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Transferring Knowledge At FC Barcelona

Thu 19th Feb 2015 | Football Industry Events

In the midst of a transfer embargo that will see FC Barcelona unable to sign players until January 2016, the Catalan team's performance on the pitch has been under even more scrutiny than normal.

With no option to turn to the transfer market, any problem that Luis Enrique is met with can only be solved through his current players and the youth products coming from their La Masia academy.

At the recent Sports Analytics Innovation Summit in London we heard from Raúl Peláez, Head of Knowledge Management at FC Barcelona. Peláez discussed the Catalan side's 'socialisation' approach - a concept which sees tactics from its basketball, futsal, handball and football teams combine to create a coherent philosophy on how sport should be played.

For example, FC Barcelona's famous pressing and quick passing across the oppositions box is a common tactic for its handball team, with Peláez stating that this comes from their socialiastion philosophy, which sees all their teams working in unison.

'Barcelona is one of the richest clubs in terms of value, knowledge and talent', says Peláez. Not a club that can compete with Manchester City, Real Madrid and Chelsea in terms of money however, but whose culture has created an environment where the talented learn from the very best at a young age. The entire operation is open-plan, so everybody has access to one another regardless of their position or power, allowing knowledge to be shared naturally and with relative ease.

This openness to knowledge sharing has meant that their La Masia academy is often heralded as the best youth program in the world. With forty-three academy products plying their trade in Europe's leading five leagues, including 13 in their squad, it leads the way in terms of the amount of top quality players it produces. Peláez states that this is because the academy players have direct contact with the first-team who teach them 'how' to play the game, concentrating on intuition instead of data-driven tactics.

Players such as Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi often rely on split-second decisions when on the field, something which Peláez feels data can't help with, in fact, he feels that if FC Barcelona used data too much it would hinder some of their stars capability on the pitch.

For Peláez, knowledge management is not a technological change but a cultural one. If individual talent can be turned into collective intelligence then Barcelona’s championing of knowledge over data and is certainly a justifiable one.

After initially going through a bit of lean patch with new coach Luis Enrique, FC Barcelona are finally getting the results that we all expect from them. With injuries and loss of player form likely to occur over the next year however, FC Barcelona's culture of knowledge could be the lifeline that they need, especially if they have to turn to the La Masia academy. For some clubs, the implementation of data has been successful, but Peláez and the people at FC Barcelona believe that it can't direct everything behind a football team's tactics. 

With Peláez's ideas in place, it seems that knowledge transfer, not player transfers, will be the key to FC Barcelona living up to its ‘mes que un club’ motto.

The Innovation Enterprise Sports Analytics Innovation Summit will take place on March 25th and 26th in London. James Bunce, Head of Sport Science at the Premier League, will discuss how analytics can improve the chances of player development within the English Premier League. Dr Hendrick Weber, Head of Strategic Projects and Data at the Bundesliga, will also be presenting at the event.

For more information please contact Sean Foreman at sf@theiegroup.com (+44 207 193 1655) or visit http://theinnovationenterprise.com/summits/sports-analytics-innovation-summit-london-2015

 

Posted by: Aaron Gourley

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