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Second Spectrum: The technology behind MLS and Premier League

Second Spectrum are the world leading manufacturer of machines which understand sports and the experts at creating value from tracking data.

Founded in 2013, the industry innovators create tools designed to help teams gain an added advantage over their opponents. Their range of cutting-edge technology in computer vision, machine learning, big data, augmented reality and product design ensure that teams & leagues are assured a substantial return on their investment.

Considered the most advanced player tracking system in the world, Second Spectrum allows for teams and leagues to understand, evaluate, improve and create content about their game by producing fast and accurate location data.

Second Spectrum boast an impressive roster of partnerships, having been the Official Optical Tracking Provider for the English Premier League since 2019, the National Basketball Association (NBA) since 2017 and for Major League Soccer (MLS) since 2020.

Logo Second Spectrum

In addition, Second Spectrum work across several other leagues and with many other clubs across Europe and the US, with over 100 employees stationed across 5 countries in addition to their headquarters in Los Angeles.

In terms of functionality, the platform combines powerful video querying, intuitive visualisations, advanced statistics and customised reports in one simple interface. These come in the form of automated pre-game, post-game, team and player reports, all of which are delivered to users via automated PDF reports sent directly to one’s inbox that can be amended in keeping with the metrics critical to the organisation utilising the platform.

The platform’s video component can ingest an organisation’s existing video sources or can record games using Second Spectrum’s state-of-the-art camera system. Using the system’s unique and unmatched data set of machine-learned video indexing allows the user to search every game and to find any desired action within seconds.

Second Spectrum struck a partnership with Major League Soccer in February, 2020, marking a significant moment for the league going forward.

Prior to the delayed start of the 2020 season, Second Spectrum installed its state-of-the-art optical tracking system in every MLS stadium. By leveraging their cameras and their cloud-based analytics engine, Second Spectrum were able to provide clubs with data on the location of every player, the referees, and the ball twenty-five times per second throughout the season.

In addition, the software can calculate a player’s speed, acceleration, deceleration and shot velocity, as well as advanced statistics like passing probability and expected goals, in almost real time.

“We’re incredibly excited to partner with MLS and its teams. The combination of our new technologies and capabilities with a forward-thinking organization like MLS creates an exciting future of continued growth and innovation together,” Second Spectrum CEO Rajiv Maheswaran said.

The partnership was seen by MLS as a major stride in their progression and evolution as a league, with Senior Vice President of MLS, Chris Schlosser, acknowledging the opportunities afforded by Second Spectrum coming on board.

“MLS’ partnership with Second Spectrum sets a new standard for innovation in player-tracking in soccer,” he said.

“Along with Second Spectrum, MLS will deliver an enhanced new fan experience, bringing innovation to MLS content while providing MLS clubs and technical staff with new tools to enhance player performance.”

All MLS matches, including MLS Cup Playoffs, the MLS Cup, the MLS All-Star Game and the Leagues Cup & Campeones will be covered as a part of the wide-ranging partnership.

In spite of the impact of COVID-19 on industries across the world, Second Spectrum announced an expanded partnership with the English Premier League and sports tech leader in data & AI technology, Stats Perform, in September, 2020.

The renewed association saw Second Spectrum synchronising its tracking data and Stats Perform’s feeds to add new context and tactical information previously not available. Entitled the ‘Insight Feed’, the collaborative effort is considered to be the most comprehensive and robust set of football data available.

The Premier League were delighted to have developed the feed with Second Spectrum & Stats Perform.

“As the world’s most watched sport league we are delighted to partner with two innovative partners in Stats Perform and Second Spectrum, who have combined to produce a new Insights feed that will enhance storytelling and provide a new perspective of the Premier League to all our fans,” they said.

Second Spectrum added to the Premier League’s enthusiasm.

“We are delighted to partner with organizations like Stats Perform and the Premier League to bring state-of-the-art technology to the highest levels of football,” they said.

“We are excited to show how together we can both improve our understanding of the intricacies of the game and simultaneously move the game forward with the best data and insights that the sport deserves.”

You can find more about Second Spectrum via the link here.

Mediacoach: LaLiga’s secret weapon

Coach using mediacoach

Developed by LaLiga, Mediacoach is a video analysis platform which ensures that all 42 LaLiga clubs are able to analyse practically all of the tactical, technical and physical aspects of their own side and their rivals.

In football, the smallest details can be key to deciding the outcome of a match. Mediacoach allows for all clubs from LaLiga Santander and LaLiga SmartBank to have access to a depth of tactical analysis like no other. The comprehensive live in-match data covers a range of football statistics including distance covered, player positioning, speed and ball movements.

Big Data is critical to football in the modern era, and this initiative is a fine example of how LaLiga is leading football in an innovative fashion.

Having been introduced to Spanish football in 2010, Mediacoach has grown to have over 430 club staff across 42 clubs utilising the tool. Mediacoach is hoping to expand their features to ensure that even more groups, from club trainers to media partners, can benefit from it.

This season alone has seen a multiplication of the number of cameras in the stadiums in order to progress real-time data tracking to new levels, whilst making the tool available to more users via the cloud.

Coaches like Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone, Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane and Barcelona’s Ronald Koeman (plus their extensive coaching staff) have Mediacoach at their disposal every week. The tool allows for detailed pre-match report, video analysis, accumulated reports to run through all potential on-field scenarios and developments, performance statistics, tactical camera footage and post-match reports.

Ricardo Resta, director of LaLiga’s sports area and the Mediacoach platform, credited the ambitious nature of the world-first initiative.

“The use of data is a huge differentiator for the global sports industry. With Mediacoach we are ensuring that the best information can be accessed by all LaLiga clubs, no matter their size. It’s how we ensure that the league grows as one,” he said.

“Multi-camera technology is able to track movements on a football pitch down to very fine margins. Increasing its use in LaLiga stadiums provides even higher levels of accuracy so that coaches can make informed decisions in the heat of the moment.”

Why Mobile Connectivity is now a critical service in stadiums

As stadiums across the world begin to welcome back crowds, clubs are looking to improve the overall experience for fans in a post COVID-19 world.

Mobile connectivity continues to be an increasingly important utility in stadiums, with fans now somewhat expecting the service at the football grounds they visit.

UK company Wireless Infrastructure Group (WIG) own and operate the nation’s largest selection of indoor mobile networks, serving over 1.25 billion visitors each year.

Working with all UK mobile network operators, WIG have direct experience in designing, installing and operating mobile infrastructure and lead the market in network deployment and management in stadiums and sports venues.

2020 saw the biggest ever growth in the UK for mobile devise usage, with users trying to stay connected whilst offices, businesses and venues were closed due to the pandemic.

These figures are expected to increase again in 2021, with mobile device usage now exceeding time spent watching live TV.

Vijay Sodiwala, Commercial Director at WIG, believes that these increases during the COVID period will impact supporters’ expectations of the matchday experience in stadiums.

“It is inevitable that fan behaviour will have changed significantly in terms of how much they interact with their mobile devices and the quality of connectivity and service they expect as part of their overall stadium experience,” he told fcbusiness.

“Fans will expect dedicated coverage and a high-speed data capability allowing them to access the internet, stream videos, interact on social media, text and make calls to friends and family before, during and after matches.

“They will be less tolerant of a poorer mobile experience, especially in venues that are charging them to attend events.”

Sodiwala explains the best possible way to address poor mobile connectivity in stadiums.

“Outdoor networks (such as masts, towers and rooftop installations) are just not designed to deliver the capacity that is needed when you have stadiums operating at full capacity and it is no longer appropriate to look to the mobile network operators to solve these problems for us,” he said.

“The most efficient solution for enabling properly dimensioned mobile services within a stadium is a distributed digital network approach.

“This is a single network deployed around the stadium that can support all of the mobile network operators and all of their technologies (2G, 3G, 4G and 5G) at the same time. It can also support private network capabilities that stadiums operators and clubs have started to use as a secure, high capacity, flexible and lower-cost alternative to WiFi and traditional wired networks.”

Leading stadium owners and clubs across the UK, including Premier League clubs, have teamed up with WIG to create their own dedicated infrastructure solution.

“Stadium owners and clubs have started to look at investing in their own network infrastructure and partnering with Wireless Infrastructure Group to design, deploy, operate and maintain their stadium networks and provide the interface to the mobile network operators to enable service.”

Sodiwala outlined that because of the rapidly changing behavioural habits of fans, it is an appropriate time for clubs to invest in technology to improve their digital strategic footprint.

“The pandemic has resulted in a seismic shift in consumer behaviour with an increased reliance on mobile devices and adoption of digital technologies,” he said.

“Think of how much our daily interaction has gone digital – from attending meetings to ordering groceries – and stadiums are not exempt. Fans will understandably be relived to return to live events, but their expectations on stadium experience will be markedly different.

“Some of our stadium partners (clubs) have seen the restrictions imposed on us by the pandemic as an opportunity to address this.

“Firstly, to use digital as a more effective way of engaging and connecting with fans through a more immersive and content rich experience. Secondly, clubs are looking at capturing operational efficiencies which have the potential to improve the bottom line – mobile ticketing, in- seat ordering, and mobile payments are the sort of things that come to mind here.

“Underpinning all of this of course is the realisation that high quality mobile service is key to a successful digital strategy.

“A desire to drive fan engagement, improve stadium experience and reduce operational costs certainly feels like a strong response from clubs in a post-pandemic environment. Investing in the right infrastructure approach with the right partner is the first step on that journey.”

More information on the Wireless Infrastructure Group can be found here: https://www.wirelessinfrastructure.co.uk/

Football Coaches Australia launch XV Essential Skills program

Football Coaches Australia and XVenture are launching its FCA XV Essential Skills education and professional development program.

Football Coaches Australia (FCA), in partnership with XVenture, is excited to launch its FCA XV Essential Skills education and professional development program.

A global first, this is a revolutionary new coach education and development program delivered via a rich and engaging virtual world learning experience. The program will be readily accessible for all coaches, from local football to elite football.

The series of modules aim to develop the ‘essential skills’ of coaching – Emotional intelligence, Leadership, Communication, Culture and Resilience. It is filled with contemporary examples from football globally, as well as providing an overview of key research across the five modules.

The modules contain 20 subjects presented in a variety of fully integrated and multi-media style materials in the form of videos, articles, activities and podcasts and connected tests to confirm understanding of key concepts.

Exterior of FCA College

FCA CEO Glenn Warry outlined the potential that the FCA XV Essential Skills program has in growing the reputation of Australian football domestically and internationally.

“Our vision as an organisation is to promote the strength and reputation of football in Australia, and the reputation of Australian football on the world stage, he said.

“Our partnership with XVenture is going to enable the FCA to position itself as a world leader in the delivery of unique professional development experiences for football coaches.”

FCA President Phil Moss will introduce the course to participating coaches as they make their way through the virtual world of the FCA XV College foyer. Moss is enthusiastic about the exciting opportunities offered by the alignment between FCA and XV.

“This is a world first opportunity presented initially to Australian coaches but accessible to every coach around the football universe,” he said.

“At the very heart of everything FCA stands for is ‘for Coaches, by coaches’ – so this an incredible opportunity to enhance the continuing education around every coach’s journey no matter what level they are working at. It is something we, along with our highly valued partners XVenture, are just so proud to present.

“The global pandemic has taught us to be more innovative than ever before & these Essential Skills programs, inside our very own FCA College, is taking that innovation to heights never before seen!”

Speaking on a webinar last Monday evening, XVenture founder Prof. Mike Conway acknowledged the importance coaches have – not just in developing individual talent, but in guiding and ensuring the wellbeing of their players.

“Coaches are taught to have amazing skillsets on technical, tactical and physical, they’ve had that for a long time… where I try to bring in a new & different perspective in the elite sport environment is in the areas of emotional intelligence, leadership and communication. Where teams apply these skills typically there are higher performance levels,” he said.

“If you go into the Socceroos camp it’s a beautiful environment. We’ve got to make sure that players want to be there as they’re traveling all over the world for 10 to 15 days at a time, so we’ve got to make it a really positive environment and how we do that is part of the various different subjects.

“This education platform is a big project and I’m massively committed to football, I’ve grown up with it and so I see the power and the strength of what we can do when we’ve got a great coach working with great young kids, we can make a lot of change.”

Each of the modules were constructed in accordance with the principles of the Attention, Generation, Emotion and Spacing (AGES) model in an effort to ensure coaches learn quickly and are able to retain information far beyond finishing the course. The platform will include a total of 103 subjects which will take between 10 to 15 minutes each to complete.

Warry, in speaking on the modern approach of the FCA XV Essential Skills program noted how influential it can be for young players.

“In my work with university students over the past twelve years the big thing they tell us about delivery of content is that they don’t want anything in ‘longer bites’ than 10-15 minutes,” he said.

“This is the way young people are learning these days. In designing the pedagogy and the delivery model, [we’ve built] a state-of-the-art program in the way we’re delivering education.”

Upon completion of each individual module, coaches will receive 30 CPD points from Football Australia – as well as recognition of prior learning from a major Australian University following the conclusion of all five modules.

Modules will be released through a gradual rollout starting Tuesday April 6, 2021 – accessible for registration here.

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