Key insights from the Sports Analytics Conference in London

I had the great opportunity to attend the first Sports Analytics Conference in London. The conference is part of the Sports Analytics World Series which is touring around the world, founded by John Persico and powered by KPMG, namely Ryan McCumber and Sam Barton for the UK. The event took place in the impressive KPMG office in the Canary Wharf district.

The program was structured into three main streams which were running in parallel:

  • Sports Teams and Leagues
  • Brands, Fans & Engagement
  • Sports Technology and Data Science

Here are my (subjective) key insights from the sessions which I attended. Enjoy!

Sports Teams and Leagues

Numbers Game. Chris Anderson (Senior Partner at Anderson Sally LLC), spoke about how the application of a data based approach works in reality, by sharing his view on the famous Moneyball movie. He highlighted that it’s neither a magic formula, a plug and play solution nor playing football manager in real life. For him it all comes down to leadership and management and having a long term plan instead of aiming for a quick fix. He questioned whether football teams really need “player number 25” in their squad, which could be a great investment in data instead.

Football Analytics, from the lockers room to the board room. Sebastián Lancestremèr (General Manager, Microsoft Sports) described how Microsoft has reimagined Sports as a digital business. Their digital platform utilises all possible touchpoints with fans and thereby creates a new digital revenue stream for sports organisations, which also supports the three traditional ones. Juan Iraola (CIO, Real Sociedad) spoke about the digital transformation of his club, which is orchestrated along four pillars that are all based on data. They even share knowledge with affiliated clubs to gain as much insights as possible.

Machine Learning & AI: Driving Next Level Fan Engagement. Ashok Balakrishnan (SVP of Product Management & Technology, Sportradar) highlighted that the main reasons why fans are not engaged are lack of speed and lack of depth regarding the information they get presented. That’s why Sportradar is creating real time, snackable and sharable stories for fans, with real value and independent from the screen. One of the challenges along the way is to make sense of the constantly growing amount sports data that is available.

Brands, Fans & Engagement

Unlocking the value of data. Ben Turner (Global Director, Genius Sports) and Alex Sanchez (3x3 Managing Director at FIBA) spoke about the role of data in the unstoppable growth of 3x3 basketball. Need an example? The first official test event started in 2007 and in 2020 it will become an olympic sport in Tokyo. Their strategy is based on being an urban focused sport and utilising data for creating various business opportunities while engaging with the fans.

Re-Inventing the Tennis Experience with Data. Mohamed Anis (AVP, Infosys) showed how data can help players to improve their game and media companies to engage fans. To give an example: Infosys introduced a new stats leaderboard that is based on information that differs from the one the tennis industry is used to and brings more relevance to the stats. They helped to increase the traffic on the ATP live ticker significantly by including data that enriches the game experience via the second screen. Fans appreciate the additional information which helps them understand what is actually happening on the court.

Sports Technology and Data Science

Beyond xG models: Assessing football players using big data and artificial intelligence. Jan Van Haaren (Head of Data & Analytics, SciSports) talked about the vital importance of player recruitment and retention for professional football clubs. SciSports is ahead of traditional analytics methods by using actionable insights from data which also includes the contextual component and different action types. This allows them, based on their own data framework and algorithm, to answer most of the relevant questions for clubs and to identify the world’s most efficient players.

Last but not least: Startups

The event closed with the Game Changers Startup Competition, with the following companies participating:

  • FanTiers
  • Find a Player
  • Imin
  • RefSix
  • Run an Empire
  • TeamPro
  • Videobserver
  • Zegami

The competition was won by Find A Player who received a nice cheque from KPMG :)

That was it from a great day in London. Was a pleasure to be there. Thanks to the organizers and I’m looking forward to the next events!


Benjamin Penkert is the Founder of SportsTechX and Head of Consulting at the leAD Sports Accelerator in Berlin. You can get in touch via Linkedin, Twitter or email.

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