“world cup fever” – facebook’s plans to track the event in real-time


The 2014 World Cup is only a matter of weeks away, with fans, pundits and bookmakers alike unable to pick a clear favourite (I’m hoping for Spain so that I win the company sweepstake!). But for technologists, there are many interesting aspects that are worth noting. Firstly, the importance of social media, specifically how real-time engagement will come to the fore thanks to Facebook and CNN’s initiative for a live and interactive football tournament.

For those of you who haven’t heard the good news, the CNN “Facebook Pulse” is basically a digital dashboard hosted on CNN.com which will display conversation around the tournament in real time through Facebook posts, pictures and Instagram photos, allowing fans to join the debate by tracking trending topics, players and teams.

This is the first time that a sporting event has been tracked in this way, so it will undoubtedly create even more buzz around the event, for football fans and social fanatics alike.

But it’s not only the fans that could benefit from being more clued up on their teams’ activity throughout the World Cup. With big data analytics a real hot topic at the moment, it is being debated whether or not analytics could be used to predict the winner of the tournament, as well as help managers and coaches make more informed decisions about their squad selection.

When thinking of the heat in certain parts of Brazil and then in Qatar in 2022, one of the challenges for football managers and coaches will be to decide which individual players perform in particular climates. Now, rather than just going on gut instinct and recent success, they can use the data to see how players have performed in previous matches against variables such as weather. After all, the best managers will be able to integrate analytics with their feel for what is happening on the pitch.

For a while now there have been technologies available such as cameras that build up very detailed information on the speed of players, how far they have run, number of passes made, interceptions and so forth. But we are now moving from post-match analytical techniques to in-match techniques; all thanks to big data and the ability to use it in real time.

So with huge sporting events such as the World Cup beginning to be tracked as it happens, it certainly seems as if this could be the future for event broadcasting. If fans, managers and coaches have more information available to them, we could soon see the sports industry following in the footsteps of many businesses, with professionals using big data and analytics to their advantage to make better choices and ultimately be more successful.

So while my heart will be cheering the Three Lions on, my head will be firmly backing Spain.