Manchester United appoints Director of Data Science

Friday 08 October 2021 10:00

Manchester United has appointed its first Director of Data Science to drive forward the club’s use of data to help players and staff deliver success on the pitch.

Dominic Jordan, an experienced data scientist with a background in geospatial analytics, will be tasked with improving the way we connect and analyse the vast amounts of data generated across our football operations.

Welcoming Dominic to the club, John Murtough, Football Director, said the appointment reflected the growing importance of data science across a range of areas within the club and its potential to provide a competitive advantage.   

“We already make extensive use of data to analyse players’ performance and physical condition, and to scout opponents and recruitment targets,” said Murtough. “But there is huge potential to strengthen our existing capabilities, and build new ones, as part of a more integrated approach to managing and using data.

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“This is not about replacing the human elements of performance and decision-making,” Murtough added. “Coaches will always draw on their knowledge and judgment, and players their experience and instincts. But these things can be complemented by smart use of data.

“Ultimately, it’s about ensuring that players, coaches and support staff are equipped with the best possible information with which to make the right decisions, quickly.”
Dominic joins United from Manchester-based N Brown Group, where he led a 30-strong team of data scientists, engineers and analysts optimising the operations of one of the UK’s largest online retailers. Previously, he worked for a US-based world leader in population movement analytics, developing algorithms to help monitor the flow of people and vehicles in transport systems.

We spoke to Dominic about his decision to join United and what he hopes to achieve:  
   
“I have seen first-hand how data used in the right way can transform organisations of all kinds. I would only take a role where the desire to use data to evolve and enhance decision-making comes from the top. So, to get the opportunity to do exactly that for the football club I love – well, it was a no-brainer.”
The appointment reflects the growing importance of data science across the club, and its potential to provide a competitive advantage for players and staff on the pitch.

What will your job involve?   

“Data science is the process of using scientific methods to extract knowledge and insights from noisy data and applying that knowledge to deliver actionable insights. So, my job will be to build a team of data scientists and analysts who will gather, clean and combine data from all kinds of sources to help the true experts make effective decisions with more confidence.”

How can that help us improve performance on the pitch?  

“There is so much potential for data science to benefit the club, from assisting with player recruitment, automatically analysing patterns of play right through to using computer vision to extract information from video feeds in real time. At first it’s a question of determining which problems are the most important for the club and tackling those to deliver quick but effective results. Over time as you embed good practice, the problems become harder – hence why building a great team is critical, to keep the club ahead in the data space.”

How big is the potential for data science to transform football?

“There has been an explosion in data collection and analytics around football over recent years and that’s going to continue: more and more data collected about more and more players and teams. It’s inevitable that access to information like that is going to mean people will figure out different ways of doing things that maybe have been done a certain way for a long time. The difficult part is narrowing down all this data to be ready to answer a specific question at a specific time. Clubs that understand how to do that to enhance the expert decision-making in critical areas will succeed in the long run.”

Everyone at Manchester United welcomes Dominic to the club!

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