Interview

Midtjylland's moneyballers

Chairman Rasmus Ankersen explains how data is allowing FC Midtjylland to punch above their weight

INTERVIEW Christian Wolny

On an economic scale, we’re very much underdogs. We’re among those who achieve most compared to our budget. We’re not like anybody else. Look outside. It’s not a big city, with lots of companies or factories. There shouldn’t be a club like this in Herning. We shouldn’t be in the Champions League. But then again, that’s our driving force.

If David had to beat Goliath using the same weapons, he wouldn’t stand a chance. You choose different strategies and one of those is an analytical, data-driven approach. Football is an industry with a lot of opinions and feelings. We cut through the noise to make decisions on a more objective basis. People can still present opinions, but we look at specific numbers that guide us when we recruit players, evaluate ourselves and make a strategy. It was introduced when Matthew Benham bought the majority stake in 2014 because that has been his way of thinking as a football gambler. Having an objective view can be a competitive edge in a world that often is driven by strong opinions and feelings.

"IT’S IMPORTANT IN FOOTBALL TO NOT JUST LOOK AT THE TABLE, BUT ALSO AT THE UNDERLYING DATA"


Data is always part of the decisions. But football knowledge and experience are as well. You often get that narrative that we are a Moneyball story, that we have robots in the training facilities and that there are no people or opinions or experiences or intuition involved. We have a lot of all that, but you have to use it correctly. I don’t think that the data we have, or how we use it, is rocket science not used in others clubs. But I think we are a bit ahead, because we have culture driven from the top. It’s not two interns in a basement sitting and calculating.

Moneyball was about reducing costs as much as possible. Baseball players were recruited based on specific individual parameters. As other data was suddenly being looked at, you were able to find talents on the market who were underestimated in an economic sense but had greater value. By signing them, you would get better players for less money. We use that logic when we look at the market through data and what kind of clubs, leagues and players are underestimated. There are similarities between Moneyball and how we think, especially when it comes to recruiting.

On an economic scale, we’re very much underdogs. We’re among those who achieve most compared to our budget. We’re not like anybody else. Look outside. It’s not a big city, with lots of companies or factories. There shouldn’t be a club like this in Herning. We shouldn’t be in the Champions League. But then again, that’s our driving force.

If David had to beat Goliath using the same weapons, he wouldn’t stand a chance. You choose different strategies and one of those is an analytical, data-driven approach. Football is an industry with a lot of opinions and feelings. We cut through the noise to make decisions on a more objective basis. People can still present opinions, but we look at specific numbers that guide us when we recruit players, evaluate ourselves and make a strategy. It was introduced when Matthew Benham bought the majority stake in 2014 because that has been his way of thinking as a football gambler. Having an objective view can be a competitive edge in a world that often is driven by strong opinions and feelings.

"IT’S IMPORTANT IN FOOTBALL TO NOT JUST LOOK AT THE TABLE, BUT ALSO AT THE UNDERLYING DATA"


Data is always part of the decisions. But football knowledge and experience are as well. You often get that narrative that we are a Moneyball story, that we have robots in the training facilities and that there are no people or opinions or experiences or intuition involved. We have a lot of all that, but you have to use it correctly. I don’t think that the data we have, or how we use it, is rocket science not used in others clubs. But I think we are a bit ahead, because we have culture driven from the top. It’s not two interns in a basement sitting and calculating.

Moneyball was about reducing costs as much as possible. Baseball players were recruited based on specific individual parameters. As other data was suddenly being looked at, you were able to find talents on the market who were underestimated in an economic sense but had greater value. By signing them, you would get better players for less money. We use that logic when we look at the market through data and what kind of clubs, leagues and players are underestimated. There are similarities between Moneyball and how we think, especially when it comes to recruiting.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Data is always important when we sign a player. Based on a good model, we can benchmark the quality of teams in Denmark in relation to the quality of teams in other leagues. Then we look at teams that are maybe better than us, but who are underestimated on the market. That could be the German 2. Bundesliga. If the model said that five of the best teams in the 2. Bundesliga are good enough to play in the Premier League… well, buying a Premier League player is very expensive and he wouldn’t want to join FC Midtjylland. But in the 2. Bundesliga, there might be a chance to get them and for a reasonable price. So, the data can help tell you where to find players and where to find value in the market.

We have something called a satisfaction matrix, we give scores to all the players in our data set. We’re looking for players with a high score, but who have had limited game time. For example, Alexander Sørloth, who we acquired from Groningen in the Netherlands. He scored really well on the data we looked at, but didn’t play regularly in Groningen. He arrived here, did well, and we sold him to Crystal Palace for a lot of money. Today he is playing in the Champions League for Leipzig after being top scorer in Turkey last season.

It’s always said that the table never lies. We would say that it almost always lies, because it is a sport with few goals. A shot that hits the goalpost can easily define whether you lose or win, so minor random moments have a much larger influence. That means that the table only shows one possible scenario. But it could have ended in other ways if the random moments had turned out differently. That’s why it’s important in football to not just look at the table, but also at the underlying data.

Perhaps we see reality a bit differently to other clubs, who are driven by the table and its tyranny. It takes time for people to get used to it, but when you’ve seen the patterns repeat themselves again and again, you start trusting it. We’ve been in situations where we had to make difficult choices, but we’ve made decisions based on data. When it goes well, it builds a confidence and a self-confidence that it is the right way to do things.

Midtjylland is a family club, that believes in relationships when it comes to developing the players, getting to know them. That’s like the combination between the left and right side of the brain, where you have huge human focus but, at the same time, hardcore data focus. It’s all about being able to balance these two things.

On an economic scale, we’re very much underdogs. We’re among those who achieve most compared to our budget. We’re not like anybody else. Look outside. It’s not a big city, with lots of companies or factories. There shouldn’t be a club like this in Herning. We shouldn’t be in the Champions League. But then again, that’s our driving force.

If David had to beat Goliath using the same weapons, he wouldn’t stand a chance. You choose different strategies and one of those is an analytical, data-driven approach. Football is an industry with a lot of opinions and feelings. We cut through the noise to make decisions on a more objective basis. People can still present opinions, but we look at specific numbers that guide us when we recruit players, evaluate ourselves and make a strategy. It was introduced when Matthew Benham bought the majority stake in 2014 because that has been his way of thinking as a football gambler. Having an objective view can be a competitive edge in a world that often is driven by strong opinions and feelings.

"IT’S IMPORTANT IN FOOTBALL TO NOT JUST LOOK AT THE TABLE, BUT ALSO AT THE UNDERLYING DATA"


Data is always part of the decisions. But football knowledge and experience are as well. You often get that narrative that we are a Moneyball story, that we have robots in the training facilities and that there are no people or opinions or experiences or intuition involved. We have a lot of all that, but you have to use it correctly. I don’t think that the data we have, or how we use it, is rocket science not used in others clubs. But I think we are a bit ahead, because we have culture driven from the top. It’s not two interns in a basement sitting and calculating.

Moneyball was about reducing costs as much as possible. Baseball players were recruited based on specific individual parameters. As other data was suddenly being looked at, you were able to find talents on the market who were underestimated in an economic sense but had greater value. By signing them, you would get better players for less money. We use that logic when we look at the market through data and what kind of clubs, leagues and players are underestimated. There are similarities between Moneyball and how we think, especially when it comes to recruiting.

Midtjylland's moneyballers
Interview

Midtjylland's moneyballers

Chairman Rasmus Ankersen explains how data is allowing FC Midtjylland to punch above their weight

INTERVIEW Christian Wolny

On an economic scale, we’re very much underdogs. We’re among those who achieve most compared to our budget. We’re not like anybody else. Look outside. It’s not a big city, with lots of companies or factories. There shouldn’t be a club like this in Herning. We shouldn’t be in the Champions League. But then again, that’s our driving force.

If David had to beat Goliath using the same weapons, he wouldn’t stand a chance. You choose different strategies and one of those is an analytical, data-driven approach. Football is an industry with a lot of opinions and feelings. We cut through the noise to make decisions on a more objective basis. People can still present opinions, but we look at specific numbers that guide us when we recruit players, evaluate ourselves and make a strategy. It was introduced when Matthew Benham bought the majority stake in 2014 because that has been his way of thinking as a football gambler. Having an objective view can be a competitive edge in a world that often is driven by strong opinions and feelings.

"IT’S IMPORTANT IN FOOTBALL TO NOT JUST LOOK AT THE TABLE, BUT ALSO AT THE UNDERLYING DATA"


Data is always part of the decisions. But football knowledge and experience are as well. You often get that narrative that we are a Moneyball story, that we have robots in the training facilities and that there are no people or opinions or experiences or intuition involved. We have a lot of all that, but you have to use it correctly. I don’t think that the data we have, or how we use it, is rocket science not used in others clubs. But I think we are a bit ahead, because we have culture driven from the top. It’s not two interns in a basement sitting and calculating.

Moneyball was about reducing costs as much as possible. Baseball players were recruited based on specific individual parameters. As other data was suddenly being looked at, you were able to find talents on the market who were underestimated in an economic sense but had greater value. By signing them, you would get better players for less money. We use that logic when we look at the market through data and what kind of clubs, leagues and players are underestimated. There are similarities between Moneyball and how we think, especially when it comes to recruiting.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

On an economic scale, we’re very much underdogs. We’re among those who achieve most compared to our budget. We’re not like anybody else. Look outside. It’s not a big city, with lots of companies or factories. There shouldn’t be a club like this in Herning. We shouldn’t be in the Champions League. But then again, that’s our driving force.

If David had to beat Goliath using the same weapons, he wouldn’t stand a chance. You choose different strategies and one of those is an analytical, data-driven approach. Football is an industry with a lot of opinions and feelings. We cut through the noise to make decisions on a more objective basis. People can still present opinions, but we look at specific numbers that guide us when we recruit players, evaluate ourselves and make a strategy. It was introduced when Matthew Benham bought the majority stake in 2014 because that has been his way of thinking as a football gambler. Having an objective view can be a competitive edge in a world that often is driven by strong opinions and feelings.

"IT’S IMPORTANT IN FOOTBALL TO NOT JUST LOOK AT THE TABLE, BUT ALSO AT THE UNDERLYING DATA"


Data is always part of the decisions. But football knowledge and experience are as well. You often get that narrative that we are a Moneyball story, that we have robots in the training facilities and that there are no people or opinions or experiences or intuition involved. We have a lot of all that, but you have to use it correctly. I don’t think that the data we have, or how we use it, is rocket science not used in others clubs. But I think we are a bit ahead, because we have culture driven from the top. It’s not two interns in a basement sitting and calculating.

Moneyball was about reducing costs as much as possible. Baseball players were recruited based on specific individual parameters. As other data was suddenly being looked at, you were able to find talents on the market who were underestimated in an economic sense but had greater value. By signing them, you would get better players for less money. We use that logic when we look at the market through data and what kind of clubs, leagues and players are underestimated. There are similarities between Moneyball and how we think, especially when it comes to recruiting.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Data is always important when we sign a player. Based on a good model, we can benchmark the quality of teams in Denmark in relation to the quality of teams in other leagues. Then we look at teams that are maybe better than us, but who are underestimated on the market. That could be the German 2. Bundesliga. If the model said that five of the best teams in the 2. Bundesliga are good enough to play in the Premier League… well, buying a Premier League player is very expensive and he wouldn’t want to join FC Midtjylland. But in the 2. Bundesliga, there might be a chance to get them and for a reasonable price. So, the data can help tell you where to find players and where to find value in the market.

We have something called a satisfaction matrix, we give scores to all the players in our data set. We’re looking for players with a high score, but who have had limited game time. For example, Alexander Sørloth, who we acquired from Groningen in the Netherlands. He scored really well on the data we looked at, but didn’t play regularly in Groningen. He arrived here, did well, and we sold him to Crystal Palace for a lot of money. Today he is playing in the Champions League for Leipzig after being top scorer in Turkey last season.

It’s always said that the table never lies. We would say that it almost always lies, because it is a sport with few goals. A shot that hits the goalpost can easily define whether you lose or win, so minor random moments have a much larger influence. That means that the table only shows one possible scenario. But it could have ended in other ways if the random moments had turned out differently. That’s why it’s important in football to not just look at the table, but also at the underlying data.

Perhaps we see reality a bit differently to other clubs, who are driven by the table and its tyranny. It takes time for people to get used to it, but when you’ve seen the patterns repeat themselves again and again, you start trusting it. We’ve been in situations where we had to make difficult choices, but we’ve made decisions based on data. When it goes well, it builds a confidence and a self-confidence that it is the right way to do things.

Midtjylland is a family club, that believes in relationships when it comes to developing the players, getting to know them. That’s like the combination between the left and right side of the brain, where you have huge human focus but, at the same time, hardcore data focus. It’s all about being able to balance these two things.

On an economic scale, we’re very much underdogs. We’re among those who achieve most compared to our budget. We’re not like anybody else. Look outside. It’s not a big city, with lots of companies or factories. There shouldn’t be a club like this in Herning. We shouldn’t be in the Champions League. But then again, that’s our driving force.

If David had to beat Goliath using the same weapons, he wouldn’t stand a chance. You choose different strategies and one of those is an analytical, data-driven approach. Football is an industry with a lot of opinions and feelings. We cut through the noise to make decisions on a more objective basis. People can still present opinions, but we look at specific numbers that guide us when we recruit players, evaluate ourselves and make a strategy. It was introduced when Matthew Benham bought the majority stake in 2014 because that has been his way of thinking as a football gambler. Having an objective view can be a competitive edge in a world that often is driven by strong opinions and feelings.

"IT’S IMPORTANT IN FOOTBALL TO NOT JUST LOOK AT THE TABLE, BUT ALSO AT THE UNDERLYING DATA"


Data is always part of the decisions. But football knowledge and experience are as well. You often get that narrative that we are a Moneyball story, that we have robots in the training facilities and that there are no people or opinions or experiences or intuition involved. We have a lot of all that, but you have to use it correctly. I don’t think that the data we have, or how we use it, is rocket science not used in others clubs. But I think we are a bit ahead, because we have culture driven from the top. It’s not two interns in a basement sitting and calculating.

Moneyball was about reducing costs as much as possible. Baseball players were recruited based on specific individual parameters. As other data was suddenly being looked at, you were able to find talents on the market who were underestimated in an economic sense but had greater value. By signing them, you would get better players for less money. We use that logic when we look at the market through data and what kind of clubs, leagues and players are underestimated. There are similarities between Moneyball and how we think, especially when it comes to recruiting.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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