BLOG: The start of a new chapter for OptaPro

Article by Ben Mackriell

If we cast our minds back to when OptaPro was first launched eight years ago, there was already a strong desire from many teams, across different sports, to increase their use of data to support performance-related decision making.

By 2012 we had only really scratched at the surface at what was possible in utilising what was, and remains, the world’s largest event database in sport – and OptaPro was tasked with developing a specific set of Opta-powered tools to meet the unique challenges faced by performance analysts, technical scouts and long-term strategists working within elite teams.

Since then, the speed and scale of innovation relating to applied data analysis has completely redefined how practitioners approach their jobs on a day-to-day basis. For our part, every one of our innovations in this time has been designed to fit around the way professionals work and integrate seamlessly, with the objective of helping people make smarter decisions more quickly.

In setting out to achieve that, we are proud to have been responsible for many initiatives which have changed the way we now analyse the game.

Defining new parameters for analysing performance

One example of how we have changed analysis can be traced back to 12th April 2012, when the newly launched OptaPro website became the first public forum to apply a new advanced metric, Expected Goals, to analyse the performance and decision-making of attacking players in front of goal, based on the quality of their shot locations.

Just five years later this metric had gone mainstream, appearing on Match of the Day to help fans compare the quality of their team’s chances compared to their opponents.

Since then, whilst continuing to devise new metrics, such as Expected Assists and Possession Value, our growing team of data scientists have also been tasked with creating holistic frameworks which go beyond the analysis of single events in isolation, to provide teams with deeper data insights into tactical concepts.

All of these innovations are now available to analysts in a growing number of analysis platforms, which are tailored to support their daily workflows. The award-winning ProVision platform enables teams to interrogate, filter and customise all these metrics and frameworks, to derive insights which are relevant to their own team’s playing style.

We’ve also completely redefined how a recruitment analyst works with video, allowing them to search for footage based on recurring possession and sequence types, as opposed to single ball events. The acquisition of Scout7 three years ago further consolidated OptaPro as a provider of central scouting management tools, bringing together objective and subjective data within a single online environment.

Today, our desire to innovate remains undimmed and following the merger of Perform, OptaPro’s parent company, with Stats last year, we are now incredibly excited by the opportunities made possible by merging tracking and event data to provide even deeper insights into performance.

Laying foundations for another decade of innovation

Whilst OptaPro can rightfully look back and be proud of its accomplishments, the major advances currently being made in new technologies, driven by AI and machine learning, mean that we must continue to evolve our services in line with the changing expectations of the world-class analysis and recruitment departments now in place across all teams.

To ensure we are best placed to deliver on this, from this summer we will be combining all of OptaPro’s existing products, services and personnel with Stats’ portfolio of tracking solutions and performance staff to create the industry’s most advanced Team Performance operation.

Through consolidating all of our shared knowledge, expertise and understanding around best practice in the applied use of event and tracking data, together with our combined data science and AI resources, we believe we will be well equipped to drive innovation and support all of our teams in helping them achieve their key on-field objectives.

As part of this consolidation, all information relating to OptaPro products, together with our comprehensive archive of blogs and industry case studies, will be re-housed on the Stats Perform website this month as we create one digital hub for all our Team Performance services.

Our in-depth analysis on players and teams, available from the OptaPro blog, will also continue via The Analyst, which you can subscribe to here.

Bringing together industry pioneers and experienced practitioners

It is important to reiterate that whilst our web presence may be changing, behind the scenes our dedicated team of consultants and support staff, who liaise with scouts and analysts on a daily basis, are continuing to providing the same services that we have provided week-in, week-out, since 2012.

Opta data will also remain the foundation of all our event data powered platforms moving forward too.

What it does mean though is that we now possess a team of people possessing industry experience which is unparalleled across providers operating in professional sport. Our commercial, product and AI teams are now all headed up by people who have worked in professional football, either as players, coaches or analysts, and they are supported by many colleagues who have experience of working in performance roles in elite sporting environments.

These people understand the game, the language of coaches, and the unique pressures faced by practitioners on a daily basis.

On top of that, our new combined product department now contains experts who have been involved in delivering pioneering solutions built on tracking data (ProZone/Amisco), event data (OptaPro) and central information management (Scout7) for over 20 years.

Bringing all these people together provides us with a broad range of skills and experience – and best equips us to develop solutions which feature the most valuable elements of each data resource into one consolidated offering, something which will bring considerable benefits to teams.

Continuing a sport-first approach

At the heart of everything we do is a desire to address current challenges, across performance analysis and recruitment, by providing objective insights that are tactically relevant, which can be applied on the training ground, and reveal underlying performance trends for both players and teams.

This approach is going to continue and we are incredibly excited by the opportunities of working with an expanded team to develop new metrics, frameworks and models. We have already introduced a number of new AI models, some which are built entirely on Opta data, with others incorporating a combination of tracking and event data, powering updates to the Edge Analysis platform. Additional models are currently being refined and will become available in new tools being launched later on this year.

We will be making a number of detailed announcements relating to these platforms shortly, but I can tell you that they have been developed based on detailed industry feedback and our own experience as practitioners, to help you directly address many of the recurring questions that crop up throughout the performance analysis and recruitment cycles.

So whilst OptaPro moves on to become part of a broader suite of services, our historical strapline, Applied Insight and Intelligence, will remain front and centre of everything we do.

We are looking forward to continuing this journey with you, and aim to provide you with richer insights to influence performance for many more years to come.

Back to analysis