Big Data at the World Cup: Two economic aspects beyond the pitch

Yesterday’s World Cup final nicely completed the old line that football is the sport where 22 players chase after a ball, but in the end… In the era of high technology, however, it’s not just 22 players running after a ball of course but a whole support squad of coaches, trainers, physiologists, doctors, dieticians, sleep experts – the list goes on. In a piece that walks a fine line between advertorial and actual content, the Wall Street Journal adds Big Data to the cast of sport’s supporting characters:

The Match Insights tool is exclusive to the German team right now, but SAP has plans to sell it more broadly in the future. “We are all about supporting our home team right now,” said [SAP VP] Mr. Burton. “After this we’ll want to maximize what we think is a credible tool for sport.”

“Match Insights” is a high-tech, data-driven sports analysis tool that collects thousands of data-points per second from cameras and sensors around a football pitch and turns them into complex measures of performance, potential weakness and so on. While it is surely debateable how large an impact such a tool actually has on outcomes (if at all, I would focus not on individual games but on long-run differences), two not quite sport-related aspects of this piece and the quote above in particular stand out for me.

First, this is a nice illustration of the complex, but still-relevant, relationship between states and corporations. (more…)

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