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How teams of number crunchers and maths whizz kids kicked off a revolution in sport 

Keeping score: Brighton and Hove Albion owner Tony Bloom (pictured at Amex Stadium) founded specialist online sports betting analytics firm Starlizard

The way Premier League football club Brighton & Hove Albion manager Roberto De Zerbi outplayed his predecessor Graham Potter on the pitch is remarkable.

When Potter left in September 2022 for Chelsea, currently the most expensive club on the planet, with the promise of unlimited funds to spend, it seemed like a no-brainer. Chelsea have lavished £488m on the transfer market since the start of the 2022-23 season.

Chelsea’s new owners, Los Angeles Dodgers baseball owner Todd Boehly, backed by West Coast private equity group Clearwater, are part of a private equity revolution in sports.

Keeping score: Brighton and Hove Albion owner Tony Bloom (pictured at Amex Stadium) founded specialist online sports betting analytics firm Starlizard

Keeping score: Brighton and Hove Albion owner Tony Bloom (pictured at Amex Stadium) founded specialist online sports betting analytics firm Starlizard

Premier League clubs and rivals in Italy’s Serie A and Spain’s La Liga, as well as Six Nations rugby, have all been targeted by public-to-private investment groups.

The belief is that by applying modern financial disciplines and cutting-edge data to sports businesses, value can be unlocked.

It certainly proved the case for private equity group CVC in Formula 1 motor racing. Europe’s major sports haven’t adopted the state-of-the-art statistical approach enthusiastically embraced in America.

The profit opportunity offered by “analytics”, social media, streaming services, stronger franchises, smarter accounting and many more, if skilfully adopted, could be huge.

Chelsea have already found new ways to account for transfers or human capital.

Instead of paying new talent out of current revenue – the conventional approach – takeover costs, like any other investment, are amortized or amortized over the term of the contract.

It was no coincidence that Chelsea chairman Boehly chose to include commentator Danny Finkelstein when he put together his board of directors at the football club.

Finkelstein, who has been a lifelong Chelsea supporter, was one of the first to take the statistical approach to football analysis through a sports column in The Times newspaper.

The contrasting performance of Chelsea (who have struggled) and Brighton since Potter’s departure is of great personal interest to me. Growing up, I was an enthusiastic Brighton supporter.

My subscription, at the old Goldstone Ground, now a dismal shopping centre, was in sight of the directors’ box then occupied by, among others, Harry Bloom, the vice-president.

He was the grandfather of current owner, math whiz and gambling entrepreneur, Tony Bloom.

Bestseller: Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball

Bestseller: Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball

The Blooms were family acquaintances. I bought my first car from Ronnie’s (Tony’s dad) used dealership.

His brother Ray was a few years above me when I was at Brighton, Hove & Sussex Grammar School.

As a student, the Blooms were kind enough to offer me a holiday job as a room waiter at the Metropole Hotel in Brighton, which they then owned.

For the past 30 years, as a resident of South West London, I have been a Chelsea season ticket holder, drawn by the enthusiasm of my two sons. It has been an incredible adventure and I never really imagined that the fate of two clubs would be intertwined.

As the fortunes of both teams have changed over the current season, with budget-strapped Brighton moving into the top half of the table and the FA Cup quarter-finals, I’ve become convinced the difference in performance is on the property.

The newly installed Boehly team undoubtedly have a huge belief in “Moneyball” – the hidden value of sports franchises that can be revealed through advanced analytics, as first recounted in Michael Lewis’ best-selling 2003 book of the same name. , which was also a 2011 film.

Initially, there was frustration as the numerical approach to players and payouts crumbled.

Eventually, it worked, especially on the Oakland Athletics baseball team. It has also been independently adopted by the Boston Red Sox (owned by Liverpool FC’s principal owners Fenway Sports Group) and Boehly’s LA Dodgers. Each of these teams has powered a better future using the magic of data.

When Chelsea’s new £4.25billion owners chose Potter as their manager, they were almost certainly guided by analytics. The data had helped Brighton rise from near extinction to football’s elite, most recently under Potter’s stewardship.

The true story of Potter and De Zerbi, the brilliance at Brighton is not just head coaching, player management and tactical inspiration, but owner inspiration.

As the founder of Starlizard, a global leader in specialist online sports betting analysis, Tony Bloom is one step ahead of other Premier League owners in the adoption of data and what it tells you about players, managers, the opposition and the expected results of Games.

It employs 160 data engineers and computational specialists at the posh headquarters in Camden Town, north London.

It uses the most sophisticated math, data, AI and statistical models to predict the outcome of sporting events for Asian and American customers.

The main objective of Starlizard is to provide online sports betting advice. A by-product is the most comprehensive football database analysis available.

It’s been a long learning curve, but leading clubs have increasingly signed up or invested in their own teams of data analysts, experts and services, as Rory Smith’s recent book ‘Expected Goals”.

Traditional reconnaissance operations have been supported or sometimes displaced by calculators and analysts from Prozone, Opta, Scisports and many others.

Tech support transforms coaches standing on the sidelines reviewing tactics on their iPads or taking their own copious notes to feed into the machine.

Premier League newcomers Brighton and Brentford are teams that have exceeded all expectations through clever use of data.

Squads are built by assembling undervalued players – those who have not yet made it and those who are considered to be at risk of injury or past their best. Managers, coaches and staff are identified in the same way.

There will always be a footballing genius on the pitch and on the touchline who defies what the data says about passing and tackling skills, set pieces, speed of delivery and shooting prowess.

Tony Bloom built his empire by beating the odds in sports betting.

He has demonstrated that building the highest quality, most comprehensive database is a great business model and dramatically alters the odds of success.

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