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Football NSW lifts its game with data visualisation resources

Date

Stuart Corner

There is no shortage of applications for data analytics in sport.

There is no shortage of applications for data analytics in sport. Photo: Thinkstock

Football NSW, the governing body for soccer and futsal (indoor soccer) in the state is the latest sporting outfit to employ data analytics in search of better results.

It is using a data visualisation technology to refine its ability to attract sponsors, plan new facilities and improve player services.

Chief executive Eddie Moore told IT Pro that by visually displaying information such as the geographic distribution of its 210,000 members the organisation was better able to identify where facility upgrades were most needed and, by merging its own data with population statistics, could identify regions were the population is growing and so make better long-term plans.

"SAS Visual Analytics gives us a very effective way to dive into our audiences to understand age, location, number of games played, those that have not played for many years and those that are playing for the first time," he said.

"We can match the demand – where the players are – to where the facilities should and could be. We strategically manage our investments [deciding] where a set of lights should be, where to upgrade to a synthetic playing surface and where to put in a new set of lockers."

Football NSW procured the technology under a non-disclosed commercial arrangement, rather than a sponsorship. It is investing heavily in improving facilities and hoping to also identify demand patterns so it could better target those investments, Moore said.

The software is also being used internally to refine member services like coach education and referee education.

 "We realised that the majority of our referees are 16 to 20 years old and live in Facebook, so we set up a special program that connects referees via a Facebook page," Moore said.

The software is provided as a cloud-based service by SAS partner Selerity, which provides support ingesting and integrating different types of data.

"I have an IT department of one and software like this is beyond his skill set, so hosting offsite and having that expertise and advice coming from others rather than expecting our staff to be au fait with hosting and managing this was essential," Moore said.

"We saw how simply we could get data up there and how quickly we could tell from some of the very simple visualisations the story behind our data and the ability to overlay other levels on that."

Because the software is cloud-based access is available from multiple locations and Moore said the body was making it available to the 32 associations that make up Football NSW.

"It gives them a fantastic platform to take to their audience of potential sponsors,'' Moore said. "They know how many under-six teams and under-seven teams and over-45 teams they have, but being able to tell a story with visual analytics is quite powerful, particular at a local level."

Football NSW was also talking to its sister body in Victoria "about our learnings and how they can be applied there," he said. 

Sporting bodies around the world are making increasing use of data analytics, with Germany's winning World Cup team the latest example.

It used SAP's relational database HANA and footage from stadium cameras to analyse and plot player performance. The company said Match Insights, also provided to its sponsored women's tennis competitions, had been so successful, it would eventually be rolled out as a commercial product.

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