DFB: Data shape the football of the future

Frank Biendara, Managing Director IT & Digital of DFB GmbH & Co KG
(Credit: Thomas Böcker/DFB)

The name DFB stands for quality worldwide: the senior national team of the German Football Association has been world champion four times and European champion three times. The DFB women’s football team has won two World Cup titles and eight European Championships. With 25 CIOs, the CIOmove was a guest at the brand new DFB headquarters in Frankfurt/Main on 12 May.

This is already impressive data, but it goes even further, and this is important: with its 27 football associations, 24,500 football clubs and more than seven million members, the DFB is the largest national sports association in the world. Frank Biendara, who joined the management team of DFB GmbH & Co KG in October 2017 as Managing Director IT & Digital, had some more exciting figures to share at the CIOmove on the DFB Campus: “In the member clubs, more than 100,000 teams regularly compete for points, goals and championships. Around 80,000 matches take place every match day – in a season, this number adds up to around 1.9 million.

Not quite finished yet, but with CIOmove we were able to take a look at where the DFB’s data-based performance promotion will take place in the future. (© DFB)

The DFB is all about numbers and data

At the DFB, especially in the association’s IT, it is all about numbers. This is especially true for the DFB’s “One Database”, which is used to fulfil a multitude of data-based tasks, “use cases”: Match analyses take place here, scouting and talent development are run from here, and the training of coaches and referees is also supported by data. And that is only a rough summary of the tasks; the chart with the use cases that Frank Biendara presented to his 25 guests on 12 May was so detailed that its reproduction here would go beyond the scope of this article.

With the “One Database”, the DFB team has fundamentally changed the work in the association: Besides intuition and gut feeling, data has long been at the centre of the development of teams, players and strategies.

But that is only one side of Frank Biendara’s work.

The other side relates to the IT backbone of organised football: with the DFBnet and the fussball.de website, the DFB maintains a strategically important IT infrastructure without which football in Germany would not function.

The DFBnet is where all the necessary information comes together: Player passports and data are stored here, right down to the national district classes, as well as data on referees, suspensions and rulings by the sports courts. This is also where the official match reports end up, documenting every matchday and every single match, in order to collect so-called event data, such as final and half-time results, goal scorers, yellow and red cards, substitutions, etc. Here, as Frank Biendara himself puts it, an immense integrated treasure trove of data is being created that needs to be harnessed.

This treasure is the DFB’s real capital, which is used for the “One Database” as well as for the many thousands of automatically AI-generated editorial match reports on each match day, which in turn flow into the database, enrich the fussball.de website and can also be used as open texts for reporting in the local media.

DFBnet, fussball.de and “One Database”: It is perhaps a little exaggerated to attribute the success of the national teams primarily to the data that the team around Frank Biendara collects, processes, integrates and makes available for the many use cases together with the DFB Academy. But even today, the development of a 12-year-old left-footer into an international player in attacking midfield is hardly conceivable without this data. And we will soon be able to replace the “barely” with a clear “not”. The DFB’s data work is setting the style for the football of the future. Thank you for letting us take a look at it!