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Club Media, Pro Clubs & Colleges

Thoughts From the 2023 Opta Forum

By: Mike Morrison

‘In ten years’ time, you’ll all be roaming the corridors of football clubs’ was just one of the many predictions Chris Anderson and David Sally made when referring to analysts in their 2013 book; The Numbers Game. Ten years later, as he sat hosting a panel at the Opta Forum, it was pretty clear that another of his predictions had landed.

Earlier this week, members of the football analytics community came together in London for the tenth edition of the Opta Forum. Much of the event, like the industry it serves, has changed but at it’s core remains a single goal; to bring the best minds in Football Analytics together in one room. One thing which couldnt be missed at the event was that the phrase football analytics community, represents a significantly wider group than ten years ago. 2023 saw the addition of a new Fan Track; a space focused on the applications of data for all things related to the fan experience. It was a space warmly welcomed by attendees.

A few things stood out to me which I thought I’d highlight:

Apprehension replaced by appetite.

In the earlier years of Opta, much of the battle was convincing members of the industry, particularly in the media, about the value of sports analytics. That culture has shifted entirely and as a result, this year saw the addition of an additional track focused on the fan space. That track was focused on how you take the metrics and analysis happening in football and make it consumable for fans. What we saw were sessions focused on the applications of metrics. It’s a different approach to what you see in the Pro track but the appetite to integrate data into coverage is abundantly clear.

The Pro Track continues to play host to innovation.

Providing data to amateur members of the analytics space remains a core aspect of what the event is all about. Within our Pro track, we saw further examples of concepts which look to apply tracking data to better quantify the actions of players, or players operating in tandem, off-the-ball – providing greater context to different tactical approaches both in and out of possession. These innovations are a timely reminder of the new opportunities to analyse the game which will be opening up with launch of our Opta Vision dataset.

Technology is reaping rewards.

Tracking data has been a key ingredient of the sports data mix, there’s no doubt about it. What can’t be ignored is the limited success the industry has had in creating engaging storylines or insights from it. Context is key and with the advancements in data enrichment through Opta Vision, we’re now able to take a more complete view of what’s happening on the field.

Quality over quantity

80% of the insights you deliver should reinforce what the audience knows, the other 20 should challenge it. That’s just one nugget from Jonny Whitmore’s presentation but throughout the session he reminded us that applying data well is about finding the right opportunity to use an insight, not trying to shoehorn it into your coverage.

I hope everyone enjoyed what they heard. If you missed out, keep an eye on our social accounts as we’ll be making the videos available over the coming weeks. If there’s anything which caught your eye and you’d like to know a bit more, take a look at our Product Finder tool.

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We hope to see you there again in 2024