London Irish rugby team invests in analytics to up their game

8 Oct 2010

Elite professional rugby club London Irish has deployed IBM Business Analytics technology to develop a ground-breaking new system to advance the club’s analysis of training and on-field performance.

The innovative technology will be a first for professional rugby in the UK and will provide London Irish with faster access to more comprehensive performance data at both individual player and squad levels.

The system will consolidate the extensive amount of performance data collected by the coaching team, including match day, training and GPS, which measures player exertion levels and strength and conditioning.

Through the creation of improved and bespoke reporting, the coaches will be able to quickly identify more detailed performance trends and potential areas of improvement.

This insight will be used to maximise the team’s effectiveness on pitch through enhanced training plans and aid short-term and long-term player development and squad management.

Speed and accuracy

The aim being that the increased speed and accuracy of the insight provided by the new analytics software coupled with the ongoing analysis of opponents will help to give the club a significant edge and ultimately boost match day performance.

“Performance analysis is vital for success,” Toby Booth, London Irish head coach, said. “In order to push our programme forward and be the best, we must constantly find ways to advance player and squad development.

“The IBM business analytics system is cutting edge and will enable us to keep our finger even more on the pulse; the ability to drill down into our data even further means we can view performance trends in a higher level of detail, develop enhanced training schedules and importantly, focus our efforts even more effectively on the pitch.”

Keeping the score

With the arrival of the new CEO, Andy Martin, in 2009, the club is now in a new and ambitious era, with plans for expansion which will include new training facilities, ticket and merchandise sales.

An important goal is to improve the quality of the club’s management information system and provide player and match performance statistics on the club website so fans and members can follow their team’s progress. IBM business analytics is an obvious solution to address that goal and London Irish is currently planning for this as a second stage in the IBM business analytics implementation.

“Today’s announcement is part of IBM’s ongoing focus on helping clients from all industry sectors use their information as a strategic asset,” said Steve Dunnigan, Business Analytics Unit Executive, IBM. “London Irish has demonstrated their commitment to improving their competitive edge by teaming with IBM.”

IBM has invested more than US$11bn to build an analytics portfolio which includes more than 20 acquisitions. In addition, IBM has assembled 6,000 analytics consultants with industry expertise, and opened a network of seven analytics centres of excellence.

“Through our partnership with IBM, we are investing in and building a bespoke analytics system to meet the specific requirements of the London Irish coaching team,” Chris Miles, London Irish Business Development director, added.

“Rather than purchase an off-the-shelf package, we wanted a partner who could tailor a system to our requirements and minimise changes to the data collection processes already established at the club. IBM was the only partner with the ability to do this.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years