How Artificial Intelligence is being used to scout new footballers for professional clubs

  • Report by Daniel Ajose for ITV News' Here's the Story

Artificial intelligence is being used to scout new footballers for professional clubs, but how big a game-changer is it?

AiSCOUT is a fully automated talent analysis and development platform which, with the use of artificial intelligence, can analyses athletes around the world using only a mobile phone.

The technology is aiding scouts from professional clubs, including Burnley FC and Chelsea FC, as well as national squads, universities, and private academies.

So how does it work?

The mobile app presents players with specific drills to complete, based on what the football teams are looking for. From there it analyses their performance for scouts to make a decision on the next steps.

So far, more than 45 players have been trialled and signed using the app.

The app analysis a player's performance with the help of AI. Credit: AiSCOUT

Josh Oliver is a player who used the app. He got a score high enough to alert AiSCOUT which eventually led to him playing against Burnley.

"Playing against a team like Burnley puts you in the environment of a pro club," he said.

"So professional scouts can see you rather than them having to travel down to see you."

Some of the teams in partnership with AiSCOUT include Chelsea FC - which made headlines after spending £600 million in the last transfer window in search of all-star players.

Others embracing the technology are Burnley FC, Nottingham Forrest, and Olympiacos FC in the Greece super league.

The tech revolution doesn't stop there, AiSCOUT is hoping to branch into other sports, not just football, and that could see it embraced worldwide.

Paul Jenkins, academy director at Burnley, spoke of another player who was released from a club and used the app.

The player was then invited to trial at Burnley, with the release player programme, and is currently training with their first team. 

The whole process shows how the platform works - it intends to give scouts a way to see more players while using fewer resources.

An overview of the app and some of the teams already using it. Credit: AiSCOUT

But what about the impact on the usual method? Well the app developers say they don't want their innovation to replace the traditional scout.

Instead, they hope scouts will use AiSCOUT alongside their work and within clubs to expand their reach.

Head of sports science and chief operating officer Richard Felton-Thomas said: "There’s always going to be things that Ai can’t do we talk about attitude on the pitch, there are things the scouts and the human eye is always going to know that Ai is not going to do."

It is still early days for the app, it's not officially been launched and is still in the testing phase. The developers are hoping for an official release, and the onboarding of more than 150 clubs, in summer 2023.

They hope it'll be just the beginning for more trials, and greater opportunities, for players.