Tributes paid to data pioneer Garry Gelade after death aged 74
Written by Simon Austin — July 12, 2020
GARRY GELADE, described as the elder statesman of football analytics following his pioneering work with clubs including Chelsea, has died at the age of 74.
The news of his death, on July 5th, was announced via his personal Twitter account today (July 12th). Gelade's brother-in-law, Ram Dubey, told TGG that the data scientist had died just four days after being diagnosed with lung, bone and kidney cancer.
Dozens of tributes were subsequently posted from within the football analytics community.
Ben Mackriell, VP of Pro Products for StatsPerform and OptaPro, tweeted: “Really devastated to hear this. Love goes out to all his family. He was a true gentleman and a pioneer in our industry.”
David Sumpter, Professor at Uppsala University and author of the book Soccermatics, wrote: “Very sad news. An amazing, positive and interesting person.”
Gelade studied psychology and statistics at Cambridge University before gaining a doctorate in experimental psychology at Nottingham University.
He went on to found Business Analytic, an independent consultancy specialising in organisational research, sports analytics and applied statistics, working for clients including Lloyds Bank and American Express.
His move into the fledgling world of football analytics came relatively late on in his career, but he became a pioneer. In 2008, he was hired by Chelsea to help the club establish a technical scouting department based on statistical analysis of player performance.
His remit expanded over the next four years, stretching into other areas including analysis of the relationship between physiological indicators and performance.
The man who had hired him, Director of Football Operations Mike Forde, later said: “Through his work we have been able to create innovative and powerful insights into the role specific players have on the impact of results in major European and Champions League matches.
“With this insight to the fore, we now feel we have a significant advantage over our major competitors in the race to identify and quantify the value of the world's elite players.”
Gelade modestly said: “While it lasted, I think it did make a difference.”
The data scientist went on to work for other major football clubs including Real Madrid and Paris St-Germain.
In a 2017 interview, he said: "Data, by itself, isn’t much use to anybody; it’s like a lump of wood. But if you shape the data, it becomes useful, like turning that piece of wood into a chair or a table.
“The data scientist can’t do the next step though, which is to turn the insight into impact.”
Dubey, secretary of Gelade's Business Analytics company, said his brother-in-law had died at UCL Hospital in London. He had first complained of shoulder pains in February following a six-week trip to India, he added.
Gelade was a familiar face at sports analytics forums, and on social media, and was a mentor, friend and sounding board for many within the community.