On Sunday, England will face Germany in the final act of this summer’s tournament—one that has pitted the top teams from across Europe against one another, and inspired a generation.
It will take grit, determination and a stunning backheel here or there for England to win. But technology plays a part too. The Football Association’s partnership with Google Cloud has been a vital part of the picture for the lead up to the competition, giving coaches and performance staff access to data and processing muscle that help it select the best squad available at any one time.
The FA’s Player Performance System (PPS) is a central component of Helix—an application and development suite developed by The FA. Helix has been hosted on Google Cloud for the last five years and is used by the Technical Directorate staff associated with both the England women’s and men’s football teams. It provides them with secure access to databases, processes, functions, and compute resources that analyse large volumes of data. It also integrates with visualisation tools to give coaches and performance staff multiple views of data that provides unique insights—customised to end users’ requirements.
This data can include anything from player profiles, to scouting reports, to medical information, to club and international fixtures and results. It also brings in research from metrics pulled from wearable devices, which track players’ training volume and intensity, to allow coaches to better manage their workloads. Coaches also have access to players’ sleep, nutrition, recovery, and mental health data.
“What it allows our users to do is pull together disparate information that they may not be used to seeing side-by-side. This helps us to generate new insights, and hopefully give us an edge when it comes to competitions,” said Craig Donald, CIO at The FA.
Helix provides multi-dimensional insight
Helix tracks more than 3,500 professional footballers and stores more than 22 million player data points collected from competitive games and training sessions. The platform relies on various Google Cloud tools, glued together by a complex microservice system, which is used to update the data being collected, analysed, and stored. Google Cloud Storage is also used to host The FA’s video archives of competitive games. As many as 400 games a day make their way into The FA database, each one creating up to a 5GB file size and 600MB of video tracking data.
This means the FA has faster, more convenient access to data, plus greater insight into player and team performance, which can aid in both the selection and choice of tactics in any given fixture. The additional power and capacity of the GCP hosting infrastructure helps The FA quickly and cost effectively scale up its analytics capabilities to handle additional data sets during forthcoming competitions.
It often seems in football that everybody has their own idea of the best players to pick and the tactics to adopt. But the combination of granular data metrics and cloud architecture deployed by The FA and Google Cloud might actually give a genuine expert the knowledge to back up those opinions.
But does it mean the Lionesses will win on Sunday? Tune in to find out.