Beautiful game quantified? – A sociological study of performance analysis in professional football
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The aim of this thesis is to illustrate the practice of performance analysis in football and to explicitly illustrate the way match statistics are socially constructed, how this represents an interpreted form of knowledge, and how performance analysts communicate their insights towards other actors inside the club in which they are working. The aim is to investigate performance analysis as a newly emerged form of professional knowledge, which has an impact on the organisation of sports and the evaluation of players. This research is qualitative by nature and was conducted via the study of the educational literature on performance analysis, participant observations of performance analysts, industry conferences and qualitative interviews. The research conducted in this thesis shows that the match statistics of players are created socially via a process of quantification that adheres to tangible skills; in turn, these are infused into the organizational sphere of a football club by means of the mediation of performance analysts. This is an attempt to illustrate that the creation and interpretation of match statistics is not self evident, but undergoes various stages of production, interpretation and mediation through interaction. This study is mainly concerned as a contribution to the sociology of knowledge, and likewise to the sociology of professions because it explores the underlying system of expert abstract knowledge in use that performance analysts claim to possess. The main findings of this study can be summarized by stating that performance analysts conduct their job with socio-materially produced match statistics, which they partly create themselves and claim to be ‘objective scientific facts’ (Dok4.7). Their interpretative capabilities rest upon distinct sequences of socialization in which they accumulate a certain form of expertise, which allows them to talk meaningfully about football and the required skills. Performance analysts’ work with players is largely aimed at heightening reflexive awareness about the player’s performance in training and during matches.