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The rise of football scouting apps that NPL clubs could use

Talent identification and training for football via mobile apps have taken large strides in recent years, which NPL clubs can explore.

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.

Daniel Foley is a sports junior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy and micro industry matters.

FIFA and EA Sports end 30-year deal

As reported by the New York Times on Wednesday, gaming giant EA Sports and world football governing body FIFA have parted ways.

The partnership dated back to 1993, when FIFA International Soccer was launched for the SEGA Genesis.

Their current partnership was set to expire at the conclusion of the Qatar World Cup, with a new deal aiming to branch out into new areas – including NFTs.

It was reported that EA made a ‘significant offer’ for an eight-year exclusivity deal with FIFA for all of its Esports and gaming rights. However, the deal was knocked back, according to Reuters, as FIFA did not want the rights all with one company.

FIFA 23 will be the last game made in collaboration between the two organisations, set to release in late September this year, worldwide.

The FIFA series was estimated at the start of 2021 to have sold over 325 million units, according to ForbesFIFA 18 is the equal 40th highest selling video game of all time, estimated at 24 million units across all platforms.

FIFA confirmed it would still produce video games with third party developers, while EA will rebrand the FIFA series under the title EA Sports FC. The new series would include licensees such as the Premier League and LaLiga, which at this stage has authentic coverage, as all players are face scanned and the full broadcast packages akin to real life are featured in the game.

SocaLoca: Revolutionising talent identification and tournament organising

SocaLoca co-founders Lionel Foy and Sayf Ismail are providing more opportunity for footballers across the world with their innovative platform.

The concept was born in 2016 when the two first met, and now the SocaLoca app is used by national federations in Belize and Cameroon for tournament organising.

There are two main goals of the platform. Equalising talent identification and becoming a hotspot for football tournaments and data.

Foy and Ismail recognised that the pathways for footballers in some countries weren’t as equal as others. Smaller or less resourced countries and continents simply don’t have the infrastructure that the big footballing powers do globally.

The app operates in a similar way to statistics platforms like FotMob or Transfermarkt, where player profiles and stats are collated for fans and other interested parties to view. However, there is also a self-management aspect to it.

Footballers can download the platform and build their own profile, showcasing their achievements, statistics, results and more for anyone to see. This goes from juniors all the way up to seniors.

This gives those players from lesser resourced regions the opportunity to be seen and scouted like any other player, from when they’re first starting out to battling their way up through the footballing pyramid.

Co-founder Arif Sayuti.

While there are concerns around the data-sharing implicit to the platform, measures have been put in place. Players aged between 7 and 12 must be registered by their guardians and have a limit on what information can be displayed on their public profiles.

The global interconnectedness that an app like SocaLoca offers is unlike anything seen in world football to date.

The other side of the platform is its use in tournament organisation. This links in with the player profiles, where players are registered within tournaments and competitions and have their results and statistics linked to their profiles.

SocaLoca’s Competition Management Module has already seen successful use in Uganda, Belize and Cameroon, and can be used by anyone on the platform.

Football Federation Belize is now using the SocaLoca app to organise and run all regional competitions, while Cameroon’s national football academy is now a partner of SocaLoca.

Results and statistics in countries all over the world are now available to recruiters and talent identifiers, making it easier for those who would be otherwise overlooked to get their chance.

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