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Artificial Neural Networks and How They are Being Used in the World of Football

Celie Hanson

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Artificial Neural Networks and How They are Being Used in the World of Football

About Donald Barron and this TKS episode:

Donald Barron is the Applied Performance Analysis Lead in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences at Loughborough University. In this episode of The Know Show Podcast, he discusses the wealth of experience he brings to the field, having worked in professional football for over ten years. He discusses his research which covers the process of scouting, scouting teams, and the potential technology has in making this fairer and more efficient.

 

A brief synopsis:

Donald thinks of himself as an early researcher, but with a highly applied background. He worked in professional football for over ten years and was the Head of Performance Analysis and Technical Scouting at Leicester City, Norwich City and Coventry City. He explores how artificial intelligence and machine learning can help player development, and aids clubs in scouting players more efficiently and objectively. In addition, he talks to Hussain about his interest in new and emerging methods for analysing the performance of players. 

He believes that to achieve the best outcome for each football club, scouting should be a collaborative process. This should utilise new tools, artificial intelligence and machine learning to aid human decision making.

We are all fans...it's easy for anyone, even the most logical person, to get wrapped up in emotion. All the transfer windows and football games fall to small moments when there is a lot of stress, pressure and expectation. So you need to create a sort of fall-back and process that will bring you back to the logical way of thinking and making decisions.

Donald Barron

 

Donald then highlights how neural networks are processing information and finding patterns in large and complex data. He also explains how teams and specialists should use the metrics they get to analyse the performance of a player, which would involve communication between academics and those holding senior positions within football clubs. 

Donald also states that the challenge for all football clubs is to process the data and extract the insights that offer advantages in recruiting and developing the right players efficiently. However, we should not expect neural networks to always come up with the exact answer. Many variables can affect a player’s career, performance and results, for example, injuries. 

My big focus now is developing and creating opportunities for other people. But, also, it's about offering transparency about the processes and the structures to make some informed decisions.

Donald Barron

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TKS take home points:

In this TKS episode, we learnt about the opportunities artificial intelligence and machine learning are offering to professional football in terms of diminishing bias, increasing fairness, and making scouting more objective. Donald shows how data also plays a significant role in developing the mind and body, and thus can be instrumental in helping players progress and achieve success.

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