Six Nations tackles big data with Qlik Analytics
The game of rugby is about as far removed from the world of technology that it’s possible to be but Six Nations rugby crunches big data and tackles virtual reality with Qlik Sense.
But in the RBS Six Nations tournament this year, which kicks off in the Stade de France on Saturday, fans, media and coaches alike will have more access than ever to match facts and insightful statistics with a new big data and analytics system.
â€œFor each game we are taking approximately 20 million rows of data and processing it in real time and using it to drive a number of different algorithms and visualisations to increase the engagement of rugby fans [and coaches].â€
Microsoft’s SQL Server acts as the main database to store and manage all the 6 Nations match data. A data management service provided by Alteryx sits on top of this to help shape the data for visualisations.
The system is cloud-powered via the Amazon Web Services platform which delivers the data visualisations to the 6 Nations web, iOS and Android apps. It also provides some visualisations to the media to help them offer more insightful pre- and post-match analysis.
Each team in the tournament will have access to the data to help them analyse how they played in previous matches and see the impact of different formations and strategies on individual and team performance.
The system shows how data analytics can be used in real time and applied to different sectors, even in areas not normally associated with big data. The system also demonstrates that large amounts of data can be put to use in a tangible way, rather than simply being collected and processed.
Tackling big data
The data includes how much individual players have contributed to a match, the number of ball turnovers, rucks won, kicking distances and manoeuvers, and a whole lot more. Data can be compared against previous games or even tournaments dating back as far as 2000. The data also provides a way to analyse the performance of individual players based on facts rather than observations. This improves the communication of tactics between players and coaches and holds both accountable for the performance.
Clear metrics on a player’s performance measured against his opposite number can allow objective, fact-based decisions without risking a coach being accused of bias or favouritism.
Meanwhile, coaches changing match strategies beyond the capabilities of a team, or failing to be innovative with tactics, can be held accountable by data showing clear correlations between match performance and player positioning and selection.
Parallels can be drawn with big data use in the enterprise world where analytics can transform a flagging company into an efficient and streamlined business. But, again, some decisions need to be entrusted to experience and gut feeling, such as firing a strong salesperson who alienates colleagues.
Immersing fans in data
- Clips from previous rugby matches can be watched while standing in the virtual stadium, and statistics and match information can be compared based on data crunched in a data visualisation system. Innovative and intelligent use of big data is also set to become more prevalent in sport. Infosys, for example, is working with the tennis world toprovide big data analytics to players and fans.
At the same time, data analysis is already well established in the world of motorsport. Formula One makes extensive use of analytics systems backed up by big data systems to fine tune the performance of cars. All of which serves as a useful study for companies looking to dip their toes in the big data lake in a bid to stay head of the competition.