4 Reasons Football Teams Should Use Big Data and IoT

This is a case why football teams (or soccer for my transatlantic friends) should make greater use of the Internet of Things and big data.
Here are some 5 simple reasons: 

1. Player health tracking

In 2012, then only 24 years of age, Fabrice Muamba a footballer from Bolton Wanderers suffered an heart attack on live TV during an FA Cup game. This was not the first such incident on live TV; Marc-Vivien Foe, the Cameroonian player, died on June 26 2003 during a confederation cup game against France. Not to mentioned what happens off-pitch, football club have a duty to look after their players and that’s including their health.Let’s clear, I’m not saying that current health wearable devices could have saved them but they could have played a great role. Read the signs early to avoid the disaster as prevention will always be better than the cure.So how can be big data helps us improve the athletes health? You may ask. I will simplify it for illustration purposes. Teams need to put in a place an IoT and Big Data strategy where athlete will wear various devices during training and games. Think about a heart monitoring bracelets that players can wear during training and games for the physiotherapy team to analyse later or in real time. The devices will record the time, number of foot steps (within a period – in order to differentiate between walking and running) and heart rate. Let’s say that player John Smith health is changing during the game, the physios will get alerted of the change of condition and can take appropriate actions. Maybe we can add devices to shin pads so that players do not have to wear uncomfortable devices.

2. Player positioning and technique

Great players do this naturally but not all players are born equal. I remember when I used to play football in my early teen for USO back in France. In training, we would learn how to shoot, head the ball and basic skills. The trainer would then let us know what we did wrong and how to ameliorate our techniques. Now professional players have a large team working with them daily; strikers will have coaches to help them for attacking positioning, goal keeper will have coaches too and etc… The current tech used by the teams are heavy duty machine which are employed behind close doors. How can IoT make improve on this? Again through wearable technology, we can track players movement. GPS integrated devices will track player movement over a map (football field), chin pad enabled devices will help visualise the player shooting techniques. The list of devices are only limited to your own imagination but the possibilities are endless. Players can then analyse their own data or with the help of their coach, see how they can improve. No more killing pigeons with those bad shots over the bar!

3. Team metrics

Now what is the point of all that data generated if not put to use? We have health data and game metrics (positioning and technique) about the whole team. The players health will give us an indication of who is fit for game. Being a big fan of the beautiful game, we have observed how various conditions can affect a player performance such as weather and pitch condition. The data scientists would analyse who can perform better under the current conditions. Don’t get it wrong; top players, if fit for the game, are indispensable to the team but all advices should be welcomed. You will have what we call “the best team on paper”. Gamblers use this technique in various events to pick their winners/ losers.

4. Opponents analysis

Usually we can find a wealth of information about teams from various sources such as sport sites, videos and blogs. The more you know about your opponents the better you will perform (Sun Tzu – Art of War). Team changes twice a year (transfer window) for those who can afford it. Is a team really as good as their last game? This question can be answered with big data analytics. Taking the conditions into consideration and our own team metrics, we can pick a strategy (team formation, defensive or attacking…). The big data gives (all) the information that we need in order to make decisions.


The Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data provides an opportunity, even if not new, to gather information and make executive decisions much faster than before. There should not be any reasons not to have the full picture before hand. Football, as any other sports, is very competitive and everyone wants to create advantage. IoT devices are getting cheaper and more data can be collected for analysis. Big Data has the tools but not a silver bullet. We can prevent tragedies by tracking our players health and help them improve by analysing their techniques. Let’s realistic that winning a game is probably beyond Big Data and IoT alone but they will play a big part in shaping the future of the game.

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