Sevilla FC uses AI-Powered Scout Advisor from IBM for player recruitment

Sevilla Futbol Club, a prominent football team based in Spain, has teamed up with IBM to enhance its player recruitment process using advanced artificial intelligence.
Sevilla FC uses AIThe partnership has resulted in the development of Scout Advisor, an innovative tool built on IBM’s watsonx platform, which utilizes natural language processing (NLP) to streamline the evaluation and selection of football players.

Scout Advisor is designed to understand and interpret the specialized language used by football scouts, such as phrases like “striking the post” and “direct free kick outside the 18.” This tool is beneficial for Sevilla FC’s scouting team, which consists of 20 to 25 scouts who handle extensive paperwork and data analysis as part of their daily responsibilities.

Victor Orta, Sevilla FC’s Sporting Director, emphasized the importance of data in player recruitment during his presentation at the World Football Summit in 2023. “We are never going to sign a player with data alone, but we will never do it without resorting to data either. In the end, the good player will always have good data, but then there is always the human eye, which is the one that must evaluate everything and decide,” Orta stated.

In 2021, Sevilla FC faced a significant challenge with an overwhelming amount of paperwork. A single player could generate up to 40 scout reports, requiring 200 to 300 hours of review. In total, the club had to manage over 200,000 reports on potential players. While quantitative data could be accessed quickly, extracting qualitative information from the database was a slower process.

Recognizing the potential of big data to transform player recruitment, Sevilla FC established a dedicated data department in 2021, now the largest in European football. Initially collaborating with the University of Sevilla, the club soon realized it needed more advanced technology to handle the vast amounts of data. This led to a fortuitous cold call from IBM, initiating a collaboration to maximize the value of their scouting reports using AI.

Elias Zamora, Sevilla FC’s Chief Data Officer, recounted, “I was contacted by IBM Client Engineering Manager Arturo Guerrero to know more about us and our data projects. We quickly understood there were ways to cooperate.”

Sevilla FC implemented the Scout Advisor, which uses IBM to process and analyze data quickly. The tool translates complex search terms into actionable insights, such as interpreting “talented winger” as a player capable of dribbling past defenders to create space. This AI-driven approach has significantly enhanced the efficiency of Sevilla FC’s scouting operations.

The pilot program for Scout Advisor went live in January 2024, training with 200,000 existing reports. The tool is set to be utilized during the summer 2024 recruiting season, with results expected by September.

With Scout Advisor, Sevilla FC scouts can now focus more on human-centric tasks such as connecting with recruits and making informed decisions based on comprehensive data analysis. This advanced AI technology not only streamlines the recruitment process but also sets a new standard for player evaluation and selection in professional football.

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