Arsene Wenger Makes Investment In Sports Technology Firm
A year on from ending his 22-year reign as Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger insists he is still keen on a return to management.
He has, however, taken on many more roles in the last 12 months, from TV pundit to conference speaker and, most recently as operating partner and investor in Israeli sports technology company PlayerMaker.
The Frenchman revealed he was persuaded to invest in the company after a personal visit to his house from PlayerMaker CEO Guy Aharon – with a Championship youth team in tow.
The team played a game in the Frenchman’s garden to demonstrate the boot-mounted sensor’s ability to track everything from shot power to sprint speed, movements and touches, that can then be measured and assessed by the software and coaches in minutes.
I was convinced when I saw the first demonstration with players, we made one in my garden. It didn’t destroy my garden luckily!
Playermaker CEO Guy Aharon added:
We brought players not telling them where we were taking them, they were young from a championship academy.
When they got there they forgot how to play for a second, they were very excited.
In his role, Wenger will advise the founding team of chief operating officer Yuval Odem, Aharon, chief technology officer Moran Gad and chief innovation officer Erez Morag, and has already had significant input.
Leading Israeli club Maccabi Tel-Aviv were the first to adopt the sensor in 2017, with MLS teams Philadelphia Union plus English sides Millwall Wimbledon and Fulham all following suit more recently.
Wenger’s motivation behind supporting the company was his belief that PlayerMaker represents the next step forward in sports science technology.
While still comparatively new, it has received strong interest during initial rounds of funding, and is expected to be commonplace among top-level clubs in the near future.
I think that it’s something interesting that can help sport and football.
PlayerMaker is very interesting because they have a high level of technology and because I believe as well it can help young boys who are isolated to improve. It is very quick, very accurate and very easy to use.
Now 69, Wenger is keen to keep finding opportunities to invest in the new frontier of sports, alongside his charity work and speaking engagements.
I personally want to share my knowledge that I’ve got through my vast experience and use it to help companies and charities and I want to still be involved in the game and to share my knowledge.
Wenger’s interest in the data side of elite sports dates back to his time as Monaco manager between 1987 and 1994, when he was one of the first coaches to use analysis in football.
I worked on performance ratings in 1987-88 with friends of mine on computers. We worked day and night to measure performances of players.
We were 20 years ahead at the time. We made some good improvements to judge players, we discovered some players who were not really stars and became good players after.
Football was for a long time isolated from science. Not interested. Today science has taken over.
While GPS units fitted into training “bra’s” are most commonly used at the moment, Wenger feels they have limitations that PlayerMaker has improved upon significantly.
This is despite the current PlayerMaker product lacking GPS capabilities, meaning the two tools are more likely to be used in sync at first.
I think it’s the most accurate system that I’ve seen and the least disturbing. The system we had until now was you put your equipment around your chest. I’ve seen many players throw them away during games and training.
Even now, after 40 unbroken years as an elite coach, Wenger is still striving for greater understanding of his profession and has identified PlayerMaker as the next evolution in that process.
I believe that science can help us to understand the world around us. Objective measurements can make us stronger when it’s well used. Basically you cannot cheat any more when you practise. When I played you had some players who would go in the forest and hide behind the trees and waited until the rest of the team came back!