Maitland startup Smart Sports Solutions wants to bring moneyball analytics to grassroots football

- September 28, 2015 3 MIN READ

There are two schools of thought in the sports world when it comes to analysing and grading athletes. The first sees a team rely on a gut feeling that says that player’s going to be a superstar, while teams going by the second have endless amounts of data to back up their opinions. Thanks to the greater acceptance of analytics in sports that came with the book Moneyball, which explained how a Major League Baseball team used advanced analytics to build a good team cheaply, teams are increasingly relying on the latter.

Now a NSW startup wants to provide grassroots and amateur teams with the kind of analytics usually reserved for the big leagues. Smart Sports Solutions, based in Maitland, has come up with StatsOne, a data tracking and analytics app for football (soccer) players.

Smart Sports Solutions CEO Pierre Malou said the idea for the app came from wondering why amateur players didn’t have the same access to analytics afforded to the pros.

“In the ever-competitive sport industry, sports analytics has become the fastest-growing segment. This includes tracking devices and wearables. However, all resources, efforts, and innovations are focused on a few athletes only. For example, a player in the NBA will generate 1,000 data points per second in analytics, all captured by digital-cameras and a team of sport data experts, only affordable to a few pro clubs,” Malou said.

The original StatsOne product was conceived as a platform where clubs, teams, players, and coaches could share their statistics with each other, but the startup found that it was too difficult to get a substantial number of users to on board. They pivoted to StatsOne, and found their MVP attracting early adopters in the form of young elite players who wanted to collect their stats in order to raise their profile with team scouts and player agents.

The app works by filming the action on the field. Its technology can then identify up to 1,000 data points per player per game, like passed made, passes missed, corners, tackles, turnovers, shots on and off target, free kicks, crosses, and of course, goals. External data like weather conditions and location can also be taken into account to provide further insights. Players can then send their game scorecard to others via SMS or email.

StatsOne was developed over a three month period, with help from a group of footballers who beta tested the app. The Smart Sports Solutions team have largely self-funded its development with the assistance of a $15,000 grant from the NSW Government as part of its MVP Program.

Malou said the app has already been taken up by a number of football academies in the UK. As academies are one of the stepping stones to a pro club, they typically have a large amount of resources of their own dedicated to data and analytics on their players – but they don’t have data on players before they join, and Malou said that’s where StatsOne comes in.

“This situation has had beneficial rippling effects on StatsOne. Kids attending an academy are often the best players of their club, or at the very least the most motivated. They lead their peers. Once they start to use StatsOne to get into the academy or at the academy, their club teammates follow these early adopters for local football games,” Malou said.

But Malou believes the app can find a wider audience beyond just players looking to make it big.

“For some [players] it will be their journey to the top, to stardom. For others it will be a journey of friendships, sharing their stats with their mates. For others it is about personal improvement, benchmarking their progress against themselves,” Malou said.

StatsOne is currently free to download and use, and Malou said it will stay this way. However, as the number of users grow, there’s potential to develop benchmarking and ranking systems that could be used for premium services aimed at coaches and scouts.

“They can compare players or identify an individual’s performance based on specific criteria such as, highest number of successful tackles by a left-footed midfielder without a yellow/red card when it rains,” he said.

The focus now is on spreading the word about StatsOne and adding new languages onto the app. French, Spanish, German, and Portuguese will be added over the next few months. Functionality for new sports is also in the works, with basketball, rugby union, and rugby league the sports at the top of the list to be introduced by July next year.