Many sporting organisations are diving deeper into data analytics to help gain insights and potentially shape the way the game is played.
Collecting, reviewing, tracking, storing video footage and data constantly is a grand task, requiring plenty of storage, and it was an area that Melbourne Football Club recognised as an area where it could stay ahead of the competition, even during a pandemic.
And so far, it’s paying off in multiple wins for the club this season.
Engaging with Fujifilm Business Innovation and its CodeBlue business, which has been guiding the organisation throughout its cloud journey, the Melbourne Football Club has also continued to up the ante, increasingly focused on data analytics specialists that can potentially have a major impact on the game.
The two companies have been working together for a number of years (since the CSG acquisition) across hardware through to the applications stack, continuously shaping and evolving the cloud and digital transformation journey.
“We approached Fujifilm/CodeBlue with a problem, which most football clubs face, is that we produce enterprise-levels worth of video footage,” Jimmie Martin, IT Manager at the Melbourne Football Club said.
“One of the big requirements during footy games is that you’ve got to record it from all angles, in HD, which can’t be compressed as it loses some quality. We capture everything, even during training drills. We have two drones, GPS tags on every player, and we need to marry all those data sets together.
“We had these high-level storage requirements and we didn’t have a good solution for maintaining that, backing it up and then sharing it around in a timely manner.”
Martin said there was a lot of manual intervention that took place to help keep systems running -- a task that was mainly handled by the organisation's football analysts which, instead of looking at data, were trying to get games on hard drives, and move them around from one person to another -- so that coaches can conduct reviews with players.
One important aspect of coaching is providing near-real time corrections to players.
“Talking about mistakes one or two days later, or when the footage is finally ready, isn’t nearly as effective as talking to a player on the spot and we have the opportunity to do that in games and training now,” he said. “Coaches are regularly on the field, with a tablet, discussing what’s happened during a training drill, which has been very effective.”
Being a football club, the organisation faces certain constraints with salary and spending caps, which means efficiency is key.
“We were looking for something that could scale with us, but also be quick for our coaches and analysts to access,” he said. “We trialled a whole bunch of different systems and before we committed to anything, Fujifilm conducted a trial set up within their own offices and they stuck with us during the whole first season, so if there were any errors or issues, they stuck with us. It’s a true partnership.”
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Martin pointed out the club has a very cloud-focused strategy that has been evolving since 2015, taking on various services such as Microsoft Office 365, but file and video storage was an area that was a sticking point. The club uses HPE infrastructure and Azure, but Martin said it needs to stay fairly vendor-agnostic.
“We ended up being very lucky -- the foresight of the pre-sales technicians and the solutions they put in were hybrid with highly available local storage, backed up to the Azure cloud,” he said. “The football club’s department is based at AAMI Park, and soon as COVID restrictions hit, we were moved on because it was shared facility with other sporting clubs, and our football department was relocated within one week to our facility in Cranbourne -- Casey Fields.
“Due to the solution we had in place, we were able to do that and while everyone was moving to work from home, we used cloud connectivity for our call centres. But the big piece was getting the football department to continue to operate, which happened during our pre-season. In our AFL circles, we were recognised as a club that adapted very quickly to the new ways of working.”
Going forward, the club is steadily focused on the data analytics space.
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CodeBlue Australia executive general manager Gavin Gomes said the provider was looking at how to partner with organisations in establishing a mutually beneficial relationship beyond the brand and sponsorship play, which also filters into the women’s AFL.
“We work with all our customers on an annual technology plan -- looking at all the problems they need to solve and thinking of a solution. We have access to deep domain expertise across areas such as security and storage,” he said. “The modern world is all about how you store, share and secure information.”
CodeBlue was established in 2004 to provide mid-sized companies with the kind of IT support that was typically only available to larger organisations. It was bought by Melbourne-based print services company CSG in 2015, which was then bought by Fuji Xerox for $140 million in February 2020.
The company has several offices in both Australia and New Zealand, and recently rebranded to Fujifilm Business Innovation. It officially opened its new Melbourne office this month featuring a new technology experience centre.