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IBM’s Watson connects AI to La Liga team

Sevilla FC will use generative AI to assist with player evaluation and recruitment , writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

La Liga, the Spanish premier football league, is no stranger to artificial intelligence (AI). In my new book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to AI, I describe a visit to the Espanol stadium in Barcelona as long ago as 2019, when La Liga demonstrated its use of virtual reality and AI in its stadiums and during broadcasts on match days.

But what happens after the crowds have gone and the cheers and jeers have died down? The teams don’t stand still. Generally, they also don’t turn to AI when the data stream that is typical of matches isn’t flowing. That, too, is about to change. Last week IBM and Sevilla FC introduced Scout Advisor, a generative AI tool that the club will use to provide its scouting team with data-driven identification and evaluation of potential recruits. The tool also answers a question that many observers of the AI world have been asking: whatever happened to Watson? It was the pioneering AI platform that IBM opened to the world, yet did not excite the world.

Well, it quietly gave birth to watsonx, IBM’s AI and data platform designed for enterprises. And it will now integrate Scout Advisor with Sevilla FC’s existing suite of self-developed data-intensive applications.
IBM described the process in its announcement: “Sevilla FC’s data department worked with (the) IBM client engineering team to build Scout Advisor, leveraging watsonx’s natural language processing and foundation models to search and analyse massive amounts of information present in the club’s existing databases to evaluate potential recruits. This includes both quantitative data such as height and weight, speed, number of goals or minutes played, and qualitative unstructured data such as the textual analysis contained in their more than 200,000 scouting reports.

Fernando Suaìrez, IBM Software director SPGI, Joseì Mariìa del Nido Carrasco, presidente del Sevilla FC, Arturo Guerrero_ Senior Manager Client Engineering IBM SPGI, Eliìas Zamora_ Chief Data Officer Sevilla FC.

“The solution’s natural language processing capabilities have enabled Sevilla FC to use multiple large language models (LLMs) to help enhance the accuracy and effectiveness of their player identification. Using language prompts from Sevilla FC scouters that describe the key characteristics of the players searched, Scout Advisor generates curated lists of candidates based on stated requirements.”

According to the club, player scouting and recruiting decisions at elite sports teams, especially in the football industry, involve multi-million-dollar investments, long term contracts and high levels of uncertainty on performance and ROI. Traditionally, player recruitment has relied on a combination of subjective human observation and manual data analysis. However, this approach has several limitations, as it is both time consuming and considers only a limited number of factors.

José María del Nido Carrasco, Sevilla FC president, says: “Our team of scouters and analysts is committed to finding the best players to support our team’s success and have worked tirelessly to build an impressive database of player reports, and now, with the support of IBM, we can utilise this asset to its full potential. This gives us a significant advantage in the player recruitment process and enables us to find the best players for our team and continue to improve our performance on the pitch.

“We believe that this collaboration will have a positive impact not only for Sevilla FC but for the sports industry as a whole. With this tool, Sevilla FC also demonstrates that technology is not just a goal but an intimate companion on the journey towards the future of our entity; it is part of its DNA”.
One of the cool aspects of the initiative is that Sevilla is one of the oldest football clubs in the world, having marked its 134th anniversary this month.

Over the past 18 years, it has won a total of 8 European titles, including seven UEFA Europa Leagues and the UEFA Super Cup. Now, it is a pioneer in leveraging technology for player scouting.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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