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How Sevilla’s data-driven methodology can help Saudi and regional clubs punch above their weight

In a landscape that includes arguably the world’s two biggest clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well as the likes of Atletico Madrid, Valencia and Athletic Club, Sevilla have managed to achieve remarkable success since promotion to La Liga from the Segunda Division in 2000/2001.

The Cope del Rey, Spain’s premier cup competition, was won twice in 2007 and 2010, while the Supercopa de Espana was also claimed in 2007.

Where Seville have achieved astonishing success, however, is in the UEFA Europe League, and its predecessor, the UEFA Cup.

The Andalusian club have won the trophy a record seven times, and are the current holders after defeating Roma on penalties in last year’s final.

At the heart of this success has been a scouting network that for long was the envy of the rest of Europe, and the world.

Speaking at the recent World Football Summit – Asia held in Jeddah, Sevilla’s Deputy General Manager Jesus Arroyo revealed how the club went from identifying some of the finest global talent via an intricate scouting system, to incorporating a new data-driven AI methodology in recent years.

It is strategy that he believes can help small- and medium-sized clubs in Saudi Arabia and the region compete with the big boys.

“One of our pillars in our strategic plan is innovation and knowledge,” he said. “Sevilla has the responsibility and commitment to try to share our knowledge, our experience with the rest of the football industry. Based on this vision, we have developed a (software) program where we try and achieve three main goals.”

“The first one is to try to develop the players,” said Arroyo. “We want to share our methodology with the players, with foreign players in order that they may grow with the methodology of Sevilla FC. We are talking about a club with tradition of more than 130 years.”

“The intention is to try and grow players with our methodology,” he said. “We have different programs. One program is to host players from other associations, for example, from Saudi Arabia. Come to Seville for a period of time, and we will provide a holistic service of training methodology, and some experience with first team to smell how important (being) a profession is.”

Arroyo revealed Sevilla’s intention to put together a team made up entirely of young foreign players, or trialists, next season.

“Of course we follow the rules of transfer of minors under 20,” he said. “But it’s not a matter of transfers, it’s not a matter of money. It’s a matter of sharing our knowledge with the players.”

The second pillar, according to Arroyo, provides training programs for coaches from around the world in the processes set in place at Sevilla, from the youth teams all the way up to the first team.

“Finally, the third pillar is to try and engage clubs and federations, where we can have a consultancy program partnership to grow in knowledge, in business, in sport.”

“If I had to highlight it on one sentence, it is a clear commitment of the club to share our innovation and to share our knowledge with the football industry,” said Arroyo.

From the early years of the 21st century, Sevilla established one of world football’s finest scouting systems, identifying young talent in Spain and from around the world, and developing them into world class players at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium. The big clubs would then come calling for the likes of Danny Alves and Sergio Ramos, and the club would repeat the cycle all over again.

However, as wide-ranging technical scouting departments for clubs became the norm, Sevilla had to innovate again to differentiate themselves from the pack.

“Five years ago, we asked internally how can we grow?” said Arroyo. “And we have a very clear (answer) that we had to do something else, something different. The answer was, we have to use the technology. We have to use the technology to do the same process, and the new process, in a very efficient way.”

“That means that, for instance, we apply technology on the ticketing side, or we apply the technology in order to mix the objective data provided by the performance of the players on the field, but also the subjective information that our scouts provide through the players.”

Elias Zamora, Sevilla’s chief data officer, does not have a football background — in true “Moneyball” tradition. He comes from “science, physics and mathematics” and before football, was involved in the stock market, where he developed financial algorithms.

In 2019, Zamora met with Arroyo, CEO Jose Maria Cruz, and Sevilla’s board of directors to map out the club’s transition into the tech age, and then in 2021, he was named chief data officer.

“So the question is, if we don’t do anything, if we just do the same as other people, we are going to get the same result of other people,” he said.

“And the results are typically dependent on money. The more money you have, the better results you’ll get, if you don’t do anything special. So because we don’t have more money than others, we have to do things in different ways in order to try to get a competitive advantage.”

“This was the idea. When I speak about data, let us speak about information. Information is directly under Jesus (Arroyo), and under the CEO, which means that we use information not just for business, not just for a sport, but we try to use data, that is information, for all the key areas of the club.”

That includes the fundamental areas of ticketing, sponsorships, marketing and retail.

With a team of more than 25 professionals dedicated to research and development, Sevilla have the biggest data department in continental European football, says Zamora. Using the software “AI Football,” they have one of the most advanced in the world as well.

“We have the capacity of developing our own technology. So we are the first club in Spain, for example, that was able to provide technology to La Liga, and not the (other way round).”

If embraced, Sevilla’s methodology can have a wide-ranging impact for clubs in the Middle East and Asia.

The revolution that swept through Saudi Arabian football over the last year has brought some of the world’s best players to the Kingdom’s elite clubs. However, those outside the “Big Four” of Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr, Al-Ahli and Al-Ittihad, must find other ways to compete.

Zamora reiterates Arroyo’s belief that Sevilla’s strategy could be the answer.

“This because we have our own team that is developing software and technology for our internal questions. And sometimes our internal questions are also the same questions as a club in Saudi Arabia, a club in Morocco, a club in Asia can have.”

“We are completely open to share this knowledge and to help (all clubs).”

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Our ISS Football Academy in China doubles its numbers in just numbers in just eight months

This December, at the World Football Summit in Saudi Arabia, we presented our ambitious project to spread the success of our Innovation Centre across the glove. One of the most crucial components is third-party training, which is articulated in various ways, including through alliances with organisations like ISS (International School Services). A leader in international education, the ISS operates in more than 800 public schools around the world, offering comprehensive, personalised services based on innovation.  

Through our partnership with the ISS, we have a presence at Shekou International School in Shenzhen, China, where coaches selected and trained by the club provide extracurricular sessions to students in accordance with our own teaching and training methodology.

In the eight months since the collaboration agreement was signed, the academy has doubled its number of players from 22 to the current 56. Activities have been a continuous success, from our summer camp (which will be hopefully be rolled out in Seville in 2024) to an under-12 tournament in November, where students – dressed in Sevilla FC colours – finished second ahead of AC Milan’s academy. The academy’s current objectives are to reach 80 players by the end of the 2023-24 academic year, given the demand that is beginning to emerge thanks to promotional work in nurseries, public schools and shops in the area.

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Sevilla FC’s successful participation in the WFS in Saudi Arabia

The Asian edition of the World Football Summit (WFS), held this week in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), has allowed Sevilla FC to present its innovation proposal to clubs, federations, companies and other international organisations. One of the most important strategic pillars of the club, which seeks to increase its competitiveness at the highest level through technology. Sevilla FC offered itself to the world of football as a training and consultancy channel for entities seeking to make a qualitative leap in their growth, especially for clubs and federations in the MENA area.

Jesús Arroyo, assistant general manager of Sevilla FC, was in charge of presenting, under the name ‘A vision of the future through innovation’, this business plan, which has the Innovation Center as its cornerstone. Through it, the club shares its acquired knowledge and experience, which have made Sevilla FC an international benchmark, with third parties who want to train, whether players, coaches or directly with clubs and federations through a strategic alliance. After his presentation, the Sevillista manager held dozens of meetings and interviews with representatives of organisations interested in the proposal. The club has training offers for players through the ‘Soccer Academy’, the ‘Players Academy’ and an innovative project for a team made up of international players to compete in Spain at youth level. Also for coaches, with the ‘Sevilla FC Coaches Academy’, and managers, through various online master’s degrees thanks to synergies with different universities.

Also present at the WFS in Yeda was Elías Zamora, head of the Data Department, who took part in a round table to discuss the importance in a football club of an area that generates tools based on big data. So far, Sevilla FC has developed a series of its own tools to optimise all areas and business units of the club, with the success of Transfer Tracker in the showcase and with interesting new projects that will see the light of day in 2024.

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Sevilla FC will be present at the World Football Summit in Saudi Arabia

Following the success of the Seville edition last September, the World Football Summit (WFS) will once again feature Sevilla FC at this December’s edition, which will be held in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) next week. The prestigious football industry congress has wanted the Nervión club to present and explain to the whole world its commitment to technological development. A strategic plan that has turned the club into an international benchmark in just a few years.

The assistant general manager of Sevilla FC, Jesús Arroyo, will speak on an exclusive panel entitled ‘A vision of the future through innovation’. In his presentation, the club’s executive will explain to the world why Sevilla FC decided to commit to technological innovation and strengthen its R&D+i department and how it intends to export all the knowledge acquired by creating new business opportunities.

Also participating in the WFS will be Elías Zamora, Head of the club’s Data Department, who has developed a series of proprietary tools to optimise all areas and business units of the club, with the success of Transfer Tracker in the showcase. Zamora will participate in a round table discussion on the importance of having a data department in football clubs today. The WFS will be held over two days, on Tuesday 12 and Wednesday 13.

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More than 25 KFA Coaches complete training programme at Sevilla FC Coaches Academy

Following several years’ experience within the footballing industry, our Innovation Center was established to share our knowledge with others from all over the globe, covering our methodology, technology and sporting development. Last week, a group of coaches from the Korea Football Association (KFA) completed a training course that covered our key values and principles that run from the academy all the way up to the first team

26 coaches took part in the programme that is offered by the Innovation Center, through the SFC Coaches Academy, to football clubs, federations and associations. The Korean coaches spent seven days in Sevilla, attending talks that covered all sporting departments of the club, such as management, methodology, training sessions, psychology and the incorporation of technology, with examples given to demonstrate the differences between age groups.

During their visit, the group from the KFA attended several of our academy’s training sessions from a variety of both girls and boys’ age groups. The majority of the group were coaches at an under 15 level. They finished the week by attending our home match against Villarreal CF and completing the Stadium Tour.

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Coaches from Mjällby AIF participated in the Sevilla FC Coaches Academy program

A delegation of coaches from different categories of the Swedish club Mjällby AIF spent several days undergoing training at the facilities of Sevilla FC. Through the ‘SFC Academy Coaches’ project, the Sevilla-based entity shares all the knowledge and technological tools acquired within its strong commitment to innovation and the establishment of the Innovation Center with other clubs, federations, and associations. In this case, the Swedish coaches attended various technical talks over three days, conducted by responsible individuals from different areas and sports departments of Sevilla FC.

The Swedish delegation received training on physical preparation, scouting, technological innovation, psychological aspects, the functioning of the residence, and training methodology according to age categories. In addition, they observed various youth training sessions on the different fields of the sports city, attended the Youth League match against PSV Eindhoven at the Jesús Navas stadium, and took the Stadium Tour of the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán.

Led by the press officer, James Wahlberg, a confessed Sevilla fan, they also independently attended the UEFA Champions League and LaLiga matches against PSV and Villarreal, respectively, before returning to Sweden.

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The preliminary project for the new Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán has been presented

its facilities to modern times. The new Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán has the commitment and the need to be a venue prepared for 21st century football, located in the same place as the current stadium after demolishing the previous one, without forgetting the history of the place, of the Nervión district and respecting the moments of glory that the current stadium has given Sevillismo. But at the same time it combines new airs, new resources and new comforts for the Sevillistas and for the club, which wants to make the new stadium one of the cornerstones of its strategic plan.

The new Sánchez-Pizjuán will not only be a sports venue of reference, but will also be an outstanding building in the city of Seville, which will be linked to the incomparable urban history of the city, its culture and its heritage. The design of the preliminary project, developed with IDOM, seeks to identify the key values in the great stages of Seville’s history through the reference to great examples of its architecture and cultural heritage such as the Real Alcázar, the Archive of the Indies or the Cathedral of Seville, to project them into a new Stadium that is contemporary, sustainable, technological and rooted in the city’s tradition.

In addition, the proposed design for the new stadium takes into account the following key aspects:

Renew the tradition of LA BOMBONERA DEL NERVION and further enhance the incredible football atmosphere for a full spectator experience.

To place the Nuevo Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán at the level of a reference infrastructure for the highest levels of football, through the use of the MOST ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES applied to security, television broadcasting, fan experience and sustainability.

Working in the public interest through a careful relationship between the new stadium and its URBAN CONTEXT, respecting the scale of the Nervión neighbourhood on the one hand and generating urban public space that can be enjoyed by residents 365 days a year, with new associated uses, on the other.

The integration of these elements is carried out with an ambitious, contemporary and identifiable architectural proposal, which will make the Nuevo Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán a new metropolitan landmark for Seville.

The seating capacity will be increased to 55,000 spectators, with a grandstand that will be very reminiscent of our current stadium, close to the pitch, facing the grass, but which will increase comfort, generate a new and numerous Hospitality offer and create a new continuous background for local entertainment, unprecedented in Spanish football. All of this, together with the new roofing of all the stands, will create an even greater footballing atmosphere for Sevilla fans than that of our current stadium. Not only that, but it will also allow for a substantial growth in Sevilla FC’s activities both in national competitions and in international competitions and other events. The new stadium will have two floors of parking and will substantially eliminate the number of stairs in the stadium. It will also include lounges and spaces for the organisation of events, as well as a new official shop and the new club museum.

Another important point in the proposal and an essential element in the design of the best modern urban stadiums is their relationship with their surroundings. The programme proposed for this new stadium allows activity to take place 365 days a year, so that, as well as allowing the clubs to expand their relationship with visitors and generate new revenue streams, they can participate in a prominent way in the creation and improvement of the urban spaces in their vicinity. This is what happens in the design of our new stadium: an open stadium related to its immediate surroundings, especially with the creation of a south façade that overlooks the square, which proposes terraces and other uses accessible to citizens and which, through a generous shaded space, activates the urban environment, transforming it into the new Plaza de Nervión and of Seville. A versatile, flexible square, a shaded, ventilated and cool space, a main entrance to the stadium, the new face of Sevilla FC.

For all these reasons, the New Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán, which will have to be approved by the General Assembly, will be an innovative stadium, an international benchmark and an example of the new generation of stadiums, heir to the traditional values of Sevilla FC, with new revenue streams, with activity all year round and a driving force for activity in the Nervión district.