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By David Blackwell, Performance Analytics lead, Deloitte

Can sports teams use data to win trophies? This blog post written by David Blackwell and Rodd Penney from our Performance Analytics team, looks into how Saracens have established themselves as one of the teams to beat in Europe.

In recent years Saracens rugby club have developed into a team who consistently perform on the biggest stage. This was highlighted when Saracens were crowned the 2015 – 2016 European and Premiership champions. It was the first time in 12 years that an English team has won both competitions and it came during a relentless season which was compressed into eight months due to the 2015 Rugby World Cup running until October.

Saracens journey to the top has been in the making for the past few seasons and going into next season they have established themselves as one of the teams to beat in Europe, not just England.

In recent years we have been working with Saracens to develop an innovative solution focused on using data to interpret performance in a way that Saracens have chosen to view the game. The Saracens Performance Director Phil Morrow highlighted this work when he said “at Saracens we are always looking for innovative ways to improve performance. To compete at the highest level both domestically and in Europe we aim to develop solutions which meet our bespoke requirements. The reason we work with Deloitte is because they have helped us develop a solution which interprets performance in a way which we believe is best for our team.”

Although there has been an influx of data in sport which has been driven by the growth of wearables, on the surface most teams actually have similar data sets. Whether it is coded during a game or taken from a GPS unit, it is how the data is used and interpreted which is key. We have worked with Saracens to enable a hunch around a game to be answered or to identify the impact of a reduced training load during a short turnaround between games. Having a solution which allows Saracens to quickly explore their data and get to the underlying cause is part of the process of understanding performance but also provides little gems of knowledge that lead to continual improvement.

Sports teams are being forced to either embrace the increased volume of performance data and use it to inform decisions or, struggle to make sense of it. Saracens have chosen to embrace it.

Find out more about Performance Analytics in our insight piece – What businesses can learn from the use of analytics in sports or by contacting David Blackwell or Rodd Penney .

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David Blackwell - Lead Partner for Deloitte Performance Analytics

David is the lead partner for Deloitte Performance Analytics, a division which specialises in helping sporting and corporate organisations drive high performance through the exploitation of data. He has 17 years of consulting experience, starting his working life as a strategy consultant and in recent years increasingly specialising in the exploitation of data and analytics to drive strategic decision making.

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Rodd Penney - Senior Manager, Sports Analytics Lead

Rodd works with a number of sporting organisations and teams helping them develop innovative technology solutions which inform both training and competition decisions.

He was previously part of Deloitte’s Innovation team and prior to joining Deloitte he played professional rugby in New Zealand, England and Italy for teams including England Sevens and Saracens.

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