients, they also push further into the English FA and abroad across the world, venturing out to the likes of Paris Saint Germain and Juventus. 

STATSports were involved in the Project Restart by informing the Premier League with a Player Proximity Report, using their data to show which type of sessions would cause players to come to together more often. STATSports offers a quick and time-effective process, with download times four times faster than any platform. It means receiving results from a typical session for a squad of players would take under two minutes. 

For elite clubs, Sonra 3.0 is the ideal go-to solution and it further streamlines and enhances performance with a host of new features that will make a difference. Sonra 3.0 is the brand-new product launch by STATSports and the latest offering for anyone looking to acquire their very own GPS tracking and analysis. 

Among the key inclusions, session planning features have been added to the calendar, allowing club performance departments to map up training cycles for weeks in advance. Video integration in the Video Manager has been developed further while adding a full squad 2D positioning. There is also a Scientific Calculator, allowing practitioners to create bespoke custom metrics based upon their own requirements.

Users are now able to choose between ‘Light’ and Dark’ modes as they can customise their preferred theme when on the app. 

The launch of Sonra 3.0 has coincided with the introduction of a new iPad application called Sonra Live, enabling coaches to monitor training in real-time. 

Sonra Live’s real-time data has been independently validated to form a perfect correlation with downloaded data, making this the most accurate live-monitoring solution of its kind. Coaches can then make instant, informed and impactful decisions for anything they intended to achieve. 

Sonra Live features team-level reporting, detailed individual-player dashboards, drill cutting for precise session analysis, post-session reporting via PDF/CSV and synchronisation to desktop applications for further analysis. 

STATSports’ on-board metric processing means there will be no data drop-out and they are the only provider in the industry to give 100% identical live and post-session download data quality.  

With flawless results, this puts the power in the end users’ hands to make immediate decisions with confidence no matter what they want to do. Coaches can set multiple thresholds for individual players or full squads, while multiple coaches can each monitor their own iPads simultaneously. 

“This is an exciting day for STATSports and the many teams we work with. This is another major advancement in the level in which coaches and managers can monitor their players,” STATSports co-founder, Sean O’Connor said. 

“Technology is now truly integrated into the game and we have played our part in that. We have worked closely with those teams during lockdown and also used the time to finalise the development of our new Sonra platform – we’re confident that our clients will further benefit from working with us through the introduction of this.” 

The creation of both Sonra 3.0 and Sonra Live reaffirms STATSports’ commitment to being the industry leader in GPS tracking and innovations for this space, supplying this resource to world-renowned clubs. 

“We have really enjoyed developing this new software platform. Time is a key commodity for clubs,” STATSports co-founder, Alan Clarke said. 

“The quicker they can make decisions with reliable and accurate feedback, the greater the edge they have on their competition.  

“We will continue to push the boundaries of what is possible and ensure athletes can do the same on the training pitch and the competitive environment.” 

For more information on STATSports, you can find it here.

Virtual Bundesliga partners with major esports company

The DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga has partnered with ESL, the world’s largest esport company to operate the media production for the Virtual Bundesliga (VBL).

The partnership starts with immediate effect and sees ESL obtain the media rights for the VBL.

ESL will produce the coverage for VBL Club Championship matches. The coverage will be livestreamed on VBL social media channels – and includes a virtual studio, and a presenter.

The VBL is an esports competition which started in 2012 and sees Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 teams compete against each other. The Bundesliga was the first professional football league to launch an official esports football competition.

The DFL said it wants to “meet the growing interest in eSport even more comprehensively”. ESL has  been given the chance to license the media rights to other distribution partners, while the 26 clubs competing in the VBL will also be able to broadcast their matches via their own channels.

“The Virtual Bundesliga is already the most authentic representation of a football league in EA Sports FIFA. We want to continue establishing it as a digital competition,” EVP Digital Innovations at the DFL, Andreas Heyden said.

“To that end, we have secured a partner in ESL that has already proven its ability to successfully grow eSport competitions and communities worldwide – including in the area of football simulations. We would like to make the VBL even more alive and exciting, and ESL has the necessary experience and passion to do just that.”

The DFL believes that this partnership will develop and professionalise the Virtual Bundesliga.

“eFootball has been an integral part of the Esport community and of ESL for many years now,” Co-CEO of ESL, Ralf Reichert said.

“Together with the DFL, the most important sports league in Germany, we want to develop the VBL further to make it a renowned sports league and take it to the next level. That way, we can authentically transfer the emotions and values of football to the digital world and make the Virtual Bundesliga accessible to all, whether as a fan or an athlete.”

The 2020-21 season of the VBL Club Championship starts on November 10.

The importance of esports in football

Interest in esports is ever growing, Influencer Marketing Hub reports that in 2020 there are almost half a billion esports followers – and Newzoo predicts that the audience for esports will grow to 646 million by 2023.

Football organisations also have a presence within esports. FC Barcelona, Manchester City and Bundesliga are among the many clubs and leagues who run or participate in esports competitions.

The Entertainment Software Association found that in 2018 there were over 164 million adults in the United States who played video games. With the large amounts of people playing video games it makes sense for football organisations to become involved in this industry.

James Gallagher-Powell of CSM Sport & Entertainment at the ESI (esports Insider) Digital Summer conference said that esports can help football clubs to attract a younger audience.

“In terms of this younger audience, I’m sure that many of you have seen the stats before, probably from a brand sponsor perspective. So why do brands think about sponsoring an esports property over traditional sports property,” Gallagher-Powell said.

“The average age for a Premier League fan is 42 and rising, and no doubt is higher than 42 within developed fan markets like in the UK. This ageing fan base begs two questions to football clubs: How do the clubs ensure their longevity and remain relevant to the next generation of sports fans? And how do they ensure that their club remains attractive to potential sponsors?

“esports can provide the perfect channel for this. It’s a way that clubs can attract a younger audience to their core operations, i.e football, and it can help clubs to safeguard their future popularity and therefore their future profitability.”

EA Sports’ FIFA games have become incredibly popular over the years. FIFA 20 launched on September 27, 2019 and by October 10, 2019 over ten million people had played the game across various gaming consoles.

Although despite this popularity of football games, CSM Sport & Entertainment’s Account Director Debs Scott-Bowden at the ESI Digital Summer conference said that these games were only a small part of the esports world.

“But whilst FIFA and PES are good entry points for clubs to go into esports, for the wider esports communities, these titles are largely considered niche. So for clubs looking to reach a wider audience, football games aren’t necessarily the best route to achieve this.”

Bundesliga has its own Virtual Bundesliga Club Championship. The championship will start on November 10 and will be the third season of the competition. The Virtual Bundesliga Club Championship will feature clubs from both Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2.

The Chief Executive of DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga Digital Sports and DFL Executive Vice-President, Andreas Heyden told SportBusiness in November 2019 about the importance of the VBL.

“The growth of the Virtual Bundesliga since its inception shows how seriously we are taking the whole area of esports. We highly benefit from out club brands and players [being present] but also we have proven to have created ne of the highest degrees of authenticity of the Bundesliga in the virtual world of stadiums, clubs and players,” he said.

Bundesliga is taking its esports approach very seriously and has major plans for the Virtual Bundesliga and hopes it can grow.

“We want to grow the Virtual Bundesliga to become out third competition brand, alongside Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga in regards to media rights, participation of clubs and users in the open series.”

“There are not many leagues who are committed as we are to create an eFootball league, with the amount of focus we are giving and the investment we are providing.”

In Australia, Football Federation Australia has the E-League.

Matches are streamed live on twitch. The finals of the 2020 edition of the series unfortunately had to be postponed due to COVID-19. The finals were due to be held at an event in Melbourne on May 9.

At the end of 2017 when the E-League was announced then FFA Head of Commercial, Marketing and Digital, Luke Bould, spoke about the appeal of an esports league.

“FFA’s strategy is to build a competition that provides FIFA competitors with the ability to represent their favourite A-League clubs and create more fans for the A-League and Westfield W-League. This is also a great way to connect the League more globally and in particular, with an Asian audience who love football and FIFA, but may not yet know the A-League.”

During the A-League COVID-19 shutdown, a tournament was also organised which featured both gamers and A-League players.

It is great to see that FFA and the A-League does take esports seriously and is following the lead of other leagues such as the Bundesliga. The FFA should continue to do so and look into expanding its esports properties.

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