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 23rd March, will offer further analysts, selected by an expert panel of judges, the opportunity to showcase their concepts to the wider industry, with proposals being accepted until 29th 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 works in the Danish Superliga, in the role of Assistant Coach of Analysis at SønderjyskE.
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 in 2020, where he took 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. Prior to the start of 2021 MLS season he was appointed Director of Analytics at Inter Miami, where he supports front office, technical staff and coaching staff in recruitment, performance analysis and sport science.
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 on Merseyside.
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.
In 2020 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:
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, Vignesh was chosen to present again at the Forum in 2021. Five months later, he was recruited by Ligue 1 side Stade Rennais as a data scientist. He has also spoken about his experiences of presenting at the event in a recent Q&A, which is available here.
Aditya Kothari, 2021 – A physics based measurement of defensive contributions
At the 2021 virtual Pro Forum, Aditya Kothari introduced a model for applying tracking data to quantify the performance of a player’s defensive contributions on the pitch.
Focusing on pass and carry prevention and shot prevention, Aditya built on existing pitch control modelling work with the aim of identifying how well defending teams and individual defenders perform in particular situations during a game, identifying weaknesses and lapses in the defensive system and picking up on other unusual occurrences.
In the months following his presentation, Aditya followed in the footsteps of Sam Gregory and was recruited to Stats Perform’s AI team, working as a data scientist.
If you are interested in following in the footsteps of these presenters and would like to submit a proposal for the 2022 Forum, please visit the Pro Forum event page where full details are listed.
For more information on the 2022 Pro Forum, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.