Back in 2017, The Economist exclaimed, “The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data.” - a reaction to surging profits at the tech giants. However, on the football pitch, that revaluation of resources is only just taking place.
Take a look at the recent signing of Laurie Shaw by Manchester City and this becomes clearer. Whilst their new ‘Lead AI Scientist’ is unlikely to directly fill the void left by a Sergio Aguero injury, his transfer from Harvard University could aid the recruitment of a long-term successor.
The new, better equipped data science department could also help to prolong the career of their greatest ever striker, or even reduce the number of days missed due to injury. That is exactly what has happened at Rangers this season, since adopting Zone7’s AI technology. The same can be said for Getafe CF, too. With that in mind, it would seem that greater value is now being placed on the support structures around the decision-making processes at leading sports organisations. After all, the investment in top data science divisions is only a fraction of the cost of an ill-advised transfer or prolonged injury to a key player. As a result, we can expect to see an amplified demand for individuals with "computational astrophysics PhDs" as well as an increased adoption of AI tools. The ability to take data - to be able to understand, process, extract value, visualise, and communicate it will be what sets teams apart – just as it already does in business.