Sky Sports News caused something of a stir amongst the football community on Monday by using the Football Manager database to rate clubs' new signings.
Several players including Robert Lewandowski and Esteban Cambiasso had their individual attributes displayed on screen as presenters looked to determine who might fit various potential transfer suitors.
The immediate reaction on Twitter was to mock Sky Sports for using the data, with many struggling to comprehend that a computer game might have some actual research put behind it and unaware that clubs have been using the same database for years. That reaction developed over time and can now be upgraded to mixed.
While it remains a video game (or simulator), the data collected for use in Football Manager is extensive and accurate. In 2014 Sports Interactive, the company that produces Football Manager (a game which has been cited in over 35 divorce cases), revealed that "performance analysis pioneers" Prozone had entered a "ground-breaking partnership" in which said data would be used in real-world player recruitment.
Due to confidentiality agreements SI are unable to reveal exactly which clubs utilise the database though did say that several "Premier League and big European clubs" actively did.
In 2008 Everton became the first club in the world to sign up to the Football Manager database, using data gathered from around the world by over 1300 scouts to facilitate a faster way of learning about potential transfer candidates, cutting out the need to wait for feedback from the club's existing scouting network.
A press release in 2014 stated:
"The original database included some 4,000 players and staff. Today, the current total stands at more than 550,000 (including 245,811 currently active and contracted footballers), with up to 250 individual pieces of information being stored about each person. These range from personal details to more creative scout ratings on various footballing abilities and skills.
As well as players, the FMD currently lists more than 32,000 active clubs and is maintained by Sports Interactive’s full-time in-house scouting team."
Many on Twitter ridiculed (for a change) Sky Sports' decision to use a computer game to explain how good a player might be but the lines between virtual reality and reality in football are becoming ever more blurred. Some American Football clubs use videogames and virtual reality to create plays to be used during actual matches, with the ability to physically show a team how everything is supposed to work hugely beneficial to players and coaching staff.
Sports Interactive Studio Director Miles Jacobson said in 2014:
“For years we’ve heard stories of real-life managers and scouts using our data to help with the recruitment process. From now on, it’s official...real managers around the world will be finding and comparing players using data and a search system that will be very familiar to players of Football Manager.”
In reaction to the tidal wave of "crying while laughing" emojis on Twitter that accompanied the screen grabs of Sky Sports presenters explaining that Robert Lewandowski would make a good signing for Manchester United because his finishing is 16, Jacobson said: https://twitter.com/milesSI/status/628151776177487872
"Some other data providers seemingly not happy with us providing data for @SkySportsNewsHQ transfer center. Clubs use it, so why not Sky?
"All different forms of data are valid. Saying humans can't provide accurate data is wrong - players signed from scouting, not stats alone. And that makes our research & huge scouting network just as valid as other sources - plus we have much better coverage globally."
The brunt of the criticism aimed at Sky Sports is that on occasion Football Manager has misread the potential of certain players and made them superstars in the game, while in real life they are actually Mark Kerr.
Cherno Samba, Andri Sigporsson and the legendary To Madeira have all achieved a form of cult status with players of the game but as Jacobson has said in past, if they believe the potential is there, perhaps there are other reasons why some players never reach it. Freddy Adu the biggest culprit of wasting talent. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/babb/11780655/Sky-Sports-use-Football-Manager-database-to-profile-players-in-real-life.html