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  • Events
  • Talent Development
SPOBIS takeaways: The Premier League as a talent development centre
Die Premier League als Talententwickler
Stefan Adelmann
Head of Marketing & Sales
Die Premier League als Talententwickler 1
How England's top division is breaking new ground in talent development, AI tools are changing football and a country is searching for euphoria.

Europe’s largest sports business event, the SPOBIS Conference 2024, got off to a new start in Hamburg. Representatives from various areas of the sports industry met for the first time in the Hanseatic city, including UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin, Adidas CEO Bjørn Gulden, LaLiga boss Javier Tebas and DFL Managing Directors Steffen Merkel and Marc Lenz.


As always, an event like this gives you a good feeling of what is currently moving the football industry. Trends disappear, others are suddenly omnipresent. What remains is the search for new markets and target groups and how best to reach them.


From a sporting perspective, the upcoming EURO 2024 in Germany was already casting its shadow in Hamburg, even if there is not yet much sign of great euphoria in Germany. At club level, the Premier League has been regarded as a promised land for years – at least in financial terms. But England’s top division is also planning sustainable steps into the future at a sporting level in the near future. Which brings me to the first of my three takeaways from this year’s SPOBIS Conference.

#1  – The Premier League wants to use a data platform to develop players in a more targeted way


Talent development is primarily a matter for the clubs and, at national level, for the respective national associations. At least that’s what you would think. However, the Premier League is now also making it its own task, together with the 92 academies in the top four divisions, to make a decisive contribution to the development of the country’s best players. To achieve this, the league has launched a “Football Intelligence Platform” together with the company “Kitman Labs”. This is a database in which standardised profiles of all academy players are created, which provide an overview of the players’ performance, training and match performance as well as their medical condition in real time and fed by a wide range of data. These profiles can then be used to derive clear development paths. The platform is intended to help promote young talent in a targeted way so that every player can fulfil his potential – even off the pitch. It should also be possible to track social, academic and cognitive development and so obtain a holistic profile for each player.


Paul Prescott, Head of Operations – Football Development at the Premier League, and Stephen Smith, CEO of Kitman Labs, spoke about the development of the “Football Intelligence Platform” at the SPOBIS Conference and also described the concerns they faced. After all, the comprehensive measurability of talent development is a fundamental cultural change within the football industry. Both therefore emphasised the need for intensive communication with the clubs and academies in order for this change process to succeed. I am looking forward to seeing how the project develops and hope that it will convince even more clubs and associations that objectively measuring and documenting the development of their players makes a lasting contribution to the success of an academy.


#2 – Artificial intelligence has replaced blockchain and NFT as the big topic of conversation


Digitalisation not only plays a major role in sporting developments, it is also omnipresent in commercial topics. What is striking is that the hype cycles for digitalisation topics are getting shorter and shorter. Whereas yesterday it felt like everyone was still hanging something on a blockchain and NFTs were seen as a major investment for the future, this year at SPOBIS the topic of artificial intelligence dominated. More and more AI tools are appearing in marketing in particular, and there are also exciting solutions for interacting with fans. Overall, it is clear that we are only at the beginning of much greater changes in our working environment. Changes can also be seen in the choice of channels when interacting with fans. WhatsApp channels have quickly become an important information tool for sports clubs. However, the most important content platform for clubs and leagues is and remains TikTok, where remarkable reach can be achieved with short clips.


#3 – EURO 2024 is approaching, but the euphoria in Germany is missing


Germany has a good reputation for hosting major football events. I still remember the 2006 World Cup as an unforgettable summer festival and it certainly burnished Germany’s image around the world. From an organisational point of view, there is also no doubt that EURO 2024 will be a successful event. However, the great excitement in the host country has yet to come. In sporting terms, the national team has been in a phase of transition since 2018 and there is much doubt as to whether Julian Nagelsmann will find the right recipe for sporting success as national coach. Yet the support of the fans is one of the great assets of German football culture. For years, the Bundesliga has been the league with the largest number of spectators in Europe. In the 2022/23 season, an average of more than 43,000 fans watched matches in the stadium. “Fan engagement” was also a major topic at the SPOBIS Conference, with digital solutions being the main topic of discussion. I think the debate is missing a bit of a discussion about the fan experience itself. After all, the game is the main attraction that brings tens of thousands of people together every weekend. This is where we need to start in order to improve the fan experience itself and not construct an environment that devalues the game.


This year’s SPOBIS Conference was once again an exciting gathering of many important people in the football business. Not only do you get new perspectives every time, but you also come across innovative ideas that broaden your own horizons. I’m already looking forward to the next one.