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Why Top Leagues are Using FM for Scouting

If there was one big change consistent across major professional sports in the 2010s, it was the rise of advanced data and statistics.

Seemingly overnight, numbers-obsessed pundits and fans let out their inner math geeks as the sports world ushered in a new era of data-driven intelligence.

We’ve certainly witnessed a sea change in the football world where the amount of recorded stats is historically more meagre than other sports. Through the decades, the beautiful game has relied mostly on a handful of numeric measures to quantify performance.

But the recent explosion of data has taught us that our trusty tallies of goals, assists, and table positions don’t always tell the whole story.

Advanced Stats Usher in the Big Data Era


Traditional football analytics have always posed a challenge because so few goals are scored. Judging a side’s strength based on goals scored and conceded isn’t much information to go on to make accurate predictions.

Now we have deep diving metrics like big chances, xGChain, and % PPG to help us understand the subtleties of what happened and what could happen.

Football’s new math is fuelling big decisions and big business. Take the British sports analytics firm Opta, for example. Opta captures over 2,000 events during Premier League matches. Their website offers previously inaccessible data on every player to appear in a World Cup contest since 1966.

It’s like we’ve been throttled from the statistical dark ages to an analytics Disney World faster than a Timothy Fosu-Mensah sprint.

Fans and the football press aren’t the only ones wiping their brows in fits of advanced stats fever. Clubs at all levels are equally interested in leveraging data.

A common use is found in scouting - both in evaluating oppositions and potential recruits.



The Role of FM in Modern Scouting


If you were charged with scouting an opponent for a Premier League side, where would you begin?

There’s no shortage of publicly available information. You could look at advanced statistics. Maybe you would turn to the same real-time Premier League match quotes that sports bettors consider before wagering on their favourite clubs. Perhaps you would watch footage of past matches on YouTube or another on-demand streaming service.

Believe it or not, some scouts are turning to a peculiar source for their top tier data mining needs - Football Manager, the popular video game series that began life as Championship Manager in 1992.

One reason Football Manager is unrivalled as a recruiting tool is because the database behind the game is mature and enormous. By the end of 2018, the FM database held detailed information about 799,643 past and present players.

Increasingly, top tier clubs from around the world are mining player data with FM, both formally and informally. Sports Interactive, the game’s developer, isn’t at liberty to disclose its pro clients, but rumoured recent clubs with agreements include a Champions League powerhouse, a Premier League club, and national teams.

The FM database doesn’t run on autopilot. In fact, a small army is charged with managing the information. Mark Woodger, Sports Interactive’s Head of Research, oversees a team of eight managers and about 100 senior researchers, each one dedicated to just one or two nations or competitions.

Then there are assistant researchers who concentrate on individual clubs and low-level leagues. Some of FM’s data contributors have been at it for more than 20 years. In all, FM has about 1,300 scouts worldwide.

Compare that number to the City Football Group, the management organisation behind Manchester City. They have 40 scouts working globally on behalf of four clubs.

FM’s track record of identifying talented players before they reach their full potential is remarkable. FM correctly pegged Mbappe, Neymar, Eden Hazard, and Gareth Bale, as wonderkids.

The game frankly outperforms traditional scouting methods for discovering the stars of tomorrow. Because players are rated on around 40 visible attributes and up to another 240 attributes behind-the-scenes, there’s a wealth of data from nations where traditional scouting yields thin information.
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FM BLOG: Why Top Leagues are Using FM for Scouting
Why Top Leagues are Using FM for Scouting
One reason Football Manager is unrivalled as a recruiting tool is because the database behind the game is mature and enormous. By the end of 2018, the FM database held detailed information about 799,643 past and present players.
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