Sarah Rudd: Time for clubs to share more about data analytics?
Written by Simon Austin — September 14, 2023
FORMER Arsenal Head of Analytics Sarah Rudd has said that clubs should share more of their data science work ‘for the good of the industry.’
Rudd was Vice President of Analytics and Software Development for Arsenal’s in-house data company, StatDNA, for almost a decade up to July 2021.
Speaking on the TGG Podcast (which you can listen to below, she said: “I joined Stat DNA in January 2012. Liverpool’s department started around then, maybe a year or two before. But because it was so cutting-edge, we didn’t talk to anyone.
“We went on our path, Liverpool went on theirs, City have done their thing, which has made it quite difficult. It’s something I have never been happy with. Arsenal were quite secretive, they wanted to keep everything in-house. You start wondering, ‘What else are people doing that we haven’t thought of?’
“Everybody wants to protect their competitive advantage, but I think, for the good of the industry, it’s good to share.
“Solving the same boring problems as everybody else; sometimes it’s like, ‘I wish someone had just written a library and we could use that for the boring stuff and spend our time on the interesting stuff.’”
Data scientists often get breaks at clubs because of work shared in the public sphere, on blogs, YouTube or social media, but as soon as they begin these jobs, they tend not to be allowed to share.
Friends of Tracking was one excellent initiative that aimed to ‘educate and inspire those interested in football analytics’.
Set up by Pascal Bauer, Javier Fernandez, Suds Gopaladesikan, Fran Peralta, Laurie Shaw, David Sumpter and Alex Thomas, the YouTube channel ran from 2018 to 2021 and featured presentations from the likes of Will Spearman and Shaw, who both went on to senior roles at Liverpool and Manchester City respectively.
Rudd said one of the biggest advantages of setting up her own analytics company, src ftbl, was that she could now share knowledge and expertise with current and aspiring data scientists.
“I love chatting with people; I love chatting with young people,” she said. “I think that’s one of the nice things about my current situation - I can be a little more open. I love seeing the work people are doing and maybe provide constructive feedback on some things.”