“You only sing when you’re winning!” why data is much more than displaying who’s at the top of the table

Nuno had a dream (that was probably built on decisions made using data). Ok, so that’s less catchy but let’s go with it…

Almost as soon as the 19/20 season (finally) finished, we’re already looking forward to what 20/21 will have in store. Despite signals of ‘normal’ - new kit releases, transfer rumours, even stadium upgrades for some - there is still much uncertainty as to when we will return.

Will none, some or all of us return to our seat, in our stadium soon? Tasting over-priced beer, sensing the excitement and anticipation before kick-off, the feeling of unity as we sing songs about our favourite strikers, the sound of nail-biting in extra time…

As I look forward, I also look back. Wolves finished seventh for the second year in a row. An incredibly proud position (if you ask me) given the pressure of the additional Europa games, the introduction of VAR and obviously the dramatic difference of playing ‘behind closed doors’ for the latter part of the season. With so many changes, we did well, but did we reach our true potential? Who’d have known how we’d have gotten on if things were different?

Well…actually, we might be able to answer that.

In a report that compared performance data of matches held with and without supporters, the home advantage was almost entirely neutralised – meaning more support may have seen us win more home games.

Without the introduction of VAR, Wolves would have jumped three places to fourth, as insights into how the 57 goals VAR disallowed (and much more!) would have affected the results table at the end of the season.

Data has been used in football for years. The performance of players is assessed and compared via statistics – helping coaches better understand fitness levels and deciding who is better on the bench, providing pundits with facts and figures that add colour and context to commentary, allowing managers to make better signings to strengthen their squad where they need it most.

These insights allow us to not only see what could have been, but to plan for future scenarios. If we start 20/21 without supporters, we know the odds shift – we can prepare for this. Data is helping us identify where we need to improve as we compare players, teams and potential. And it’s creating information that becomes evidence when the boss makes the decision to leave our top goal scorer on the bench, or why we’ve made that multi-million-pound signing that no-one’s ever heard of.

And whilst it doesn’t always deliver success (I recently saw the statistics that summarised Sturridge’s loan spell at Albion and let’s say he wasn’t exactly value for money), data does tell us where we might have gone wrong and what we can do differently.

I haven’t always seen data in this way. Whilst I’ve supported Wolves for over 20 years (thanks to my dad and our first trip to the Molineux in the mid-90s), my appreciation (and dare I say it, love) for data has only really blossomed more recently. I didn’t always think it was for me – and the data I did use was limited and specific to ‘my bit of the business.’ But much like football, I’ve come to see that data offers something for everyone – whether it’s the numbers and stats that get you fired up, the community and comparison, the conversation, discussion and debate around players’ performance or even the tactical computer games (champ manager anyone?) borne from the business of the beautiful game – the value of data delivers a range of opportunities and possibilities.

As I did, I encourage you to explore data a little bit more – turns out you don’t have to be a performance bod (or Wolves fan!) to uncover the potential data can bring to your business.

This October, HouseMark will be delivering 10 Days of Data – a series of virtual bitesize events that showcase the value and potential that data can bring across your business. Offering something for everyone, 10 Days of Data will present inspiring and exciting content that will share views, ideas and best practice from sector thought leaders and experts.

Find out more about the different events on offer and secure your place here.

By Elaine Middleton

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