Player Insights Scientists

The Football Association has advertised two positions. One is a Player Insights Scientist (link). The second is a Player Data Scientist (link).

Player Insights Scientist

The Player Insights Scientist will support the delivery of Player Profiles across the England men’s pathway and will drive key projects relating to player depth-charting, player pipeline analysis and club insights’ gathering.

The successful candidate will have these key accountabilities:

  • Contribute to the development of a comprehensive, robust and data driven England player profile which is linked to the success criteria for England teams.
  • Support the delivery of player profiles, including the analyses for future volumes of the England Player Book.
  • Assimilation and analysis of data from clubs on England-eligible players.
  • Preparation of dossiers for sharing insights on players.
  • Undertake quarterly analyses of the player pipeline, to understand churn, progression and quality of the England Talent pipeline.
  • Production of compelling insightful reports to assist in the tracking of prospective and established England players.
  • Development and presentation and internal research updates which effectively communicate data insights.
  • Support the delivery of key internal and external research projects which underpin future service development & provide insights to the talent identification process.
  • Contribute to the design and delivery of on-camp assessment processes to enable valid, consistent assessment of all player characteristics.
  • Support the Player Insights Team in the aggregation, analysis, presentation & maintenance of player profiles using information from all departments and external sources to include the creation of depth charts and other visualisations of player status.
  • Execute additional tasks as required in order to meet FA Group changing priorities.

Note that one of the key accountabilities is to produce compelling insightful reports (my emphasis).

To fill this post, the Football Association is looking for:

  • A Postgraduate Qualification in Sports and Exercise Science, or related disciplines.
  • Ability to assimilate and interpret data to answer performance questions.
  • Proven ability to generate impactful reports suitable for multiple audiences.
  • Experience of working in an elite sporting environment.
  • Advanced communication skills with the ability to communicate to various audiences.
  • Ability to work to tight deadlines within a dynamic environment.
  • Experience of working with sports performance related data.
  • Ability to work independently and collaboratively across departments.
  • Knowledge of football and the requirements of international football.

The successful candidate will be offered “an exciting and challenging role within a changing, dynamic and world-renowned sports organisation”. The post carries “attractive benefits and a competitive salary for the right candidate”.

Player Data Scientist

The second post advertised by the Football Association involves “the creation of data driven insights through the development of an advanced data model across the Player Insight department, to support the delivery of a world leading player identification and profiling service to England teams”.

The Key Accountabilities of this role are:

  • Review and development of appropriate data sources and models to support player insight.
  • Analysis and visualisation of data sources using valid robust techniques.
  • Modelling of data to produce predictive maps of future trends.
  • Use data to benchmark English talent against contemporaries in other nations and assist in valid comparisons being made.
  • Production of compelling insightful reports to assist in the tracking of prospective and established England players.
  • Contribute to the development of a comprehensive, robust and data driven England player profile which is linked to the success criteria for England teams.
  • Development of metrics and KPI’s which enable the ongoing monitoring of key aspects of the talent identification process.
  • Close and highly effective working relationships with performance analysts, national coaches and support staff.
  • Support the process of defining the core characteristics and benchmarks of Winning England players at all levels.
  • Contribute to the design and delivery of on-camp assessment processes to enable valid, consistent assessment of all player characteristics.
  • Contribute to the development of technology projects to support the future direction of Player Insight.
  • Support the training of departmental staff in the analysis and understanding of data and visualisations.
  • Support the Player Insights Team in the aggregation, analysis, presentation & maintenance of player profiles, using information from all departments and external sources to include the creation of depth charts and other visualisations of player status.
  • Execute additional tasks as required in order to meet FA Group changing priorities.

In addition to the production of compelling insightful reports there are three explicit mentions of visualisation.

The successful candidate will have these characteristics:

  • Postgraduate degree in Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science (similar related disciplines will be considered) or equivalent experience.
  • Strong programming skills (Javascript, Python, R, SQL or similar languages).
  • Proven ability to create meaningful and impactful dashboards for multiple audiences, using software such as Tableau (or similar)
  • Experience working in an elite sporting environment and working with data outputs from multiple providers, e.g. SportsCode.
  • Knowledge of football and the requirements of international football
  • Ability to tailor machine learning solutions to business problems in a cross functional team.
  • Extensive knowledge of statistical principles and modelling techniques.
  • Experience in the use of multivariate statistical methods involving information theory and clustering/network-based community finding algorithms.
  • A record in data analytics with focus on interpretability and visualisation.
  • Ability to work to tight deadlines within a dynamic environment
  • Experience of working with sports performance related data
  • Excellent project management skills.
  • Knowledge of data transfer and ingestion technologies
  • Expertise with manipulating data to form unified data sets for analysis
  • Excellent written presentation skills
  • Good oral communications skills

Both roles advertised by the Football Association exemplify the changes in behaviour now required of analysts. Such opportunities require us to redefine our pedagogy around performance observation and analysis. The opening up of the field to a wide range of applicants is exemplified in the Player Data Scientist role in which an applicant is sought with a postgraduate Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science qualification. There is an expectation that the applicant will be familiar with Javascript, Python, R, SQL or similar languages and visualisation through the Tableau platform.

It will be interesting to see whom the Football Association recruits for these positions. They provide us with a benchmark as to where sport might be going with Insights.

Photo Credit

Walter Winterbottom (FA)

King Power (Dom Fellows, CC BY 2.0)

Head of Football Analytics (Leicester City)

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