Football is one of the biggest and most popular sport 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 revenue from the sport was put at Euro 22.1 billion. Statistica figures also show that football revenues are consistently growing year on year between 8 to 13 percent per year. This makes this a unique case where growth in an 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. FIFA, the global football sports body earned from TV broadcasting rights, in 2014 alone, $628.5 million.
While football is popular across the globe, 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 revenues from the game. Most of 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 2014 World Cup held in Brazil is said to have been over 3.4 million. Stadium with huge seating capacities have been built in many cities across the globe. The largest stadia can be seen in Brazil and in Europe. One stadium in Brazil has capacity to seat up to 200,000 people.
Football stars are feted by fans. Brands seek them for product endorsement. Clubs pay them huge sums of money as salaries to stars. Average annual salary for a player in Barcelona Primera Division is put at over Euro 7.9 million. It is a dream of many an aspiring young footballer to make it into one of the big clubs of 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 Favellas (slums) are a hunting ground for many scouts. But for each kid who is identified there are many more who 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 the idea of deploying technology in talent spotting. Guerra has, during his career, interacted with a number of European and other football stars.
He has teamed up with Luis Figo, the famous Portuguese footballer to launch a talent spotting app that they have called Dream Football. The app was launched in November 2016 in one of the largest European technology events. This event, the Web Summit, was held at Lisbon. It was attended by over 50000 people. The world’s media too was in attendance. Figo and Ronaldinho came together to the launch of 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 his play on the Dream Football website for free.
Guerra is leveraging his own and Figo’s football network to get the best evaluators to evaluate the uploaded videos. Each week ten of the most viewed videos are evaluated by big names like Luis Felipe Scolari and Dimas Delgado Margado. The evaluation is done against pre set criteria.
The top three ranked players are then put through a second evaluation. This is done by Figo. 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 formal offers.
Going forward, Dream Football is planning 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 media by Figo, he mentions that Dream Football is already attracting 100,000 views and they expect this number to rise.
Dream Football is in the process of 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 to me 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 that 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 in joining the big league. The industry just needs a few visionaries who can think out of the box.