Since the first staging of the Pro Forum in 2014, dozens of data practitioners have earned the opportunity, through the event’s analytics competition, to present innovative new approaches for deriving performance insights using data to invited delegates from clubs and national federations.
Next year’s Forum, taking place on Wednesday 24th March, will offer another six analysts, selected by an expert panel of judges, the opportunity to showcase their concepts to the wider industry, with proposals being accepted until 9th November.
Ahead of this deadline, we have taken the opportunity to dig into the archives and revisit a number of previous Forum presentations, delivered by people who are now working across the football industry.
Abel Lorincz, 2015 – Breaking Down the Possession Game of FC Bayern Munich
At the second edition of the Forum, Hungarian analyst Abel Lorincz delivered a presentation exploring how graph theory and connectivity measures could be used for finding the weakest players in a team’s possession game, focusing specifically on the approach of Bayern Munich.
At the time Abel was six months into a five year spell working for Budapest Honvéd, initially as an academy video analyst before progressing to working as a first team analyst.
Today he continues to work in the Hungarian top flight, in the role of First Team Assistant Coach of Analysis at Puskás Akadémia.
Sam Jackson, 2016 – Not Just a Shot-Stopper: Assessing the Penalty Box Prowess of Goalkeepers
In 2016, football blogger Sam Jackson introduced a new KPI for evaluating a goalkeeper’s performance, based on their tendencies when dealing with crosses.
Six months after presenting at the Forum, Sam went on to work for the agency World in Motion as Head of Research and Analytics, where he spent nearly four years before moving on to Middlesbrough FC earlier this year, where he has taken up the role of Senior Football Analyst.
Sam Gregory, 2016 – The Element of Surprise in Attack
Another project chosen by the judges in 2016 was devised by Canadian analyst Sam Gregory, who was inspired by approaches in the NFL to deliver an in-depth analysis of the potential benefits of including a surprise attacking play as part of a team’s varied approach going forward.
After co-founding a football analytics consultancy, Sam spent a number of years working for different industry service providers, including Stats Perform, prior to taking up the role of Director of On-Field Analytics at York 9 in the Canadian Premier League earlier this year.
William Spearman, 2017 – Football Passing: Physics Based Modelling of Pass Probabilities in Football
The work of William Spearman was chosen for presentation at the Forum for two successive years. After delivering a presentation on pitch control in 2016, William returned in 2017 with another project which applied event and tracking data to assess the likelihood of a pass being completed, allowing clubs to better evaluate passing skill.
A year after that presentation, William joined Liverpool FC as the club’s Lead Data Scientist, a role he continues to hold for the reigning Premier League champions.
John-Mark Sisman, 2018 – An Analytical Approach to Exploring Pressing Styles
In 2018, bioanalyst John-Mark Sisman introduced a new approach, using tracking and event data, to identify a team’s approach to pressing. The project looked to identify pressing triggers, based on different scenarios when the opposition team had possession, taking into account various different contextual possession factors.
Earlier this year John-Mark joined the City Football Group in the role of Performance Physicist. Based on his experiences of presenting at the Forum, he has the following advice for anyone who is interested in sending in a submission for next year:
Mladen Sormaz and Dan Nichol, 2019 – Quantifying the impact of off-the-ball movement in football
Mladen Sormaz and Dan Nichol presented at the 2019 Forum, delivering an applied analysis of off-the-ball player movement.
The aim of their project was to quantify damage caused to a team’s shape as a result of the movement. By correlating their ‘shape damage’ statistic with other well-established metrics, their work aimed to derive a model of run quality that can be used in scouting, opposition analysis and player development.
A few months after delivering their presentation, Mladen was recruited to his current role of Head of Football Analytics at Leicester City FC, whilst Dan now works as lead club consultant for a football analytics consultancy based in the UK.
Joe Mulberry, 2019 – Gazing into Latent Space
After first presenting at the Forum in 2017, Right to Dream and FC Nordsjælland’s Joe Mulberry returned two years later to deliver a presentation focusing on the categorisation of possession sequences.
His presentation highlighted how analysing sequences, using a combination of an auto-encoder and T-SNE, can allow their categorisation using their location within latent space.
Joe was one of two presenters in 2019 who were already working in full-time positions at clubs when their work was selected by the judges for presentation, demonstrating how the event was by now attracting a growing number of submissions from industry practitioners alongside the wider analytics community.
Vignesh Jayanth, 2020 – Identifying and Evaluating Strategies for Breaking Down a Low Block Defence
FC Nordsjælland featured again at the most recent Forum, with the club putting forward their own research question as a standalone submission category.
The Forum judging panel picked out a submission from Vignesh Jayanth as the standout proposal in this category, who through applying tracking and event data, summarised sequences in possession chains against a low-block, tactically relevant to Nordsjælland. Based on those insights, he then outlined strategies for breaking the low-block through a combination of horizontal and vertical movement, across different pitch zones, in the attacking half.
After delivering this presentation in February, Vignesh has undertaken consultancy work on behalf of both Nordsjælland and for a leading Premier League club in England, alongside his full-time work as a data scientist for a digital marketing agency.
If you are interested in following in the footsteps of these presenters and would like to submit a proposal for the 2021 Forum, please visit the Pro Forum event page where full details are listed.
For more information on the 2021 Pro Forum, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.