Contemporary football seems more isolating than ever for the fans. As the game accelerates towards video assistance for officials and ever-increasing astronomical transfer fees, there feels little to cling onto.
Yet supporters continue to occupy seats in the stadium. It’s an addiction, one that is completely unmanageable yet all encompassing and one that manifests itself through various types of yellow and green memorabilia.
My football club was chosen by my postcode and although my brief period on this planet has been, for the most part, fruitful in regards to Norwich, those who have endured the eras of Glenn Roeder and Peter Grant witnessed a period of stagnation, decline and even relegation.
But they still kept coming.
Even in League One, they kept coming; one whole population knitted together by yellow and green thread. At Wembley, 40,000 donning their colours with their heart located on their sleeve, they came, and even in the face of a mass transformation, the supporters continue to support this club.
If you need hope that a long-term project can be a success, look no further than Denmark Superliga side FC Midtjylland.
FC Midtjylland supporters are now marching to the beat of a different drum following a revolution which has made for an unbelievable narrative in Denmark. A prosperous season for the Danish side prior to the 13/14 season would result in a 2nd or 3rd place finish. On the flip-side, a disappointing season would be a 7th or 8th place finish.
In 2017/18 season, FC Midtjylland sit top of the division, a point clear of FC Brondby. What has unfolded in Midtjylland has been innovation that the sport had never seen before. This is a club where the relationship between players and supporters isn’t fragmented or mediated. This is a personal football club who innovated the way recruitment happens in football.
Matthew Benham made his money by defeating the gambling system on football matches and purchased Superliga side FC Midtjylland in 2013/14. A lifelong Brentford supporter, Benham has subsequently become the owner of proceedings at Griffin Park.
His success has been derived through the use of data collation and analytics.
Essentially, Benham is the chief cymbal-clapper for the use of analytics in football. He pioneered Moneyball, and his unknown methods are designed to strike the characteristics of luck and randomness out of football. Primarily, FC Midtjylland and Brentford compile enough data and organise it as if all teams played against each other.
Essentially, it predicts the current performance more accurately. Goals aren’t taken into consideration, instead, the ‘Expected Goals Method’, is one prominently used. It’s a lengthy mathematical process, and I only have a C in GCSE Maths, so I’ll link an article explaining that method in the article.
Alongside Benham is Rasmus Ankersen, and the duo have innovated the recruitment system in how their clubs bring players to their respective clubs with a finite amount of resources. Ankersen has major roles at both clubs, and the number-crunching methods has seen an uplift in fortunes at Brentford and in Denmark.
Innovation doesn’t come from the clubs with most money.
‘So how does this link to Norwich, Connor?’
It’s a good question, but my point is that player recruitment is simply more than one scout watching hour upon hour of a player in the flesh whereby he is required to make a decision whether or not to recommend. This process now involves data analysts, heads of recruitments and hours of video being consumed and watched.
That makes his approach easier for Daniel Farke.
No longer does he have to consume hours of footage and analyse meticulous details of a footballer alongside training schedules, player performance and transfer requests. Furthermore, the splitting of the role into a head of European recruitment and a head of UK recruitment underlines this shift in the recruitment process.
Norwich will have a global data collation program whereby the likes of Tom Trybull, Moritz Leitner and Christoph Zimmermann have been analysed and all avenues explored.
To relate this back to Benham, if a team is over-performing his system allows their players to be ranked in a table as though all teams in Europe played in the same division. If, for example, Greuther Furth were overachieving, their players would be scouted in more detail. Tim Sparv was plucked from Greuther Furth for FC Mitjylland using this system.
The Finnish international was cheaper than other options and proves how innovation can lead to success. It would be plausible to suggest that elements of this method have been adopted by Norwich to conduct their business. It’s all about getting value for money and for a club with limited resources, that is vital.
It means obscure transfer links and unknown quantities will arrive in the future. More overseas options from outlandish places will arrive in Norfolk and is a bi-product of the club’s transition.
Can Norwich City’s innovation turn into success?
I’d like to extend my deepest condolences and thoughts to Michelle Dack’s family and friends after she sadly passed away. All of the Norwich City family will stand together at such sad news. Rest in peace, Michelle.