Stats Perform is pleased to announce that it is now accepting submissions to present at the 2023 Opta Forum, which will be taking place in central London on Tuesday 21st March.
Next year will see the tenth staging of the event, which began life as the OptaPro Forum in 2014. Since then, the event has grown into one of the professional football industry’s leading global analytics events, attended by hundreds of staff working at clubs, leagues and federations across all levels of the game.
In the decade since our inaugural event, the application of data analytics and AI across professional football has developed and evolved substantially, with a number of the Forum’s previous presenters now proactively driving innovation in their roles at leading teams around the world. For club delegates, the event provides a rare opportunity for them to move away from the day-to-day, step back and reflect on current strategies and approaches, to both challenge and reaffirm existing processes around analysis and player recruitment.
But it is not just in the Pro space where advanced and predictive metrics, trained on a wide range of different datasets, are changing the way people consume and interact with data. Increasingly, rights holders, broadcasters and digital publishers are using AI-derived metrics to differentiate their coverage of leading leagues and competitions around the world.
Given the considerable influence that data is having in shaping professional football’s wider ecosystem, next year’s Opta Forum will be taking place on a much bigger scale. As well as a new venue, with a larger capacity, the event will also incorporate a second stage which will feature a number of breakout sessions focused around applications of data to enhance fan engagement and multi-platform media content. These will be kept separate from the Pro sessions, which will remain a closed environment to slow the conversation to focus on pure applications on the pitch.
Whilst the expansion of the event will provide a platform for wider discussions around the role of data in other areas of the sport, it is innovation in the Pro space which remains at the heart of the Forum’s core DNA.
As with the previous nine events, the 2023 Forum will provide some of the sharpest, most innovative analytical thinkers currently working across different industries, academia and within the wider analytics community to introduce novel and innovative approaches of using data, including the application of new sophisticated performance metrics, to inform decision-making relating to performance analysis or recruitment.
Introducing a New Two Track Analytics Competition
For the first time, this year’s Opta Forum competition is being split into two tracks, one comprising the event’s traditional submission categories, plus a brand new track focused on Stats Perform’s new Opta Vision dataset.
Once again, Stats Perform has partnered with LFP – the French Football League, who will be making a full season of anonymised tracking data from the Ligue 1 Uber Eats competition available for each successful applicant in tracking-related categories across both tracks.
Track One: Open Submissions & Practitioner-Led Questions
As has been the case during the past three Forum events, the submission categories in track one include two questions that have been set by leading practitioners working at elite-level organisations: the Football Association’s Performance Analysis & Insights Manager Laura Seth and Data Architect Alex Thomas; and Stade Rennais Football Club Data Scientist Vignesh Jayanth.
The successful entries in each category will get the opportunity to work with official data from the FA Women’s Super League and Ligue 1 Uber Eats respectively.
Category 1 – FA-led Question (event data only). Set by Laura Seth and Alex Thomas.
Defensive coverage: Analyse the areas of the pitch, where events occur, to determine the defensive responsibilities for each player position, or role, within a WSL team
Quantifying the individual defensive responsibilities of each on-field position, or role, within an overall team framework is a key requirement for defining the optimal defensive set-up for a team out-of-possession.
Using three seasons of historical Opta event data, propose a methodology for defining defensive coverage for each position or role within an overall team framework, specific to recurring playing styles and performance traits in the FA Women’s Super League, which can be applied to determine defensive player responsibilities in different areas of the pitch.
Category 2 – Stade Rennais-led question (event and tracking data). Set by Vignesh Jayanth.
Measuring Collective Movement
During an offensive phase of play against a low-block or set defence, how can we measure the collective movement of players and how can we evaluate this?
Can the multi-directional movement made by the players be grouped into a certain way to identify efficiency?
Given players are involved in moving as a collective, is there a way to identify what are the types of movement that create defensive imbalance?
Category 3 – Open Submissions (event only or event and tracking data)
As well as accessing a full season dataset, the winning entries in both practitioner-led categories will receive mentoring by the people who set their question, who will use their expertise and detailed knowledge to help the chosen presenter develop and the present their key findings to the audience in London. Any open submissions selected will also receive mentoring from Stats Perform’s AI team.
How to Enter in Track One
To enter, the candidates have to submit a proposal (2 pages of A4 max, in a word format). To assist with a preparing submission, candidates can request access to a ten-game sample of tracking or event data files, specific to the category (or categories) they wish to enter.
To access either sample, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Opta Forum 2023 data request’ as the subject. As well as indicating the data sample you require, the email body should include a very brief introduction to your idea or proposal.
Entries will be judged on the following criteria:
Innovation: Is the idea new? Has it been seen or tried before? Has it even been thought about or discussed before?
Relevance: How useful is this research to professional teams? Does it answer the ‘so what?’ question?
Application: How can this research be applied by a club? This may relate to recruitment processes, tactical analysis, player development pathways or additional areas
Deadline for Submissions: 20th December 2022
The winning entries will be notified in mid-January and will have approximately two months to complete their project, supported by their mentors, for presentation in London.
Track Two: Opta Vision Track
The second track of the 2023 competition is offering data analysts a unique opportunity to interrogate Stats Perform’s new Opta Vision dataset, to develop and present pioneering analysis to the professional football industry.
Launched in the summer of 2022, Opta Vision comprises Stats Perform’s most sophisticated performance metrics, including unique industry metrics trained on player tracking data. A list of Opta Vision metrics can be found here.
Category 1 – Tactical Analysis
Access a full 2021-22 season Opta Vision dataset and Ligue 1 Uber Eats Official Tracking dataset, and deliver a presentation comprising novel tactical or performance findings at player, team or league level, derived from the new performance metrics available from the Opta Vision dataset.
Category 2 – Algorithm Creation
Working from our Opta Vision dataset, devise and present new algorithms or methods which can be applied in a real-life setting to inform player profiling or opposition analysis.
How to Enter The Opta Vision Track
The process for participating in our Opta Vision track is different to the other categories, and is split into two stages.
During stage one, candidates (either individuals or as a group) must submit a short summary (max 2 pages of A4) of the tactical analysis or algorithm they intend to develop using the dataset.
Deadline for First Submissions: 20th December 2022
Following the first deadline, a selection of the strongest submissions in each category will be provided with access to the full dataset during January and February to build out their projects, together with detailed tutorials demonstrating how to interrogate each model within the dataset.
Following the completion of their preliminary research, each group will then have to submit the following:
- A Google Colab notebook, to showcase their analysis and method
- A 5-10 minute video presentation to describe their method
- A Powerpoint presentation
In addition to the Opta Vision outputs, each group can also have access to a full season of tracking and event data to inform and support their submissions if they wish to do so.
Deadline for Second Submissions: 3rd March 2023
The strongest entry in each category be invited to present on stage at the event on 21st March. The remaining candidates not selected will be given the opportunity to present their results on a poster display in London.
What to Include In Your Proposal?
Across both competition tracks, your proposal should focus on answering the specific question, sharing insight on the approach taken and how this research can be applied within the professional environment and crucially, how it can help teams win.
Candidates should avoid submitting proposals which adopt approaches and methodologies which have already been showcased at previous editions of the Forum and other analytics events, unless they are explicitly looking to build-on and enhance existing work.
In addition, if your proposal applies tracking data in the methodology, please remember that your final findings will need to be anonymised if your project is selected for presentation in London.
Proposals should include the information below, be a maximum of two pages and sent in a Word document. Images, videos and external links can be included along with any other relevant information.
– Contact information
– Are you submitting on behalf of a commercial organisation (yes/no)
– Submission category
– Title of project
– Research question
– Objective of this research
– Rationale for chosen topic
– Your approach to answering this question
– The applications of this research within a professional football environment and how this work will help teams win
Please submit proposals via email: email@example.com.
Need Further Information?
For more information on the 2023 Opta Forum, including examples of previous presentations at the event, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.