Talent identification and training for football via mobile apps have taken large strides in recent years. Major clubs are starting to come onboard and take advantage of the benefits that scouting and training through mobile apps provide.
As we delve into apps used by overseas clubs, they offer a glimpse into what National Premier League (NPL) clubs can explore.
In August, Chelsea announced Perfect Play, an app which they said “enables all footballers to experience world-class, personalised coaching for the first time, combining performance tracking technology with elite academy expertise.”
Perfect Play is used by the Chelsea FC Academy who also helped with the development of the app.
Tracking technology analyses the user’s performance while training games look to improve different skills such as dribbling, passing, shooting, speed and strength.
“Perfect Play has been created with the experience and expertise of the management and players of the Chelsea FC Academy, which is one of the elite football academies in the world,” Chelsea FC Chief Executive, Guy Laurence said on the launch of the app.
“Our vision is to share this immersive focus on technical, tactical and physical football development, not just with the select few who are fortunate enough to train at Cobram, but with every young footballer around the world with the desire to succeed in football.
“Through the unrivalled focus on technology-led innovation at the heart of all Chelsea Digital Ventures initiatives, we have been able to create a service that provides aspiring players and their parents an individualised, structured training programme that encourages regular physical activity as well as making them a better player.”
Meanwhile, Toronto FC are using similar technology to try and gain a competitive advantage.
In late August, they released TFC Widenet – an app which evaluates speed and fitness that which is then used as a talent identification tool by the club.
Chief Technology and Digital Officer at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (the company that owns Toronto FC), Humza Teherany told The Sports Network that the app was a pathway to potentially becoming a Toronto player.
“How do we find talent? How do we do it differently than everybody else? How do we get access to every kid in the country, maybe even every kid in the world, leveraging our digital capabilities,” said Teherany.
“I don’t know how you scout a year from now without having technology tools like this. I think it becomes harder. I think those that have these skills and technologies and can actually build it into the way they scout … I think it’s going to be must-do’s.”
He referenced that the sporting landscape was a “very new world” following the pandemic and the teams needed to focus on digital technologies.
“We are now looking at all things technology, innovation and digital across MLSE from a business perspective. And more and more as part of our MLSE Digital Sports Performance Labs, we’re partnering with our (teams’) front offices to understand where we can double-down on digital and innovation to continue to gain a competitive advantage in the quest for more championships for the city,” he said.
The importance and potential for this sort of technology is being realised around the globe.
On September 4 Indian football training app enJogo was launched to encourage people to play football from home during lockdown.
“Technology can revolutionize grassroots sports in India. The football training app ‘enJogo’ from Bhaichung Bhutia Football Schools will enable young footballers across India to get access to proper online coaching to train remotely, which can also help in identifying talent from the remotest parts of the country,” Indian Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Kiren Rijijud said.
Companies such as AiScout are also starting to create a presence, working with some of these large clubs and associations.
AiScout have partnerships with Chelsea FC, the Welsh FA and the Sri Lankan FA. Their app uses AI technology to rate players based off their skills.
Six players have undertaken English Premier League trials after being scouted through the app – one player who had never been scouted before was signed to AFC Bournemouth after using AiScout.
This technology could be used by NPL clubs to scout players whilst being COVID safe.
If restrictions prevent training in large groups, then these apps could be used instead of trials to identity potential in athletes.
The NPL or national second division could also use this as a cheaper and easier alternative to trials. Instead of flying players in from interstate, they could instead be rated through these types of technologies.
Football training apps also present an opportunity for local NPL clubs who are struggling financially. Instead of paying large amounts for a coach, Chelsea’s Perfect Play app could be used in conjunction with a less experienced coach.
These apps are also convenient and are available on the Apple and Google Play app stores – users can access the content in their own time.