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SkillCorner: Connecting video and event data analytics like never before
SkillCorner have revolutionised the football industry’s approach to data analytics in a world-leading and exciting fashion.
Established by then-university graduate in Applied Mathematics and Data Science Hugo Bordigoni and business executive Charles Montmaneix in 2015, SkillCorner extracts physical tracking data from broadcast footage and generates live match visualizations as a result.
By pairing AI data collection with broadcasting, SkillCorner allows fans to see real-time stats gathered from broadcast footage. Metrics such as Sprint Count, Acceleration and Deceleration Count, High-Speed Running Distance and Total Distance are measured via a combination of computer vision and machine learning technology that aids in multi-object tracking over the course of a match.
SkillCorner has since filled a gap in a sporting landscape which had not yet embraced artificial intelligence and had stuck largely to a manual process of collecting data.
In addition, SkillCorner has developed into one of the strongest tools for clubs in their approach to player recruitment. With an access to both a growing database of football tracking data and tracking data on matches that is received instantly, SkillCorner have proven to be a major advantage for some of the world’s biggest clubs.
Whilst SkillCorner’s early days saw their analytics acquired mostly by sportsbooks, their platform came to the attention of Liverpool’s head of research, Ian Graham, in what was a landmark moment for the data analysis tool.
At the time, Liverpool already had access to excellent tracking data for all English Premier League matches – first through ChyronHego and now with Second Spectrum – but it didn’t have anything comparable when considering moves in the transfer market.
In an interview last year with SportTechie, Bordigoni reflected on the manner in which SkillCorner filled a gap in Liverpool’s approach to the transfer market.
“When we started discussing with Liverpool, it was not the plan to go into the performance business. But Liverpool reached us and said, ‘If you’re able to do it for the betting, it means you don’t have some cameras inside [the venue], you’re doing it from the broadcast and it interests us for player recruitment,” he said.
“When they want to scout players playing Bundesliga in French Ligue 1 or in La Liga, they cannot access the tracking data.”
Liverpool’s business last year saw the then reigning English Premier League champions spend $14 million for left-back Konstantinos Tsimikas, $24 million to acquire central midfielder Thiago Alcantara and $49 million for forward Diogo Jota.
Of its three new players, Liverpool had access to rich tracking data for only Jota, who competed in the same league. SkillCorner compiled data from 23 leagues for last year’s summer transfer window and expects to provide coverage of roughly 40 in the near future.
Liverpool and SkillCorner collaborated for a year to hone the accuracy of the algorithm before agreeing to a partnership.
Word then spread across Europe – prompting more inquiries – and since then SkillCorner has begun working with new clubs in the Premier League, Italy’s Serie A, Germany’s Bundesliga (including 1.FC Köln and Bayer Leverkusen) and France’s Ligue 1 (including Olympique de Marseille and OGC Nice).
For SkillCorner, event and tracking data are critical to unlocking football performance and engaging with fans. But until now, tracking data has been expensive to collect, time intensive, and not available across different leagues and competitions.
SkillCorner is changing that by providing clubs, betting operators, and media access to exclusive player and ball tracking data without the usual restrictions.
Their fully automated system allows users to access dynamic and contextualised insights that can power a club’s recruitment process or deliver unique new insights to fans. Their Live Match Visualisation is an impressive alternative to live match streaming, with turnkey animation and immediate integration ensuring broadcasts are experienced to their full capacity.
SkillCorner’s recent growth has seen partnerships unfold that will further enhance the options available to football fans and the football industry.
A recently announced partnership with Twenty3 – creator of AI sports data tool Twenty3 Toolbox – will see physical data collected by SkillCorner added to the Toolbox. Twenty3 recently revealed a new partnership with MLS club Sporting Kansas City, giving the club access to Twenty3’s set of AI tools which now include SkillCorner player tracking.
SkillCorner are illustrative of the changing of the guard in the approach to data analytics. Whilst football has embraced data collection as a necessary facet of player, coaching and overall team improvement over time, SkillCorner have established an alternative forward-thinking method that is adaptable to its multitude of user types.
Bundesliga International have agreed a partnership in the growing sector of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) with successful digital company Sorare.
In an effort to take the marketing of the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 to new innovative heights, the subsidiary of DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga will partner with the popular fantasy football game effective immediately until at least the 2022/23 season.
Sorare, founded in Paris in 2018, is the market leader for NFTs as part of a fantasy football game. NFTs are digital assets made unique with individual encryption using blockchain technology.
In Sorare’s case, for example, limited-edition NFTs featuring professional football players can be purchased in order to create virtual teams. Sales are set to start in October, with further details to be provided soon.
The official partnership centres on NFTs in the form of digital player items that can be played in the integrated fantasy football game and also collected, exchanged and traded on the Sorare platform. Next year, Sorare will also publish NFT-based videos from the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, known as “Moments”, which can likewise be collected and played in the fantasy football game.
Robert Klein, CEO of DFL subsidiary Bundesliga International:
“We are delighted to be partners with such a dynamic and exciting company. NFTs are a digital technology of the future that should not be underestimated – especially in the sport sector.
“I am therefore convinced that this collaboration will give rise to further impulses. At the same time, Sorare will benefit from the appeal of one of the most popular sport brands.”
CEO and co-founder of Sorare, Nicolas Julia:
“Germany usually attracts the highest average attendance in football stadiums. It is football as it’s meant to be, where fans engage with their favourite players and club each weekend. We’re thrilled to allow Bundesliga fans in Germany and globally to come together online and to feel ownership of the sports they love.
“The Bundesliga is one of the best leagues in the world, home to some of the most exciting clubs and footballers on earth. We are very proud to partner with them to launch our first NFT Moments – we are building the future of fandom together.”
10 ViacomCBS’ concerted efforts to aid in the revitalisation of Australian football over the last few months has stirred a largely positive response from the passionate Australian fanbase. The extensive coverage seen across Channel 10’s news networks and various social media channels speaks volumes of the broadcaster’s dedication to help football reach its lofty potential.
The clarity provided by a primary broadcaster who is aligned in its passion for the game, coupled with the governing bodies, is undeniably promising for football going forward.
Geoff Bullock has been a vital part of our collective matchday experience of Australian football since his beginnings at Fox Sports as a Producer for for football in 2006. Bullock has certainly ridden all of the highs and lows that have come with being an adherent of the game like the rest of us.
In a wide-ranging chat with Soccerscene, the current Executive Producer for football at ViacomCBS gave us insight into the strategic direction, plans and thinking behind the new broadcasting home.
What has it been like taking on this project of 10 ViacomCBS being the home of all things Australian football? Have you always had an interest in football?
Geoff Bullock: I’ve been involved in football since I was about four, playing for the Gosford City Dragons with my dad as the coach. So, it’s always been my number one sport for the past 15 years as I’ve been lucky enough to be working on the broadcast of Australian football. And now to get to do it at Channel 10 for a new era is really exciting.
It’s just good to be involved when there’s a fresh start for football on the horizon. And I’m just excited about the role that we can play to hopefully energise football in Australia.
How is the 10 ViacomCBS production team looking to differentiate how football will be presented in comparison to any previous broadcaster’s time in charge of Australian football?
Geoff Bullock: What we want to do is provide a fan-first approach to broadcasting football here. And with the two platforms in Channel 10 and Paramount+ it gives us – in addition to the live broadcast – the opportunity to offer replays on-demand, mini matches and highlights for A-League Men and Women’s. That includes the Socceroos and Matildas internationals, which we’ve been broadcasting on 10 and 10 Bold and putting mini-matches on 10 Play.
I think it allows viewers to digest football in different ways to what they maybe traditionally have. We’ll also preview and review all of the games with our team as well. Each game will have a preview and review show attached, which allows our experts to dive in and give viewers a deeper look. And we’ll do some magazine shows and podcasts through the week as well to provide extra content.
The other thing I’m excited about is that we’re looking to do a deeper stats dive than we’ve done before. So, there’ll be greater insights on potential players and matches that we’ll be able to get from the deeper stats dive.
Traditionally, for the domestic game whilst they have been comprehensive in terms of milestones and players, we’ve never really taken the leap to include expected goals, pass mapping and possession mapping. That’s the territory I’m hoping we can get into for the A-League which will take it to a new level.
Within the envisioned coverage, what areas of football are being focused on as its key points of difference in comparison to other sporting codes? How valuable do you believe embracing active support is?
Geoff Bullock: I think COVID-19 has shown how important it is to have fans at the game. Whether we’re in the stands or watching on TV, we know what we’re missing when the atmosphere isn’t there. It’s just a massive game-changer at the venue and on TV to have that buzz of the crowd at the games. I can’t wait to have that back.
And I think it’s even more important with football than other sports because of the unique nature of active support. It provides a soundtrack for the game that we’ve missed. The interesting contrast is probably the Euros where we finally got some crowds back at games and it was a massive lift.
That’s so important for us to take advantage of, that active support. We’re trying to provide a fan-friendly experience as well. We’ve worked hard with the APL to provide two fan-friendly Saturday 7:45pm timeslots, so that fans are able to get to more games that are on at a better time.
We’re looking forward to covering active support in the broadcast as well when we can. It’s no doubt been a while since we’ve seen a massive Wanderers march to the stadium which was always huge in the broadcast. Seeing that amount of people marching to the ground definitely provides a sense of occasion and anticipation before the game. It makes people want to stick around and watch.
We’ve seen football over the last few months covered extensively on Channel 10’s news and socials. What are some examples of the strategies being taken to entice younger social media savvy modern audiences?
Geoff Bullock: Quite a few strategies are in place, like our Saturday night coverage is going to be built around a multi-screen experience with those two simultaneous matches that I mentioned on Channel 10 and Paramount+. This is being done with the younger fans in mind.
Football fans, as we know, are accustomed to basically consuming their content on multiple devices. I believe a lot of people in that under-30 age bracket very rarely watch any kind of TV or stream without their phone in their hand.
So, we’re going to build the Saturday night around that multi-screen experience where you’ll be able to watch a game on 10 and on your device with Paramount+. It’ll be a chance for those fans to be across all the highlights and talking points from two games live as it happens.
We’re also exploring a few solutions that might allow us to scale up a separate coverage on a Saturday night that will deliver alternate commentary across the split-screen experience of those two games. That’s something that we’re going to work towards as the season unfolds, and also potentially a social media or influencer-driven commentary stream which we’ll look to do.
With the deep-dive stats that I mentioned earlier they’ll be going out on our social media platforms as well. That’s something that will allow those younger fans to engage in more analytical discussions around football. When you talk to young football fans, you find that there’s not much about the game that they aren’t across, and I think this will give them more of an opportunity to talk more in-depth about Australian football rather than the default of European football.
I think that’s one of our big challenges, to try and engage football fans in Australian football in the same way that they’re engaging with European football. And I’m hoping that if we can bring our level of detail up to the same sort of standards that fans are seeing overseas, then hopefully that will help them to switch on to the local game.
In terms of coverage beyond matchdays, are there plans to produce content that dives deeper into Australian football and its various stakeholders (clubs, fans, players)?
Geoff Bullock: Definitely. I think part of the strategy that we’ve been talking about is not taking Australian football fans for granted. Basically, bringing our coverage up to the standard that they’d expect. We want to give them the experience that they deserve based off their level of intellectual buy-in to the game.
Young fans here in Australia commit very heavily. You just look at the hours they have to stay up at night to watch these teams overseas. They’re committed to learning about these teams that aren’t even on their doorstep.
I think we need to match that in our level of commitment to them to be able to deliver that. With the APL we’ll be delivering features and exclusive content across broadcast, digital and social media platforms that will give them that detail of the local game – both the A-League Men’s and Women’s – that will allow them to basically have that same sort of intellectual connection that they should have. Because these are the clubs that are actually here and that means they can support them in the stands week-in week-out.
Fans here in Australia can get so much closer to the stars of these teams, like they’re far more accessible than they are in any other league. The access for these fans is so much different to what it is for some stars overseas and that’s what we want to encourage. We want fans to know that they’re amongst their heroes at these clubs.
Australian football has undoubtedly seen some rollercoaster times in recent years. Why do you believe now is a critical time for 10 Viacom CBS to get involved in football?
Geoff Bullock: It’s ridden a few waves that’s for sure. We all know it’s had its ups and downs based on national team performance and marquee players in the league, but it’s never really had a long-term sustained period of growth. Particularly over the last couple of years the popularity of the competitions has dropped off.
So, I think the timing of a longer-term broadcast deal with free-to-air exposure really couldn’t have come at a better time. And the fact that that deal has come along at the same time as the unbundling of the A-League from Football Australia (FA), it should provide clubs with a bit of confidence to invest further in the game and hopefully that’ll provide a better, more marketable product. Not only whistle-to-whistle but off the pitch as well.
I think there’s now an opportunity, like there never really has before, for the clubs to back themselves and have a crack. And maybe we’re starting to see that with Perth Glory getting Daniel Sturridge on board, which is a huge boost.
There’s always a bit of a knock-on effect when you’ve got these big stars signing for a club and suddenly there’s clubs looking over their shoulder not wanting to be left behind. The building blocks are there for a really exciting season, and with a number of clubs with spots to fill hopefully they follow the lead that the Glory have taken and they have a go.
How can 10 Viacom CBS help to capitalise on interest and grow women’s football leading into and following the 2023 Women’s World Cup?
Geoff Bullock: It’s exceptionally exciting. The World Cup is going to be massive here in Australia. But the one thing we always know in Australia about having a tournament on home soil is that people get behind it. We saw how Australia embraced the Asian Cup back in 2015. Particularly with a lot of Asian teams we don’t traditionally get behind. So with a World Cup it’s going to be even bigger.
The women’s game is really important to us. I think everybody is aware in Australia it is the fastest growing asset within football. And we’re going to treat A-League Women’s exactly the same as we treat the Men’s. The same sort of program will be structured around each game. Our best commentators and experts will work across both competitions, so you’ll hear Simon Hill calling A-League Women’s matches as well as A-League Men’s.
We’re massively excited about the Matildas returning to play some games on home soil in October. But we’ll also be tracking it because we’ve got the Women’s Asian Cup starting in January early next year. And we’ll have programming around those games and that competition which will be hosted in India, so the kick-off times will be pretty decent for an Australian audience. So, it might really work well with the A-League still going on here. In that period, it will be a frenzy of football which is pretty exciting.