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May 10, 2018

Welcome to the NEW StatsBomb

By Ted Knutson

Greetings and welcome to the new StatsBomb.com. The look is a bit similar to the old StatsBomb.com, but there are a lot of changes to the website and the business that I’m going to discuss today.

Bear with me on this one, because I’ve got a little *freeze frame, record scratch* discussion first. We need to talk about where we started in order to explain how we got here, and where StatsBomb is going next. That last bit is something you should be really excited about.

Flashback
I started writing about football stats for the first time in the first week of January, 2013. I was on chemo at the time for testicular cancer and couldn’t work, so delving into football stats was something to keep my mind distracted from weightier life issues. My early work appeared either on a personal blog or a Manchester City website called Bitter and Blue run by the esteemed Danny Pugsley.

I created StatsBomb in the summer of 2013 as a place to help centralise good analysis and give it a larger platform than people’s personal blogs. Those early days were mostly just myself and the great and prolific Ben Pugsley, along with a bit of Danny’s work and encouragement.

A lot of the early work was finding our feet with regard to initial research. Some of it was adapted from hockey analytics and game models, some from broader knowledge of sports (like predicting Manchester City might have trouble with the (age) curve), and plenty of it was pure new research about how football stats seemed to work. Mistakes were made, but it was incredibly fun to explore an entirely new sport through the lens of data analysis.

I think the absolute best thing we did that first year that has carried on ever since, were our Premier League previews. We wanted to write THE best team previews, and bring a data focus to them, something no one else out there was doing at the time. In my head, I wondered, “Could we produce better material than what The Guardian was churning out at the time, while having a bit of fun?” I think we did, and honestly, probably still do.

So year 1 was mostly myself and Ben poking around while reading some great work from the broader community and inviting them to write with us in the process. Colin Trainor’s outstanding work appeared on the site in year 1 because of that, and later we got a bit of Paul Riley, Constantinos Chappas, Will Gurpinar-Morgan, and Marek Kwiatkowski, all from that early community.

All along, StatsBomb was more than just myself or Ben – it was a place for good analysts to produce good work, and maybe get noticed. Over the years, that continued to happen to various authors, many of whom would go on to real jobs in media or even inside football itself.

In summer 2014, my work was enough to get me an interview with Matthew Benham, owner of Brentford FC and Midtjylland. That resulted in me going to work inside football for the first time. However, part of my explicit agreement with Matthew was that StatsBomb would continue to exist. I had seen what happened to a lot of the hockey websites when their owners were hired by clubs and I wanted to avoid a mass deletion. This was partly because I was proud of what we had built, but also because I felt StatsBomb was playing an important role in changing how the world talked about football.

Fast forward to May of 2015, and I was buried under Brentford work. I won’t say the site was dying, but I certainly had no time to put into it, so there was a danger it would fade to irrelevance. Thankfully, James Yorke offered to take over managing the website in my absence. This ended up being a great choice, since James continued to produce content for the site himself, and more importantly, continued to encourage new writers to come to StatsBomb and show off their work.

Last week James published this on Twitter.

As you can see above, James has now signed off as Managing Editor, and he has my greatest  thanks for all the hard work he put in the last three years. StatsBomb as it currently exists owes a huge debt of gratitude to his attention over the years. (And he’s still with the company – he’s just doing different things.)

I also want to thank all of the contributors, readers, podcast listeners, and champions that we have had. There have been many of you, and I doubt we would have continued to exist without all of the encouragement.

The Present
So uh… what now?

Fans of the site may have noticed it being a little quieter than usual in 2018. Part of this was due to the fact that the Services side of StatsBomb has been very busy, but part of it was intentionally letting the site fall into a bit of a lull, while waiting for a big announcement.

That announcement came yesterday at our launch event in London, where we unveiled StatsBomb Data. We believe we have developed the best football event data in the market to pair with our market-leading analytics product, StatsBombIQ.

We even produced a new podcast (OMG TWO PODCASTS IN TWO WEEKS) to explain the unique elements inside the new data spec, so check it out if you get some time. You can also expect video of the launch presentations to appear here over the coming weeks, plus plenty of new info and explanations of what makes StatsBomb Data so special.

Yeah, yeah, spare me the business stuff – what does that have to do with the BLOG, nerdo?

Well, we have our own data now… Data that we can use and analyse and publicise however we like…

Which is different. And kind of A Big Deal(™).

Maybe we should do something with that?

In fact, having our own data is such a big deal, that we’re using it as an excuse to transform StatsBomb.com. This very website will transition from its laid-back life as an analysis blog into a content website that is going to deliver new content five times a week.

Leading this new content website will be one of our earliest writers. This is a gentleman who published one piece on SB then was immediately whisked away to write for the legendary Grantland website. He has also written for ESPN, FiveThirtyEight, and The Ringer among others.

His name is Michael Goodman (@TheM_L_G), and I’m delighted he has (re)joined the project.

Mike’s new role will see him publishing some of his own analysis every week on StatsBomb prime, plus talent spotting and editing new writers for the new era. These writers will receive access to all the same tools multiple Champions League clubs use right now in StatsBomb IQ, plus access to the new data. And… unlike any previous point in StatsBomb’s history as a blog… we’re going to pay our writers to do all of this.

Mike’s mission is to continue the tradition of quality set by all of the StatsBomb authors who have gone before. We want to deliver excellent writing and the best analysis on football players, teams, and leagues, five days a week. It’s a huge ask, but I think Mike is the best person for the job and has a great chance of pulling this off.

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Ask anyone who has been around a while, and they’ll tell you StatsBomb changed how we analyse football. The way people talked about the game in 2012 isn’t the same way people talk about the game in 2018, and we share a small slice of credit in changing that.

  • It’s normal to strip out penalties from player goal numbers now.
  • Expected goals is mainstream.
  • Numbers get adjusted for possession.
  • Age curves are kind of a big deal.
  • PPDA is a thing that exists inside football clubs.
  • Teams use stats to scout for players.
  • Radars are bloody everywhere. (Sorry, Luke.)

Now we’re going to change football data in a big way, and this website and the people who contribute will continue to be a major part of that.

StatsBomb is now a fully fledged business with customers all over the world. However, a piece of me will always view it as a place where smart people come to write clever things about football. That part isn’t going to change, except that I think from here out we will do it better, and more frequently, than ever before.

I hope you enjoyed the first five years of StatsBomb, and I hope you’ll stick around for the next five.

If our past performance is any indicator of our future, we’re going to change the game of football, and you’re going to want to be there when we do.

Ted Knutson
Founder and CEO, StatsBomb
@mixedknuts

Article by Ted Knutson