Three astonishing things happened in the Premier League on 4 March 2018. Firstly, Manchester City broke the record for most passes in a match. Secondly, City’s German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan broke the records for most touches, most passes and most completed passes.
But perhaps most astonishing of all was the number of international broadcasters, newspapers and social media posts highlighting the statistics: not just in the UK, but across the football world; not as novelty articles, but as part of the core game narrative.
Some articles gave almost as much prominence to the passing stats as to the actual result – perhaps as only one goal was scored, and there’s only so much to say about a single goal.
Opta is the Premier League’s official stats supplier and it was their analysts who counted the passes and reported City’s and Gundogan’s achievements straight after the final whistle.
Duncan Alexander, Opta Chief Analyst, is speaking at Betting on Football about the exponential rise in the popularity of stats among football fans in a ‘Betting on Innovation’ session with Sky Bet’s Head of Trading Andy Wright, who will be shedding first-hand light on what this trend means for operators.
Alexander, who represents Opta as the go-to insights man at European football broadcasters, says it’s no surprise to see stats featuring so widely and that they’re now an established part of mainstream football coverage. He adds that he’s noticed a change in fan and media use of stats in the past couple of seasons.
“What’s remarkable is whilst fans have been watching professional football for 150 years, it’s only in the very recent past that we’ve been able to talk meaningfully about anything other than goals,” said Alexander. “That’s despite something like passes happening approximately 300x more per match than the average goal!
“Now, for reasons we’ll discuss in the session, it’s as if our eyes have been opened to a whole new subplot within each game, and the media are telling different stories about individual players and underlying team performance trends, which has got those stats firmly into the fan conversation.
“It’s a brilliant feeling to be helping to reinvent the way fans follow football and I can’t wait to see where bookmakers will take this.”
Shane Gannon, SVP Perform Betting, is facilitating the stats betting session and thinks it is a fantastic opportunity for operators to understand how Sky Bet have tapped into the demands of the changing football fan, whilst also surfacing new ideas around what could be created in future.
“We’ve targeted the Betting on Football conference as an opportunity to gather the best football trading and product teams in one room to answer any questions they might have about creating entertaining experiences from their customers’ interest in player and team statistics,” said Gannon.
“You only have to take a quick glance at Twitter to see how engaged bettors are with stats betting already, but we’re only at the start of it.
“We’re delighted Andy Wright has agreed to join us for the discussion as Sky Bet are one of the pioneers in the Request-a-bet and Player & Team Betting space.
“It’s an opportunity to find out why they’ve invested in the category, how their traders and customers have responded, and hopefully extract some invaluable practical insight into how Sky Bet are pricing, settling, productising, promoting and reporting on the new markets.”
Football fans now notice and care about more than just goals. Mass interest plus mass new events equals infinite new opportunities to entertain and engage.
As to where such content will take betting, Gannon says Perform have more than a few new products coming, but that he also expects the creativity of the wider betting ecosystem to drive ideas and innovation.
“We’re all very excited about how engaged bettors seem to be with this level of content and genuinely think football may never be watched the same way again,” he concluded.
Opta and Sky Bet are happy to incorporate any advance questions submitted via this link. Betting on Football delegates are being encouraged to attend this session on Player, Team and Match Stats to learn:
- How the modern football fan is changing
- What this means for your customers and products
- Why the importance of trustworthy stats cannot be overstated
- What’s coming next and how it will help you make the most of your customers’ demand for bets on player and team stats
The session takes place at 12:20 on Wednesday 21 March. The Perform Betting team will also be talking about how to make betting more entertaining at Stand 38 on the Exhibitor Floor.