European football giant to apply GenAI in scouting talents

The purpose of Sevilla Football Club in the application of GenAI is not match predictions but evaluation or identifying the best talents matching the characteristics the club is looking for using reports from its scouts

Updated - July 12, 2024 01:29 am IST

Published - July 11, 2024 09:25 pm IST - KOCHI

Elias Zamora, CTO, Sevilla FC, during a media interaction at the International Conclave on GenAI in Kochi on July 11.

Elias Zamora, CTO, Sevilla FC, during a media interaction at the International Conclave on GenAI in Kochi on July 11. | Photo Credit: THULASI KAKKAT

Picture this. A European football giant applying Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) in scouting reports to identify, say, the best “offensive right winger.” Picture this. A European football giant applying Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) in scouting reports to identify, say, the best “offensive right winger.”

If earlier quantitative categorical data like minutes played, passes completed, and performance in other select key matrices in comparison with peers and competitors was used, GenAI, it is expected, will decode and give a whole new meaning to what an offensive right winger means, thus facilitating scouting aided by more insightful information.

If it sounds all too futuristic, then hang on. This is exactly what Sevilla Football Club, a major La Liga side and seven-time Europa League champions, plans to implement from this summer by equipping its scouters with GenAI technology.

Speaking on the sidelines of the two-day International Conclave on GenAI here, Elias Zamora, chief technology officer (CTO), Sevilla FC, however, sought to insist that technological adoption did not mean taking an axe to the scouting department, but quite the contrary. Human opinion remains central, he reaffirmed.

“Our scouting department has for long been one of the best in world football. Its ability to identity young talents, track their growth, and then facilitate their sale for a profit has been central to our business model. Our objective is to add value to scouting reports, and we get about hundreds of thousands each year. The challenge has always been to read each of these reports, which was not humanly possible. GenAI adds this capacity, thus helping us in identifying players with the properties we are looking for,” he said.

Mr. Zamora, while sidestepping a question about the possibility of GenAI being used to predict a match result, observed that the challenge before practitioners of GenAI was about identifying key tasks the technology is good at and not bombarding it with all and sundry queries for convenience.

“Our purpose in the application of GenAI is not match predictions but evaluation or identifying the best talents matching the characteristics we are looking for using the reports from our scouts. Sometimes people want to do everything with a given data and technology, but often it is better to reduce the scope of questions just to the one for which the data was created,” he said. Anyway, technology and methodology were already available to simulate match situations using select parameters and used in areas like betting.

Mr. Zamora said technology was also not randomly applied for identifying talents but was applied to scouting reports for zeroing in on players for specific positions with specific traits. “Also, the application of GenAI is not restricted to scouting but is to be used for feeding insightful information to decision-makers involved in all aspects of running the club,” he said.

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