Sevilla FC: Transforming player scouting with IBM’s generative AI

In 2021, Sevilla FC, a premier team from Andalusia, Spain, faced an overwhelming amount of paperwork.

With a top-tier scouting team of 20 to 25 scouts, each player could generate up to 40 scout reports, necessitating 200 to 300 hours of review. Altogether, Sevilla FC had to manage over 200,000 reports on potential players, a task that demanded an enormous amount of time.

Earlier in the year, Sevilla’s fortunes started to change for the better in terms of time management.

They had introduced a collaboration with the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) having confirmed Scout Advisor, a cutting-edge AI tool that will equip the club’s scouting team with extensive data for identifying and evaluating potential player signings.

Developed using IBM’s watsonx, which is an AI and data platform for businesses, the club introduced the Scout Advisor concept to integrate it into its existing suite of in-house data-generative tools.

IBM is a top provider of global hybrid cloud, AI solutions, and consulting services. They assist clients in over 175 countries in leveraging data insights, optimising business processes, reducing costs, and gaining a competitive advantage in their industries.

Over 4,000 government and corporate entities in vital sectors like financial services, telecommunications, and healthcare depend on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift for rapid, efficient, and secure digital transformations.

IBM’s ground-breaking advancements in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions, and consulting provides their clients with open and flexible options.

Sevilla FC’s data department collaborated with the IBM Client Engineering Team to develop Scout Advisor, utilising watsonx’s natural language processing (NLP) and foundation models to search and analyse extensive information in the club’s databases for evaluating potential recruits. This encompasses quantitative data such as height, weight, speed, goals scored, and minutes played, as well as qualitative data such as a player’s attitude and alignment with the team philosophy from over 200,000 scouting reports.

During the period in 2021, Sevilla FC could quickly access and utilise quantitative player data within seconds, but retrieving qualitative information from the database was significantly slower in contrast.

The solution’s natural language processing capabilities allow the club to utilise multiple large language models (LLMs) to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of player identification. By interpreting scouts’ descriptions of key player characteristics, Scout Advisor creates a curated lists of candidates matching the desired traits and summarises comprehensive reports for each player. Additionally, Scout Advisor connects each player to the existing database to provide detailed quantitative performance data.

Player recruitment has traditionally relied on a mix of subjective human observation and data analysis. However, these methods are limited by the time they require and the few factors they consider. IBM’s Scout Advisor now gives the club a competitive edge by merging these existing indicators with generative AI, bridging the gap between data-driven scouting and hard to measure human behaviours.

This advancement will enhance Sevilla’s talent identification and support the decision-making processes.

The club’s scouting team is well-known for its data-driven approach to recruiting emerging talent. Furthermore, the club is at the forefront of developing innovative methods to use detailed information, allowing for a more holistic evaluation of every player they scout.

Watsonx processes this data and presents it in understandable terms, identifying potential signings using key qualitative indicators and expert scouting insights.

The club intends to use Scout Advisor during the summer in the recruiting season and expects to see results by September, with feedback having been positive so far.

With the time saved, scouts can now focus on human-centric tasks such as engaging with recruits, observing games, and making data-supported decisions.

One thing is certain is that the ability to make better-informed decisions about who to play, when to play them, and why has fundamentally transformed the recruitment process at Sevilla FC. This refined approach has not only enhanced the club’s ability to identify and secure top talent but has also provided a strategic edge in their overall team management and performance planning.

Recently, Melbourne Knights FC had agreed a new collaboration with leading football management software company, ProTrainUp. It would benefit local clubs, in terms of time management, to follow suit and by doing this they can focus their attention elsewhere.

Investing in AI is not a walk in the park as it does require large amount of funds, however A-League sides in both the men’s and women’s should also be taking an approach into implementing technology whether it’s for player scouting or the way footballers train, for a task that demands a vast amount of time that could easily be executed by AI as it eases the workload on team management and club operations.

ReSpo.Vision: AI and AR/VR that revolutionises data tracking

ReSpo.Vision is an AI & Computer Vision-based optical tracking system which automatically collects player skeletal tracking data from any single camera recording of a sporting event.

Using immersive 3D visuals, the system allows the audience to unlock performance data and insights that weren’t before available like tactical or scouting insights with AR/VR.

Respo.Vision – a Polish-based start-up founded in early 2020 started by four founders – Pawel Osterreicher, Mateusz Szala, Wojciech Rosiński, and Łukasz Grad.

These four individuals have had combined experiences in data science, consulting and machine learning engineering, and believe AI can unlock a wealth of possibilities by capturing previously uncapturable player tracking data.

The company’s mission is to bring a new depth of analytics to sports using Computer Vision.

The product merges the immersive AR/VR world with the deep analytical environment that sports is, and the company specifically specialises in football.

They leverage bleeding-edge deep learning algorithms to automatically generate 3D skeletal tracking data from sporting events and analyse it with an unprecedented level of insight.

The technology system detects 3D positions of the ball and 50+ body parts of every player, in every video frame, using a single-camera video input (which can be any recording, present or past, a TV broadcast, or a training session recording). Fully automatically, for any game, with accuracy measured in centimetres, and without any wearable sensors or expensive pre-installed cameras.

The company are scaling up their clientele (among them clubs, leagues, federations, media, or sports data companies) and are doing so by offering an unmatched depth of knowledge in a scalable, and cost-effective way.

ReSpo.Vision Head of Product Mateusz Dłużniewski presenting at the GSIC powered by Microsoft Summit APAC in Singapore.

The technology is split into two different products: Data & Stats as well as Visuals which allow the audience a chance to choose how they want to experience the game.

This is how each work:

Data and Stats

– 2D & 3D Tracking data: Uses coordinates of players’ body parts & the ball generated from any match recording, even TV broadcasts with the option to view the game in either 2D or 3D.

– Physical data: Tracks accurate physical measurements, including speed, acceleration, body orientation, or motion types

– Game reports: 3D tracking-derived analytical summary of any game. Revealing unique metrics, including player zones of control, Team Compactness, Open Passing Lanes, Pressing performance, and more – all to power better tactical decisions

Visuals

3D Digital twin of football: Recreate any real-life game in a realistic, VR-ready 3D environment with unlimited camera perspectives and full immersion.

Matchday in the metaverse: Open the gates to the virtual stadium and use VR technology to teleport fans directly into the heart of the action for an incredible immersive experience.

Data visualisations & AR Add-Ons: Enhance the fan experience or aid the player coaching process with visualized stats & insights (e.g. tactical view, pitch control overlay).

ReSpo.Vision Body Keypoints Detection.

How this technology can be used in Australia

Specifically in Australia, technology like this is severely underutilised at the top level and will be part of football in the near future, where Australia can get ahead of other Asian countries in this field.

An example to look upon is Melbourne Knights and their recent partnership with advanced data tracking system ProTrainUp who aren’t currently connected to any other club in the country.

More clubs in the country should follow in these footsteps and invest in immersive and analytical systems that give them a deeper understanding of the game, where the top European clubs first flagged as a big importance on improving on the pitch.

The founders in a recent interview with SportsPro also suggested that the system can be used by broadcast media companies to give their audience an enhanced viewing experience by allowing them to view advanced metrics, a feature that Australian football also lacks on its A-League broadcasts.

The company is truly revolutionising the AI sports realm with fans, clubs and the media being the target audience for this technology to shape the way we view and analyse football.

Melbourne Knights confirm innovative alliance with ProTrainUp

Melbourne Knights Football Club has confirmed a new partnership with leading football management software company, ProTrainUp.

This collaboration is set to enhance communication and streamline operations with the Club, marking a significant step forward in the commitment to excellence and growth.

Founded in 2013, ProTrainUp is a club management system fuelled by data driven technology, created by and for the football community. ProTrainUp combines quantitative and qualitative data to enhance club operations for both staff and participants, enabling the Club to:

  1. Enhance communication between club staff and players with built-in public and private messaging services.
  2. Simplify the organization and delivery of training sessions using plans and sessions provided by top international federations and clubs, available only through ProTrainUp.
  3. Maintain an up-to-date calendar of training sessions and matches.
  4. Gather data and statistics on players to create detailed reports on individual player development and overall team progress.

ProTrainUp is a system used by clubs around the world including European clubs such as Dinamo Zagreb FC and FC Porto, highlighting its importance in modern football.

The main objective of this partnership is to enhance communication among club staff, players, and parents.

ProTrainUp’s advanced software will deliver a centralised platform for efficient and effective communication, guaranteeing that all members of the Melbourne Knights community stay well-informed and engaged.

The system is accessible both online and through the app, allowing players and parents to enable push notifications so they never miss important Club updates.

The partnership will play a huge role in upskilling the juniors program in 2025, a huge focus that President Simon Pincic spoke about in length in his exclusive interview with Soccerscene.

The Knights will leverage ProTrainUp’s comprehensive tools for training management, performance tracking, and development planning to ‘provide the juniors with the best possible environment to grow and succeed’ as per their statement.

This will help more than just the junior players however with ProTrainUp, the coaches will benefit from this technology with seamless tracking of player progress, and enhanced training experiences, all contributing to the overall development of the junior players.

The club spoke about the future of their management through this advanced technology system.

“We look forward to a successful partnership and are excited about the positive impact it will have on our Club and community. Together with ProTrainUp, we are committed to building a stronger, more connected, and highly effective football club,” Knights said in a club statement.

This is an excellent and innovative partnership by the Knights that sees them advance forward in the development of technology.

The Knights have been vocal about the importance of junior development and have historically been one of Australia’s most successful clubs at creating stars from their system, with ProTrainUp only advancing that cause.

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