BREAKTHROUGH WITH DATA
In partnership with
Who are they?
Football Whispers is a predictor of football transfers and news which is claimed to be the world’s first. It has been developed by football fans working with The University of Sheffield’s Organisations, Information and Knowledge Group out of a love of football, technology and a desire to harness the power of predictive analytics.
The aim of the service is to apply its unique algorithm to the likelihood of rumours of transfers between football teams being true and actually happening. The output from this process is delivered via a website, mobile app and partnerships with media organisations around the world. It provides users with an online portal where data science is applied to big data sources to verify one of the most talked-about subjects.
What do they do?
Rumours about transfers in the football market are a major feature of the transfer windows which occur twice every season. Millions of posts appear online ranging from speculation in social media to more informed suggestions from football pundits. All of these data points are collated in real-time and then ranked by the Football Whispers algorithm based on the volume, authority and recency of the source.
The result is an index which scores rumours between 1 for cold, unlikely, through to 5 for hot, very likely. To achieve this, the company had to apply machine learning to big data sets derived from a very wide range of sources, many of which are imperfect or vague. Processes applied include entity extraction, sentiment analysis, natural language processing and probability scoring. With thousands of players at hundreds of clubs across 60 international leagues, the algorithm had to be capable of performing at scale while delivering a positive customer experience online and via the app.
The target audience for Football Whispers is high engagement football fans, typically male, aged 35-54, who are heavy consumers of football statistics and have a high propensity to engage with fellow fans online. They are also multi-device users and expect the information they receive to be accurate and in real-time.
To date, nearly a million users visit the Football Whispers website, while partnerships with major global media partners is significantly extending its reach. During the Summer 2016 and Winter 2017 transfer windows, the service processed over seven million rumours, identifying 115,000 false positives. It was able to predict accurately thousands of transfers, typically two weeks ahead of the mainstream press.
What did the judges say?
“Exciting” is the best summary of how judges reacted to this new service. The range of data sources and innovative approach were praised for extending engagement with a subject that is already one of the most talked-about in the world. Judges recognised how close football is to many people’s hearts and that Football Whispers would deliver an enhanced experience to those fans.