Live or latent? Why scouts need to be in the stadiums

Data from live scouts is the fuel that powers the sports betting business says Jakub Myszkorowski, Chief Commercial Officer at STATSCORE. Yet, while different levels of latency might have been accepted in years gone by, the need for the fastest and most reliable data – particularly to meet the demand for in-play wagering – means that all live scouts need to be moved to the stadiums.  

What does live scouting mean? Basically, it is gathering incidents from the events as they happen and tagging them properly.

For some of the incidents it is clear and obvious – eg. a goal scored would be normally counted and tagged the same way by everyone who follows the game. But the more detailed you want to get, the more interpretational problems you face. 

Let’s take passing in football as an example. We can divide passes by their aim – they can go forward, backwards and sideways. So far, no complaints or differences. Besides some anomalies, we can also agree upon their trajectory. Yet, when it comes to dividing passes by length, the crazy game starts. 

What is a short pass? But really – how would you define it? I asked this question several times while delivering lectures for football coaches and at no occasion did we come to a point where everybody agreed that we have one common definition for a short or medium pass. 

This is why for the data collecting company it becomes more important to come up with their own protected and unified definitions, rather than chasing a Holy Grail for sports data. The latter does not exist by the way, but good luck all the Kings Arthur’s of sports data theory. 

Once we are all on the same page regarding the role of the live scout, we need to understand how important it is for them to work really quickly. If you and your neighbours have access to TV from different providers, you could have experienced on occasion their voices cheering for a goal, while on your screen the ball was still in the middle of the pitch. It kills a lot of fun. Indeed, when you know your team has conceded before it shows on your screen, that makes it even worse.

The obvious reason for this is the delay that comes up with the technology of delivering the signal. Although all the TV channels will do their best to be as fast as possible, we can not expect that all of them will show the same incident at the same time. And whatever time it is shown, it will always be delayed in relation to the moment when it really happened. 

Now you can imagine how much it can affect the sports stats if you keep on ‘clicking’ them with the use of the TV signal. If you choose the wrong channels (not the fastest ones), you find yourself stuck with even 20 or more seconds latency. It would be unfair to call this data live anymore. 

This is why more and more sports data collecting companies tend to sign local and international official sports data deals with leagues and federations. Such deal protects both the interest of the organizers of the competitions and the company that collects the data.

The former gets access to the fastest data, which can be branded as official and sold to 3rd parties, while the latter gets protected rights to the data. 

Official rights deal for live scouting means that only scouts from particular companies have the right to enter the stands and collect the data. No other scouts are officially allowed to secure the data collection from the venues. 

ScoutsFeed, one of the fastest growing arms of the STATSCORE business, was created with this idea in our minds. We wanted to make sure that we meet our partners’ needs for a quick and reliable source of live sports stats from venues. 

For example, in November of last year the Polish Hockey League (PHL) became the latest top league in Central Europe to select STATSCORE as its official data provider, following in the footsteps of both the PGNiG Superliga and Slovnaft Handball Extraliga. 

These are just some of the key examples of securing deals where the data provider commits to delivering the most accurate and the fastest data right from the venues. 

If the world of sports and data is still 5 minutes before a revolution, it will start with more and more stats produced right from the stadiums and indoor halls. We expect that the use of any mediums between the incident and the scout (like TV or streaming) will soon not be accepted.

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