How SAP plans to bring analytics to soccer

SAP and City Football Group have announced a global, multi-year partnership that will deliver data analytics to every level of CFG and its international football clubs, from business operations to fan engagement to player and team performance.

sap soccer
Credit: SAP and CFG

In what SAP and City Football Group (CFG) call a "groundbreaking event" for the sport of soccer, the two companies today announced a global, multi-year marketing and technology partnership that will provide CFG and its four international football clubs with analytics for business operations, fan engagement and player and team performance.

The partnership makes SAP the official "Cloud Software Provider" and a trusted technology advisor of CFG, which owns professional football clubs on four continents — including Manchester City FC (men and women), New York City FC, Melbourne City FC and Yokohama F. Marinos — as well as academies, technical support and marketing companies.

"This is a very exciting day for City Football Group," Tom Glick, president of NYC FC, said in a press conference Tuesday. "We're going to be working with SAP from our board room to the pitch."

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"We're convinced that our new partnership with SAP is going to break new ground in the relationship between sport and technology," he added.

Soccer analytics in the cloud

Through the partnership, CFG and its clubs will implement a wide variety of cloud-based solutions powered by the SAP HANA in-memory platform. The solutions will be used to simplify world-wide operations, scale CFG's business, increase productivity and enhance the fan experience. It will also include collaborating on the development of new applications to analyze and improve performance on the field for players and coaches.

"This partnership is as important as it is broad, stretching across all entities within the City Football Group," Khaldoon al Mubarak, chairman of CFG, said in a statement Tuesday. "In SAP we have found a technology partner that is committed globally to our business and one that shares our constant drive for innovation. Our common ambition is to create groundbreaking football-specific technology solutions and products and I have every confidence that we will be successful."

While the partnership is intended to bring analytics to every level of the CFG organization, the initial focus will be business operations.

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"Phase one will be business operations," Chris Burton, vice president of Global Sponsorships, SAP, said at the press conference. "This season you will not see SAP technology on the pitch."

The business operations plans involve SAP's cloud solutions, including SuccessFactors solutions, the SAP Jam social platform and the SAP Simple Finance solution powered by SAP HANA. CFG will use these solutions to enhance its talent management and HR processes, and to drive more collaboration worldwide.

SAP will also provide analytics solutions, including SAP Predictive Analytics software and SAP BusinessObjects business intelligence solutions, which will form the heart of CFG's new information infrastructure. They will help CFG analyze and simulate data ranging from ticketing to merchandising.

The plan for fan engagement

But the partnership won't end with the transformation of CFG's business operations. On the fan engagement front, CFG will use SAP to enhance the experience of fans in and out of the stadium. The plans include an interactive digital insights wall at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester to deliver real-time analytics and insights to fans attending matches. CFG also plans to leverage SAP solutions for customer engagement and commerce and customer experience management software from SAP company hybris.

The plans also include collaborating on new technological enhancements in the areas of talent management, football performance and human performance for future versions of the SAP Sports One Solution, SAP's sports-specific cloud solution aimed at analyzing data for performance optimization.

"Everyone knows there's data everywhere," Burton said. "Really, data is not your savior. It's what you do with technology and data that can enhance the sports we love and care about so deeply."

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