Talent spotting of football players is a sought-after expertise. Football is one of the biggest and most popular sports in the world. Statistica has projected the total European Football market revenues to reach Euros 25 billion in 2016-17. In 2014-15 the total income from the sport was Euro 22.1 billion. Statistica figures also show that football revenues consistently grow 8 to 13 percent yearly. This makes this a unique case where growth in industry continues unabated even during the ongoing European financial crisis, wherein growth is under one percent.
A huge industry flourishes around football. Manufacturers of apparel, shoes, bags, food and drink, TV content, internet streaming, and a whole range of consumer and other goods leverage football stars and the game to build their brands and enhance sales. The global football sports body, FIFA, earned TV broadcasting rights in 2014 alone, $628.5 million.
While football is popular globally, the biggest revenues are reported from Europe and Latin America. Every European country has at least one football club of repute. Each club generates huge sums of income from the game. This revenue comes from advertisement, merchandising, broadcasting, and gate receipts. Real Madrid and Manchester United are two of the largest European clubs. Their annual revenues are upward of Euros 0.5 billion each.
The game attracts millions of fans. The number of spectators at the 2014 World Cup held in Brazil is said to have been over 3.4 million. Stadiums with huge seating capacities have been built in many cities across the globe. The largest stadia can be seen in Brazil and Europe. One stadium in Brazil can seat up to 200,000 people.
Fans fete football stars. Brands seek them for product endorsement. Clubs pay them huge sums of money as salaries to stars. The average annual wage for a Barcelona Primera Division player is over Euro 7.9 million. Many aspiring young footballers dream of making it into one of the big clubs in Europe and Latin America.
Talent spotting has spawned into a business. Clubs provide patronage to scouts who identify for them new talent from across the globe. Many of the current football stars were picked by scouts. The Brazilian Favelas (slums) are a hunting ground for many scouts. But for each kid who is identified, many more go unnoticed.
Joao Guerra, a marketing professional, who spent considerable time in Heineken, a brand that has extensively associated itself with the game, came up with deploying technology in talent spotting. Guerra has, during his career, interacted with several European and other football stars.
He has teamed up with Luis Figo, the famous Portuguese footballer, to launch a talent-spotting app called Dream Football. The app was launched in November 2016 at one of the largest European technology events. This event, the Web Summit, was held in Lisbon. Over 50000 people attended it. The world’s media, too, was in attendance. Figo and Ronaldinho came together to launch Dream Football.
With mobile penetration reaching all corners of the globe, taking videos and pictures has become easy. Any kid anywhere can now upload a video of their play on the Dream Football website for free.
Guerra is leveraging his and Figo’s football network to get the best evaluators to evaluate the uploaded videos. Each week ten of the most viewed videos are reviewed by big names like Luis Felipe Scolari and Dimas Delgado Morgado. The evaluation is done against pre-set criteria.
The top three ranked players are then put through a second evaluation. Figo does this. The most promising kids’ detail is forwarded to football clubs that are now part of the Dream Football network. Videos are viewed by professional talent spotters too. The clubs then take the process forward by contacting the players, conducting formal trials, and making standard offers.
In the future, Dream Football plans to conduct talent-spotting events in different clubs in Brazil and other countries. They are also promoting the app extensively over social media. In an interview given to the press by Figo, he mentions that Dream Football is already attracting 100,000 views, and they expect this number to rise.
Dream Football is securing a tie-up with a US-based education and sports company Next Level Sports. Dream Football will scout for football talent and send interested players who wish to train and acquire academic competencies to Next Level Sports institutes in the US.
Guerra explained that even before the launch of Dream Football, he and Figo were actively talent-spotting. Figo, in 2013, had picked 12 players, of whom six made it to professional clubs in football sporting clubs of Turkey, Brazil, France, Portugal, and Spain. Their vision is best described in the words of Luis Figo, “we expect to move the scouting system to a new level where no talent shall be left behind.”
Guerra and Figo are showing the way to other sports in talent spotting. It is just a matter of time before other sports will follow suit. They, too, will start using technology to discover talent. Once that happens, kids who love a sport and want to make it their profession will be able to take a shot at prospects of joining the big league. The industry needs a few visionaries who can think outside of the box.