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Dividends on Data

As Sport Grows Even More Lucrative, Data’s the Best Investment for 2022.


Stephen Smith


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When it comes to growth opportunities in 2022, all eyes are on sports – still. The industry just keeps growing. Case in point: some predict the licensed sports merchandise market alone will reach $27 billion worldwide by 2026. Wow.

As sport becomes even more lucrative, the prizes for success and the catastrophic costs of failure are quite simply bigger than ever. Smart organizations leverage performance intelligence to tip the scales in their favor, which makes the dividends on data that much more valuable for those who’ve invested wisely.

The English Premier League Invested in Data for Talent Development a Decade Ago. It’s Reaping the Benefits Now.

It’s hard to find a better example of past investments in data paying off than the English Premier League’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP). Now in its tenth year, the EPPP aims “to produce more and better homegrown players” in part by leveraging data and measurement.

By focusing on analytics the PL decided data was at the core of who they are (the NFL recently decided likewise) and did the hard thing: they digitized the entire youth development space. Today in 2022:

As former PL youth director Ged Roddy recently recalled, “What the audit did for the system was allow us to hard-wire in a three-year cycle where the clubs were tested and re-tested. In many quarters it was hated, but in many respects it was a necessary evil. It meant EPPP could evolve over time.”

Aligning people around data for continuous improvement is a hallmark of performance intelligence – and that’s just what EPL have done here. It’s rarely easy, but ten years later the dividends on data are plain to see: the Premier League lead the world from a talent development perspective. They are the most prestigious soccer league on the planet, continuously investing in developing the super stars of the future.

The PL Have the Data Landscape To Ask the Questions That Other Leagues Can’t. They’ll Find Answers Others Cannot Even Dream Of.

After last year we’re almost used to eye-raising headlines about the PL’s data savvy (seeking the edge, clubs have recruited rocket scientists and chess champions and even deployed missile tracking tech). So it might be easy to forget that what Roddy and the PL did ten years ago was visionary – they’ve been collecting data ever since, while others are only just starting. This head-start positioned them for extraordinary advantages during what Roddy calls “the rise of data and the wider use of analytics.”

The Premier League has cultivated a data landscape across their teams such that they can accurately see what’s happening around them and compare it against where they want to be in the future. They then reinvest those dividends on data accordingly.

So where will the EPL be 10 years from now?

Outside talent development, what problems will they be solving with the dividends of data in another decade? In all likelihood, whichever ones they want. We can clearly see from their attitude of “drive change or it will drive you” that they’re not going to sit back. They’re going to lead – not follow – the game’s next transitions. In a true performance intelligence mindset, they’ll reinvest the dividends on data.

Organizations that either can’t or won’t do the same are just asleep at the wheel. Go back to that $27 billion licensed sports merchandise market by 2026. That’s just one corner of the market, but that alone should be proof of what’s at stake.

I regularly share my thoughts on sport’s most impactful developments, and I welcome hearing how your dividends on data have better positioned your organization for success. Reach out on Twitter or at



  • Human Performance
  • Performance Intelligence
  • Soccer
  • Sports Data Analytics
  • Sports Science
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  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen is Kitman Labs’ CEO and founder. He was previously Senior Injury Rehabilitation & Conditioning Coach at Leinster Rugby Club. Stephen holds a BSc in Sport & Exercise Rehab and MSc in Football Rehab from Edgehill University.

    View all posts CEO & Founder of Kitman Labs



United Football League has launched the Performance Medicine Solution as their new League-wide EMR, inclusive of all teams.

Each team in the UFL will operate from a distinct iP: Intelligence Platform configured to support their respective operating philosophy and needs. Their specific system will aggregate and mobilize all player medical data in one integrated platform, providing an accurate, real-time view of each player from a health, injury, and readiness perspective.