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How SAP Changes the World of Sport

fussball_deutschland_bild_20140504_1378681980This year’s FIFA football championships in Russia are a good reason to present you SAP’s solution SportsONE. Previously branded as Match Insights, the Web application was already used in the football championships in Brazil in 2014 for the first time. The tool is based on SAP HANA’s in-memory technology and makes it possible to analyze matches and player’s performances of the opposing team and to plan tactical moves in advance.

The area of sport has become digitalized, too. That became known in 2014 at the latest when the German national football team won the championships in Brazil owing to good tactic and player’s performance, but also surely due to big data analysis. At that time, the applications Match Insights and Penalty Insights (exclusively for goalkeepers, goalkeeper coaches, and penalty shooters) have been used successfully on the field for the first time.

In cooperation with SAP, the German Football Association (DFB) developed solutions with which player’s performance during trainings would get improved. During a training or match, the tools help football players to estimate situations better and act appropriately. However, with this tool, the players can not only refine their own performance but study behavior and tactic of their opposing team, too.

“Nowadays, every sport club looks for innovative approaches to have a competitive advantage over one’s rivals”, maintained the manager of the German national football team Oliver Bierhoff in an interview. “We represent one of the successful teams of the world. Therefore, the DFB is committed to provide the national team the best technology. SAP meets this criterion.”

Fast and efficient: SAP HANA

Based on the prototype of Match Insights, an entire cloud-based platform named SportsONE has been developed today. The application is set up modularly and can be used with apps by using a smartphone or a tablet. The functions of SportsONE have been released after extensive tests of the DFB with SAP’s cooperation partners TSG Hoffenheim and 1. FC Nuremberg. The tool enables clubs and the national team to save historical data and record new data that is collected through sensors. To store the vast amount of data in one spot, the in-memory technology of SAP HANA is used. It simplifies access to the database because it is fast and efficient (see our series of articles about S/HANA). After all, the main memory of a computer is used as location for storage.

Primarily, SportsONE is designed for football clubs and associations. It contains statistics, information about fitness, injuries, medication, and the healing process of a player. Apart from that, further information such as training data, match analyses and notes for scouts can be collected in the application. A coach can consider this data while planning the next training unit, whereas a manager would be interested in having an overview of everything. That is why there are different modules for different requirements. Also, for scouts who look for talents there is a separate module.
Data and match analysis

With this innovative technology, the field is turned into a net of data. Eight cameras around the field record every angle and turn the field into a digital grid. Additionally, every player gets an identifier that tracks his movements on the field. These performance metrics can be the number of touches, average possession time, distance travelled, movement speeds, and directional changes. In the application, the data is shown in the form of simulations and graphs that can be viewed on a tablet or smartphone.

SportsONE enables to find out the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing team, too, and to develop defensive tactics. The software can extract data for each player and present it in form of digital personas.

The critical point of data confidentiality

The data that is collected concerns the fitness of a player. Therefore, the collection of data concerning health is an intrusion and insight into the personal rights of an individual. Now, if fitness data of a player is collected it means that another authority has the power over the same sensitive data as well. So, whom does that data really belong to?

Klaus Brisch who is a lawyer specialized in IT explains “That data is highly personal data and therefore, from a legal point of view, it belongs to the sphere of an individual. Performance metrics are comparable to health data which is why they belong to the person where they have been produced. If someone would like to make use of it – no matter if as a club, an association, or a national anti-doping agency – one cannot do that without legal permission”.

Furthermore, the player union VDV (German for Vereinigung der Vertragsfußballspieler, English Union of professional football players) criticizes the amount of data that is collected and demands less collection. After all, if it gets public that a player has health issues, for example, he would suffer from enormous economic damage. The DFB is probably aware of the critical point of data confidentiality; however, the construction of the new DFB Academy in Frankfurt shall be finished at the end of 2018. In the DFB Academy, science, technology, and football shall be combined and the academy shall become a place where talents and ideas of German football get modelled.
Internationally well set-up

Outside of Germany and Europe, SportsONE is also used by customers e. g. from Switzerland (FC Basel), the USA (Philadelphia Union), Mexico (Club Tijuana), China (Jiangsu Suning), or Japan (FC Imabari). Apart from football, SAP has developed and established similar solutions in other types of sport such as tennis, basketball, American football, or equestrianism.

The world of football is looking forward to how the German national team will master the FIFA world championship in Russia this year. Even if Oliver Bierhoff claims that software itself cannot score a goal; it definitely increases the likelihood for scoring a goal, though.

The next goal SAP has already set in the development of spacing strategies. Using algorithms, different game situations are calculated using the ideas of a coach for a match. Thus, the sports director can be provided with relevant numbers and get proposals for appropriate transfers.

If you are interested in combining your favorite type of sport with knowledge in SAP software, you should begin to participate in our program during your studies to gain competitive advantage as early as possible ;-)  
                                                                                                           by Gohar Zatrjan


  • SAP News (in German): (https://news.sap.com/germany/ist-eigentlich-sap-sports-one/) (2015)
  • SAP News (in English): (https://news.sap.com/sap-dfb-turn-big-data-smart-data-world-cup-brazil/ (2014); https://news.sap.com/top-5-sap-sports-solutions/ (2014)
  • The Telegraph (in English): (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/10959864/Germanys-World-Cup-tactics-shaped-by-data.html) (2014)
  • FAZ Online (in German): http://www.faz.net/aktuell/sport/fussball/bundesliga/fussball-auf-dem-weg-zum-daten-spiel-15344638.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_0 (2017)
  • ZEIT Online (in German): http://www.zeit.de/sport/2015-06/dfb-leistungszentrum-frankfurt-bau (2015)
  • SAP Match Insights video (in English): https://www.sap.com/assetdetail/2016/08/60f69c5e-817c-0010-82c7-eda71af511fa.html 
  • Internal presentation papers from SAP Sports Entertainment (January 2018)

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