In conversation with SBC News, Dan Zelezinski, Chief Commercial Officer, Twenty First Group, builds on an experience of using data and analytics to provide content and advisory services to the gaming and media sectors, to assess how a fresh innovation could solve operator pain points.
For all the money and attention it gets, football remains a sport littered with inefficiencies.
It was on this basis that the “21st Club” was founded – to think about how an extra club in the Premier League could – without the burden of tradition and how things have always been done – outthink its rivals to achieve success.
In particular, we recognised the role that data could play in identifying and exploiting the sport’s inefficiencies. ‘Moneyball’ had been well-established in the United States, but was often treated with scepticism or distrust when the principle of finding truth through data was being applied to football.
The early days of the business were marked with meetings with scouts, managers, directors of football and owners who would refuse to believe that there’s little evidence for ‘big game players’, and so they shouldn’t expect those players that have performed well in marquee matches to continue to do so after signing for their club.
Or how xG shows that converting chances is largely random, and that a wasteful striker may be better than a clinical one in the long run. The anecdotal outlier tended to trump the body of evidence.
Ten years on, attitudes have shifted markedly. There have been some very public success stories with Brighton and Hove Albion, Brentford, and Liverpool, but we have also had the privilege of seeing first-hand how perspectives and then strategies have shifted towards an evidence-based mindset in decision making at clubs.
Over this period, one of the most interesting pieces of IP Twenty First Group has developed, is the ability to predict player outcomes, and do this at a huge scale In 2020, we partnered with the Canadian Premier League (CPL) to help them better identify and recruit international players into the league.
One of the players identified by our predictive models was João Morelli, playing for FC Levadia in Estonia. Our ‘exchange rate’ model suggested that his 0.9 goals + assists per 90 output in eastern Europe would translate to a rate of 0.6 in Canada; Morelli moved to the CPL and duly delivered at the expected rate, winning the league’s Golden Boot and Player of the Year in 2021.
We’ve seen how this type of IP can scale into betting too, and as data collection in sports grows deeper, there’s been a high demand for increasing player prop markets focusing on the individual, rather than the team. Social media brings players themselves and highlight-reel skills direct to the consumer, meaning punters have an even greater feel for any given footballer’s particular skill-set.
Opta data, widgets and stats have become the source of truth for both old and new media, as well as operators and punters; grasping the opportunity that these markets present is in turn critical to keeping punters engaged.
In response Twenty First Group has partnered with Abelson Info, market leaders in delivering football odds and data solutions, and developed Player Incident & Pricing Service (PIPS). Powered by Opta’s historical data and settled using the fastest live Opta data betting feed, PIPS delivers a premium service, including pricing on ever popular player markets.
These include player shots, assists, tackles, plus 10 other metrics within the PIPS framework, which can be offered as direct inputs of player expectancies for use in proprietary models and bet builder products, as well as ready-to-use player-specific over/under line markets. All accompanied with Opta-powered settlement data.
Flexibility is critical and we can quickly turn around additional coverage requests, either for new leagues/territories or new metric types, to allow an operator to stand out in what’s proving an increasingly competitive space. For example, given the profile of players now there, we have recently added the Saudi Pro League.
For those with long integration roadmaps or who want to test market appetite, we can deliver these as CSVs (and other formats) to trading teams for direct uploading or manually inputting into betting platforms while an integration is underway, so there’s no reason to delay.
Professional football’s evolution from an inefficient, emotional game to a more professional, data-driven business is reaping rewards for the clubs and owners that move first. In the same way and for betting operators, there exists a chance to capitalise on the very same IP.