Football IQ Observatory

Interview for Gazzetta.gr

It was a great experience being interviewed by Giorgos Ntymenos for one of the leading sports portals in Greece.  You can find the English transcript of the interview below or visit the link for the original interview in Greek. 

What is Football IQ?
KR: Football iq provides specialized services for the discovery and evaluation of players, strengthening the internal recruitment mechanisms of the team. We are the chain link missing from most clubs around the world.

Are you an “external” scouting department?
KR: We see ourselves as an extension of the recruitment operations. Surely, if a club does not have a scouting department, we can get the job done quite effectively. Nowadays however, the vast majority of teams already have a scouting department. Our mission is to empower the technical staff, scouts & analysts.

How did it all start?
DP: About 8 years ago I started working as a coder for a company that collected statistics. Three years later, on behalf of a different company, I was selected as a member of the quality control team. What I was doing there, I was watching extensive footage of 12-15 matches on a daily basis, checking the work of coders. Passionate about scouting, I started to note down names of players that caught my attention. Notes became lists and lists became a data-base. How do you manage and track the course and evolution of 5,000+ players? Humanely impossible to watch them all on video. I turned to statistics as a solution. But it was not that simple. Different tournaments & dynamics, lack of context and coherence. The need for an integrated approach was obvious. I worked it all in my mind for about two years before I reached to the outline of the current Football IQ Index.

What is Football IQ Index?
DP: The core pillar of our methodology is performance data. A map, which gives an objective analysis of the performance of each footballer in our database. We apply 97 metrics, which we convert to a common unit of measurement, taking into account and integrating into the final score the performance of the performance of all players in the same competition and the positions they have been used. Additionally, we use these metrics to create 32 core performance indicators. With this information, we are able to find players who meet the criteria set by the individual responsible for each team’s transfer planning, as well as to assess player performance of players requested to be evaluated.

You use statistics. Is that correct?
DP: Exactly. With the difference that, we transform them, undergoing 4 different processing phases. The key point is to convert to a common unit of measurement. We chose 1-100.

Do you collect the data yourselves?
DP: We collaborate with companies specializing in data collection. We currently have data from 130 events in 66 countries.

What does Football IQ Index say say about the Greek Super League? Who was the best player?
PO: There were many players who performed well this season. When we say “the best”: “Best” at what? For sure, Fortunis made an excellent season by creating and scoring. Bouzoukis also has been creating a lot, Koulouris scoring, Stavropoulos was one of the most productive defenders of the championship. Tzanakakis is a player with a high level of versatility. There can not be a single best player since we are talking about 11 different positions and over 20 different roles. Some players are more versatile, some are just very good in specific aspects. The statistics themselves however, are not enough.

How is so?
DP: Data give the outline, they help draw the bigger picture. Imagine a sonar that can detect icebergs and reefs along with their depths all over the planet’s oceans. On a broader level, we can easily detect over-performers in one or more categories. On the level of analysis, we can also quickly and objectively assess what a player does most often, which are the areas he is more productive and more effective. You quickly understand what he is doing and how well he does it.

However, data collection is unfortunatelly one-dimensional. Football IQ Index adds dimensions, but again, there are limitations. Personality, decision making, predictive ability, there are too many areas that need to be evaluated for which statistics tell us absolutely nothing. Think of a very productive defender, with very high numbers but with many unbiased mistakes. If you do not watch the player you have no idea about his mentality.

Are you watching players on video?
KR: Players who have qualified based on their Football IQ Index ratings & matching the criteria set by the team’s recruitment planning, are watched on video and evaluated by our analysts in various aspects of their game. We conduct 45-point technical assessment, including mental, technical & physical parameters. At the same time, we conduct financial evaluation of all candidates using specially tailored financial models. Imagine performance as the black & white outline and technical & financial assessment is when the colors are added.

How can teams benefit by collaborating with Football IQ?
KR: We are specializing in the discovery of players who meet specific criteria. We give great emphasis on suitability, according to what each team is looking for in a player. The more information we have, the easier it is for us to sort & recommend the right players.

DP: We started by taking into account the prevailing conditions. Football has been globalized. With just a few clicks, everyone can watch any player he wants from almost every professional competition around the world. Video scouting is the norm. One of the crucial questions is how do you discover players worth investing time and money for further monitoring. Abroad, most teams of 1st and 2nd level ​​Championships have a scouting division and a team of analysts who undertake to select the profile of the players who will be on the club’s radar. Your scouting team comprises of 5 scouts, which players do you want them to watch? Will you send them blindly? This is human resource management and the chief scout or technical director is the one who is asked to orchestrate the effort. It’s not simple, especially if you think most teams have 3-5 scouts on average.

The role of analysts is to track down these players using statistics. Some teams from advanced football leagues have developed their own analysis methodology, but most are using data from several companies. An important question is how you use & combine these elements in an objective and reliable manner, putting the pieces together.

Can you discover the next Kante and Keita? Even if you find them, sooner or later these players will get into the radar of other teams. How fast you are and how soon you will manage not only to discover but also to make evaluations? For teams that are serious about scouting, every minute counts. If you do not move fast enough, another team will “steal” a player for whom you have devoted time and resources. Time is money.

CP: Also teams are bombarded with players’ suggestions from agents, official and unofficial. You can imagine what is happening daily in the emails of clubs. Most teams are rarely involved with agents who do not know and trust because they simply do not have the time, the human resources but, more importantly, a structured and automated framework for analyzing and evaluating proposals. Also, in our time, anyone can come in contact and communicate in real time with anyone on the planet.

With Football IQ, within a few minutes, a team can objectively assess a player’s level of play and have a full player folder available within a few hours.

Do you receive interest from clubs?
KR: A few months ago we made our first agreements and we are currently in discussions with several teams. So far, the feedback we receive is very positive. The peculiarity of our services often makes it difficult for groups to understand what we are doing until the moment of the presentation.

Are you also discussing with teams from Greece?
KR: There are teams from the Super League that have shown interest. We are interested in the prospect of cooperating with Greek teams. It is our home country.

Is the Greek football market ready for Football IQ?
KR: If you asked me three years ago, the answer would have been no. Now there are Greek teams that show interest for something innovative that will bring them significant benefits, both on and off the pitch. I do not think there is a question of readiness. It is more a matter of desire and decision on behalf of the teams. We show considerable flexibility in the way we provide our services.

What do you mean?
KR: Firstly, we do not have specific service packages. We enable the teams we collaborate to create their own package by selecting the services they need. Each case is separate, both in terms of needs and costing. You cannot ask a title contender to pay the same amount of money with a team that will fight to avoid relegation, as you will not charge a team from the Premier League the same as a team from the France Ligue 2.

Sounds fair.
DP: Our aim is to be right next to our clients, empowering them to achieve and why not, to go beyond their goals, on and off the pitch.

How fair is the market though?
KR: Not fair at all. The opposite. Especially when you have to discover value for money, reducing the risk of selection, maximizing the chances of future return on investment, combined with the suitability according to the competition criteria.

The majority of the market focuses on “attractive profiles” often overlooking the football substance.

It sounds like a good challenge.

KR: It sure is. The teams that work with us quickly realize that they have acquired a team of collaborators who support their strategy and goals 24/7.

With the economic viability of the team at the forefront, we are a catalyst for success on the field, financial stability and stable profitability over time.

Can Greek teams compete with teams of 1st and 2nd level leagues?

DP: Of course. There is a myth surrounding recruitment. It’s not just a matter of quantity and budget. Surely if you have more scouts, you can significantly increase the range of your pool. However, no matter how many scouts a team has, the most important factor is the methodology. How do you organize them? What are the priorities? Do you keep an archive so that you can review it by evaluating the processes under which a player was chosen? This is a complex and special process. Football IQ offers high quality services, saving time and money by applying value for money practices. One needs to have a plan.

How can someone learn more about Football IQ?
One can find more information by visiting our website www.football-iq.eu