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A young male footballer raising his leg parallel to the ground, to kick a ball towards the camera.

Using AI to turn fantasy football into reality

Published: 30 November 2020

Dr Ryan Beal, whose PhD research focused on AI in team sports, has created Sentient Sports. The start-up company is already winning business from football's big players across England and Europe.

Ryan is working with Professor Gopal Ramchurn, former Southampton PhD student Dr Tim Matthews and analytical team Ai Abacus. With their help, he has created a system that football teams can use to improve their scouting process and decision making when buying and selling players.

Sentient Sports – Future Worlds Startup

Ai Abacus and Sentient Sports are working with major teams including Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern Munich, as well as smaller players including Hartlepool United.

"We've had a lot of luck in 2020. Big opportunities began to open up for us back in March at the start of the first lockdown, when football managers could no longer scout properly for players. It accelerated quickly from there."

Dr Ryan Beal


Using algorithms to power the system

Ryan's technique begins by buying data from a football data provider, which he then feeds into 4 different algorithms he developed:

  • Teamwork algorithm: looks at how pairs and groups of players work together on the pitch and assesses 'player chemistry'.

  • Prediction algorithm: predicts the number of goals and assists a player will achieve.

  • Play style: evaluates the suitability of a player in the style of play of a new team.

  • Cost benefit: suggests the cost benefit of players.

Taken altogether, these algorithms can predict how a player would perform if they were to play in a specific team.

The impact of COVID really helped us get off the ground, but in the longer term it will be the smaller clubs that can benefit the most – the clubs that don't have data analytics departments.

Ryan also believes there is huge potential for this expertise to be used in other areas where teamwork between humans is important, such as emergency response or security.

Related publications

Ryan Beal,
Georgios Chalkiadakis,
, 2020
Type: conference
Ryan James Beal,
, 2020 , International Journal of Computer Science in Sport , 19 (2)
Type: article
Ryan James Beal,
, 2020 , International Journal of Computer Science in Sport , 19 (2)
Type: article
Ryan, James Beal,
Narayan Changder,
, 2019
Type: conference
Ryan Beal,
, 2019 , Knowledge Engineering Review , 34
Type: article