Who are LaLiga Tech?
In 2021 the Spanish football league launched a new technology division known as LaLiga Tech. The league’s subsidiary has been purpose-built to oversee all of LaLiga’s technological engagements across the globe and is a response to the ongoing digital transformation of sport, and football in particular.
It wasn’t until Javier Tebas took over as LaLiga president in 2013 that Spanish domestic football was really involved with data. Recognising the power that data analytics would have in the future of sport, Tebas made it a key feature of the league’s global strategy under his reign.
Since Tebas took over, LaLiga has been developing new data-led technology in cooperation with tech giant Microsoft, and in 2018 partnered up with American software company Databricks. After almost a decade of technological progression, LaLiga Tech was created.
LaLiga Tech’s ‘unique digital ecosystem’ focusses on three main areas of development. The first of these is fan engagement, whereby the company offers its services not only to bring more fans to a sport, but to keep them watching too. LaLiga Tech uses business intelligence (BI) to analyse trends in worldwide sports viewership and understand how and where sports fans want to consume their content. With this knowledge, they are able to launch cloud-based streaming services for sports organisations and provide their clients with data-driven insights into viewing patterns.
The second area of focus is content enhancement and protection. LaLiga Tech offers industry-leading real-time visualisations to enhance broadcast quality through storytelling. Additionally, using a team of over 50 dedicated analysts, LaLiga Tech combines technology with human intuition to ensure that the broadcasts they enhance are protected from piracy and that any illegal activity is rapidly shut down. The same service is also used to identify and protect from counterfeiting merchandise and match fixing.
Finally, competition management offers solutions for sporting bodies wanting to digitise their operations. Apps offered by LaLiga Tech help to streamline processes like match scheduling, whilst personalised data dashboards provide a hub of information on performance indicators such as audience numbers and app downloads.
How are Spanish clubs benefitting from LaLiga Tech?
A large feature of LaLiga Tech’s content enhancement initiative is their video analysis platform Mediacoach, which was developed by Barcelona-based production company Mediapro.
Mediacoach relies on the Databricks Lakehouse Platform to overcome the issue of dealing with the millions of rows of data that are collected in a single game of football. The data lakehouse software allows LaLiga Tech analysts to compile all of the structured and unstructured data in one place whilst still being able to analyse it using machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).
What’s most interesting is that every team in Spain’s top two divisions has access to the Mediacoach platform, providing them with endless video footage and huge amounts of detailed tracking and event data from across both leagues.
The idea behind the democratisation of data is to equip every team with the tools to carry out advanced analysis before, during and after matches, therefore improving competition within LaLiga. “That is very special from a league perspective, because every single club has the same tools. With this solution, we are levelling the playing field for everyone” explained Mediacoach product manager Silvestre Jos.
And it didn’t appear to take long for this philosophy to yield results. Granada FC cited their use of Mediacoach when discussing their success, having qualified for the Europa League for the first time in 2021.
The platform itself provides Spanish clubs with around 25 advanced metrics to be used in subsequent analysis. These metrics can be as rudimentary as passes completed, or as advanced as goal probability (the likelihood of a shot going in based on specific factors). Impressively, they can even be distributed in real time during a match, allowing coaches to assess an individual player’s impact on the game and make tactical decisions accordingly.
In-game tracking data also provides coaches with information on player movement and projects a live animation of all 22 players’ positions on the pitch, thanks to specialised cameras installed in stadiums across the league.
How is LaLiga Tech changing the fan experience?
In 2022 LaLiga Tech teamed up with marketing experts Nielsen to carry out a study on younger sports fans’ viewing patterns worldwide. The study dispelled the myth that younger generations are less interested in sport, and instead found that the only thing that has changed is the way young people prefer to consume sport compared to their elders.
Many Gen Z viewers like to watch sports matches on their phone or tablet, often via gaming apps and with another screen on at the same time. Most importantly, though, LaLiga Tech has identified that ‘55% of Gen Z respondents expect to see and interact with live statistics during play’.
This is where Mediacoach comes into play once again. As well as giving clubs access to the video analysis platform, LaLiga also makes match data available to broadcasters. Armed with these tactical insights, the broadcasting production teams are then able to represent them on screen and engage with viewers on a deeper level.
LaLiga broadcasts now incorporate slick visualisations that are seamlessly imposed onto the football pitch during live play or in instant replays. These visualisations can include insights into player heatmaps, goal probability or the distribution of a team’s play across the attacking thirds.
Detailed statistics of this kind help to tell more of a story during a football match, and this is what fans want. With sports betting and Fantasy sports gaming becoming ever more popular, fans are now seeking out in-depth stats to allow them to make more informed decisions when gambling or gaming.
What does the future hold for LaLiga Tech?
After its successive launch and its transformation of Spanish football, LaLiga Tech has gone from strength to strength as an independent data and AI company. Outside of Spain, the company has signed partnerships with footballing bodies in Portugal, Belgium and Chile.
The deal with Liga Portugal will see the Portuguese league and its teams given access to LaLiga Tech’s content enhancement technology, with a strong initial focus on Brand Protection to cut down on counterfeit merchandise being sold online. Meanwhile, LaLiga Tech’s partnership with the Chilean Professional Football Association (ANFP) has seen the launch of a new Fantasy football app which aims to increase engagement among fans of the Chilean Primera División.
But LaLiga Tech isn’t just limiting itself to footballing partnerships. The vision is to spread its technology throughout the sports and entertainment industry and to revolutionise the fan experience in other sports, too. In fact, LaLiga Tech already offers its services to World Padel Tour, a competition that’s rapidly growing in popularity, as well as the ever-popular Moto GP.
The digital transformation of sport has begun and the Spanish football league, through LaLiga Tech, is striving to lead the way.
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