Squawka and The Statistics of Soccer

In the modern sporting world, the statistic is king. In the United States, the analytics revolution, led by Michael Lewis’ Moneyball in Major League Baseball, has driven other major sporting leagues to push for more advanced statistics. However, in a sport as fluid as soccer, gathering the data necessary to create statistics has been a struggle. It is only within the past five to ten years that companies such as Opta and Prozone have begun to track data in order to sell it to teams and the media. One website that organizes and distributes Opta’s data is the London-based Squawka.com.

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In 2011, two friends, Sanjay Atwal and Leo Harrison, founded Squawka to be a “second screen application” for soccer fans. The phrase “second screen” literally refers to an additional screen used to improve the viewing experience of television. Fans use these second screens while they watch a football match in order to learn more about how the players and teams are performing, watch highlights, and even track statistical trends in the game. Through Squawka, Atwal and Harrison wanted to provide fans with a real time stats and intelligence that had previously been available to only professionals. Furthermore, they wanted to combine this experience with social media interaction, so that fans could share their findings and interests with each other.

Squawka’s second screen consists of a chat panel and a data panel, which pop up once a fan has chosen the game they want to watch.

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The data panel has some very unique and useful advanced capabilities, such as the ability to filter any statistic by any five-minute period of the game. However, the chat panel has only scratched the surface of its potential. The chat panel allows for sharing statistics on Twitter and Facebook, but little else in terms of fan interaction within the website itself. Nevertheless, Squawka has maintained traffic on its website, with 20k users on the Match Centre during its most popular Champions League game and a constant 2k views per minute on transfer deadline day. One of their most impressive usage statistics is that some users use the second screen live web match capabilities for 39 minutes throughout a match. These fans have found that Squawka allows them to keep up to date with live updates as well as learn more about the game through the plethora of data and statistics.

Squawka’s modus operandi is to give fans “Stats Worth Sharing.” However, soccer, as an old sport, has some established statistics that many traditionalists are reluctant to make less significant or abandon completely. Consequently, Squawka attempts to provide fans with enough data for them to make decisions themselves, without foisting new statistics and analytics on the “old boys” of soccer, who will undoubtedly reject the pressure. The website’s CEO, Atwal, explained in an interview, “[Fans] are coming to a point where they want to do the analysis themselves. They want to be spoken to and dictated less by the media about, ‘This guy is good. This guy is bad’… They want more empirical evidence.” Squawka gives fans massive quantities of data and allows them to make their own conclusions.

Squawka’s Stats Centre exemplifies this objective method of data presentation perfectly. In the Comparison Matrix, one can select up to five teams or players to compare in a range of stats. The stats fall into seven categories, goals, passes, duels, discipline, goalkeeping, attempts, and defense. Within each category, the stats range in specificity, from “left-footed goals” to “cards for verbal abuse.”

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After selecting the statistics and teams, fans can see the objective numbers behind each team or player’s strengths and weaknesses. In this way, fans can see the pure data that will allow them to make their own conclusions.

In addition to the pure data, Squawka invented its own “scenario-based” algorithm for calculating players’ “Performance Scores.”

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The website filters over 2.7 million data points in real time to evaluate the performance of teams and players on attack, defense, and possession. The Performance Score differentiates Squawka from other similar websites, such as Zeebox, that focus less on data visualization and graphical representation. Fans on Squawka can view the “Dream Team” of the week by Performance Score as well as team and player rankings throughout each league.

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This score improves fans’ experience on the website by giving them an easy visual and analytic metric to evaluate and rank players. Moreover, Squawka uses The Performance Score and interactive graphics to improve the other aspects of their website.

For example, Squawka was able to improve its Analysis and Opinion pieces by including advanced statistics and visual graphics. It is immediately clear that Squawka does not focus on these types of subjective articles because neither is easily located. In order to get to these editorials, a fan must first click on “News,” then find the subheadings “Analysis” and “Opinion.” However, while these opinion-based pieces are not necessarily Squawka’s forte, the website uses their specialized data and statistics to improve the quality of articles with occasionally weaker writing. For example, in an article called “Why is Luis Suarez struggling to recapture his Liverpool form for Barcelona?,” Andy Yates contemplates the various reasons for Suarez’s struggles. He offers no more insight than any given fan when he suggests Suarez’ ban or Barcelona’s unique style as possible reasons behind his struggles. Nevertheless, the article seemed stronger because it provided graphics and statistics unique to Squawka. As shown below, the graphic illustrates the number of forward passes, key passes, total shots, and shots inside the box that Suarez had on Liverpool last season and has had so far on Barcelona this year.

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While Yates does not go on analyze the statistics or determine a likely cause of Suarez’ struggles, the article gives fans readable and insightful group of stats that they can then use to build their own conclusions.

Overall, Squawka offers fans a unique experience. Other features of the website that were not mentioned are a real money peer-to-peer Bet Now tab, called Tailorbet, a sponsored fantasy soccer Battle Mode tab, and a Gaming tab dedicated entirely to FIFA and other video games. These aspects of the website only add to the website’s initial purpose as a live updating second screen application. Through the Stats Centre, News, and Live Blog pages, Squawka provides some of the most advanced and up-to-date visual graphics and statistics of any soccer website. Although the analysis and opinion pieces fall somewhat short in their writing styles, even these pieces are strong due to the data and graphics that Squawka provides. Simply, the website includes so much information that fans can develop their own opinions and analysis. Now, with the release of Squawka’s app, fans can receive the information from many different screens. Indeed, in a modern world where statistics are king, Squawka can claim part of the crown.

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