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Rapid Fire Insights with Perform’s Steve Cliffe

By Clint Vojdinoski, Editor at Bullpen Media

Perform’s senior commercial manager Steve Cliffe moderated a panel at the Australia Sports Analytics Conference that included Rugby Australia’s head of game analysis Cathal Garvey and Paul Warren, New Zealand (NZ) Cricket’s performance analysis manager, who all discussed the integration and analysis of Perform’s OptaPro data into their high performance workflow.

Some of the takeaways discussed and debated was NZ Cricket incorporating OptaPro data into other on-field performance data such as ball-tracking. Rugby Australia’s take considered the holistic views of performance, the granularity of data of global rugby competitions to build out the biggest profile of players in world rugby to help with future talent identification and recruitment of players. Both Garvey and Warren were unified in the utilisation of automated data and the necessity to amalgamate silos of data to draw deeper insights on their own players.

We caught up with Cliffe for a rapid fire Q&A about Opta data.


B2B and B2C sports data is a big battleground as it can be sliced up into consumer entertainment, fan engagement, and social media led content, and we haven’t even gotten into high performance yet, how does Opta stay ahead of a lot of smart competition?

Steve Cliffe: “I think the important part is quality of data, making sure our process around QA is always more rigorous than everyone else so we collect more data, more accurately. The next thing is, everyone can collect data but what do you do with that? It’s partly the technology that we implement around getting it to clients and how they can represent it, but then more importantly is how we create stories or insights and using the smart capabilities of staff to be able to draw out really clever stories from that.”


That’s one of the huge points of difference that you’ve got and it’s really geographically focused with Opta Johan, Joe, Jose and so forth.

SC: “100 per cent. Then how do you condense potentially 2000 matches of data with 50 data points per event and thousands of those into 280 character insights. That’s where we really see our strength and staying in front of everyone.

“The kind of the crux of our real unique selling proposition for us is our storytelling no one else can do that in the way we do and making sure we keep pushing on in that space.”


Is there anything that could be trending in terms of data collection, or storytelling, or an amalgamation that you feel is a new trend?

SC: “The interesting part for us at the moment is how we can combine what Opta classifies as event data, so what happens and when it happens, with tracking data. At the moment they’re two silos, how do we bring those together to create new stats. In football terms we’ve got pass accuracy, so how do we bring the tracking data and say what’s a player’s pass accuracy when there is a defender within two metres of them. You can bring in data such as ‘under pressure’ and things like that to build out new types of data, it is a really interesting proposition.”


Is that more of a high performance play or consumer engagement?

SC: “Absolutely consumer, and I think where we’re at now is because of the availability in the skillsets of broadcasters, the difference between high performance and consumer is actually not too far apart. They both know the same things, they talk about the same things, so they are fundamentally aligned. For us as a business they benefit both sides.”


What are some of the most interesting ways Opta data has been cut up and disseminated in the high performance realm?

SC: “The work we’re doing with the guys from New Zealand Cricket, Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby, and the moves they’ve made around taking lots of data and being able to analyse it quickly is certainly, in my opinion, quite far down the road on the analytics journey. Some of the work they’re doing in bringing in data, analysing it, and they’re doing it in an automated fashion. The automated element of taking live data from us in a consistent format and doing it for 1000 matches a year rather than just looking at their particular, set matches.”


And making it rather cohesive to make sense of it as well.

SC: “One of the things we talked about on stage is first of all bringing it in and automating it and getting a consistent data set, but then also how do you then apply that to other high performance and player data they’ve got. They’ve got wellbeing data, how do they make wellbeing data reflect performance. If a player has a great game and we can deliver KPI’s around tackles, bowls or wickets was that performance affected by a player’s wellbeing or their sleep in the previous days.”


What is something that your parent company Perform is doing that really excites you?

SC: “I think at the moment it’s actually how we’re creating insights from data and OptaPro. We’ve acquired a company called Scout7 in the U.K. last year, brought it in and created a dedicated OptaPro division with dedicated resources and developers. The insights that we’re creating and the ability to go through and find those real pearls of wisdom. The key is from a performance angle, asking questions of whether it can impact performance and we’re doing things where it does impact performance that is where we’re getting to and that’s really exciting. Rather than giving someone information let’s give them more context as well.”



Clint Vojdinoski – Bullpen

Bullpen is a publisher of sports business, digital, technology, data and intelligence. Our mission is to spotlight who and what is shaping the Australian sporting industry.

We bring you the innovations, ideas and people that drive the sporting ecosystem closer to both fans and professionals alike because we want to show that not all sports stars step onto a sporting field.


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