Monday, 22 Jul 2024

The Evolution of Football Analytics: A Conversation with Dan Altman, Founder of Smarterscout.com

In recent years, the world of football has witnessed a rapid evolution in data and analytics. Teams like Liverpool have invested heavily in adopting new methods that combine data with recruitment, coaching, and performance. If you’ve ever been curious about this side of the game or want to get involved, Smarterscout.com is an excellent platform to explore. The Founder of Smarterscout, Dan Altman, aims to make “analytics for everyone.” In this interview, we delve into the platform and discuss the attributes of a modern-day analyst.

Transitioning from Economics to Football Analytics

Dan Altman, an economist by education and profession, explains what encouraged him to make the transition to analytics within the football industry. After working as an economist for 15 years, Altman felt that the same issues were being tackled in every economic cycle, and he wanted to try something different. The possibilities that analytics offered, such as coding and visualizing data, sparked his interest in exploring the field within football.

The Exciting World of Data and Analytics in Football

Altman expresses his enthusiasm for data and analytics and shares the most enjoyable part of working in this area within the football industry. He highlights the limitless possibilities for coding and visualizing data, which gives analytics practitioners the feeling that they can build anything they can think of. Additionally, Altman finds great joy in meeting people from different backgrounds who work in sports, as it brings fresh perspectives and challenges in communication.

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Challenges and Frustrations in the Football Industry

Altman reflects on the most difficult aspects of working in a role focused on data and analytics within the football industry. He shares an experience where despite putting in extensive effort and dedicating every waking hour to his work, he saw his contributions marginalized when it came time to make decisions. This highlights the capricious nature of football and how hard work doesn’t always guarantee recognition. Altman also mentions the challenge of dealing with articles in the press that are often not based on factual information, emphasizing the need for critical thinking in the face of media scrutiny.

Opportunities in Football Analytics and Required Skills

For those who are not experienced with analytical data, Altman outlines the opportunities available in this area of the football industry and the skills required to fulfill such roles. He mentions that most professional clubs in the top tiers now have data analysts or performance and recruiting analysts who are familiar with football data. While some positions require only basic knowledge of data sources and spreadsheets, essential skills increasingly include coding and the ability to create visualizations.

Altman describes an ideal analyst as someone with an understanding of the subject matter, expertise in mathematical modeling, the ability to create robust statistics and convert them into accessible metrics, and proficiency in visualizing and communicating these metrics.

Altman’s Experience in Various Roles

Altman discusses his roles as Head of Strategy at Kaplan-Levien Sports and Senior Advisor of Football Operations at Swansea City and D.C. United. He highlights the differences in operational approaches between English football and American soccer. Altman had great relationships with middle-level management at both clubs but found that some clubs concentrated decision-making power in the hands of a select few, rather than considering diverse inputs.

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The Birth of Smarterscout.com and Its Services

Altman explains how he founded Smarterscout.com in 2019 and the process of implementing the company and its services. Smarterscout.com is an easy-to-use platform that provides advanced analytics on players and teams from 48 leagues worldwide. One of its essential features is the ability to adjust a player’s metrics from one league to another, providing insights into performance in different contexts. Altman developed these techniques and metrics over many years as a football club consultant before offering them to the public.

The Importance of Accessibility and Trust

Altman emphasizes the importance of making analytics accessible to all levels of the game. He wanted to give people a way to engage with analytics easily, which led to the creation of the free Lite membership option. Altman also highlights the significance of transparency and trust by explaining all the metrics offered on Smarterscout.com in the platform’s FAQ section. The goal is to eliminate any black boxes and offer tools that people can rely on.

Smarterscout.com and Common Goal

Altman proudly shares that Smarterscout.com is the first analytics firm to join Common Goal, a collective initiative where footballers and organizations pledge a percentage of their earnings to support social initiatives globally. Altman was aware of Common Goal’s activities even before launching Smarterscout.com and saw no reason not to join. He reached out to Common Goal after checking the experiences of existing members.

North Yard Analytics and Focusing on Powerful Concepts

Altman is also the founder of North Yard Analytics, a company established in 2013. He emphasizes the importance of focusing on powerful concepts rather than drowning in excessive data. Altman believes in providing services that help individuals working in football understand solutions rather than overwhelming them with more and more data. North Yard Analytics offers bespoke services for recruitment, tactics, and long-term planning, combining corporate finance expertise with sporting assessments of clubs.

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Career Highlights and Future Aspirations

Altman considers the recognition and acceptance of Smarterscout.com by clubs in prestigious leagues, such as the Premier League, Bundesliga, and Serie A, as a career highlight. He finds validation in seeing professionals and even subscribing clubs embrace the platform and its services. As for the future, Altman currently focuses on supporting Rochdale AFC as part of his investment in European football. He hopes to play a significant role in moving the club forward and upward.

FAQs

Q: How can I pursue a career in the football industry?

A: The best way to show what you can do in football is to actually do it. Publish your work online and share it with as many people as possible. Cold-calling and reaching out to relevant individuals and organizations will eventually lead to opportunities if your work demonstrates quality.

Q: What are the objectives for Smarterscout.com?

A: Smarterscout.com is a capstone project for Altman in football analytics. Currently, his focus is on supporting Rochdale AFC and contributing to the club’s progress and upward trajectory.

Summary

In this interview with Dan Altman, the Founder of Smarterscout.com, we explore the evolution of football analytics and Altman’s journey from economics to the football industry. Altman highlights the possibilities and enjoyment in working with data and analytics, as well as the challenges and frustrations within the football industry. We also learn about the opportunities available in football analytics and the skills required to fulfill such roles. Altman discusses his experiences in various roles, the birth of Smarterscout.com, the importance of accessibility and transparency, and his aspirations for the future.