With the Six Nations about to kick off, we decided to look at the role of data in sport; its origins and how this technology is used today.
The use of data in sports in not a new phenomenon. In fact, sports were one of the first areas where data analysis was implemented. Henry Chadwick or ‘The Father of Sport Notation’, as he is otherwise known, is credited as the founding father of this concept in sport. He recognised the need for an observation system in baseball, one which could be used to analyse the game. Over the years, the role of data has developed thanks to a few notable figures, such as Bill James who developed Sabermetrics as a way to apply statistical analysis in sport.
‘Central to this concept is data analysis’
Nowadays data is used for two main purposes in sport, to improve athletic performance for future matches/games and to pre-empt what the opposition will do. The modern data landscape offers a greater insight into performance as more and more data points are available. These days, rugby players will take to the field with GPS tracking software under their shirts in order to capture a plethora of data (real-time heart rate, distance covered, maximum speeds etc) for both the players and coaches to analyse. This focused application of technology in sports means more data can be gathered to provide insight in small, incremental steps that will improve overall performance. Central to this concept is data analysis – where large sets of data are broken down into manageable chunks that generate actionable insight, a place where data collection and human intelligence meet.
This analysis is where we can see a strong link between business and sport as both use predictive models based on historic campaigns results. Businesses have been using historic results to inform current and future actions for years. We pride ourselves in our true data driven heritage and approach to campaigns as we use data insights to drive our client’s business success through a more intelligent use of data. Just like on the sports field, we believe that the best decisions are made when they are informed by data and powered by people.
So, what started in 1862 as a suggestion for a regularly appointed scorer in sport has progressed into predictive analysis in the 21st Century – something to think about whilst watching this weekend.