Behind the Numbers - The unseen heroes of the European League of Football

Discover the stories of the dedicated members of the stats crews in the European League of Football. From former players to passionate volunteers, these individuals play a crucial role in providing live data for teams, media, and fans. Learn about their backgrounds, motivations, and experiences working behind the scenes to bring you the most comprehensive stats and insights on the game.

April 13, 2023
Nils Rosjat
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Behind the Numbers - The unseen heroes of the European League of Football
© Eric Mühle

The European League of Football has quickly gained popularity as a platform for talented players to showcase their skills, attracting fans from across the globe. Statistics and data crews at each franchise are essential to the European League of Football, providing the numbers and figures that enable analytics and commentary around the game. As the league continues to grow, the role of these crews has become increasingly crucial. They are responsible for collecting a range of information, including player stats, scores, and penalties, which is then inputted into software to produce live analytics for fans, teams, and media. It's a demanding job requiring accuracy and timeliness, and fans and teams rely on the data provided by these crews to follow their favorite players and make strategic decisions during games.

Meet the Crews

Now that we've learned about the importance of stats crews, let's meet some of the dedicated individuals who make it all happen. In the following interviews, we'll hear firsthand from the Barcelona Dragons' Guillermo Mora, Berlin Thunder's Martin Harder, and Wroclaw Panthers' Jakub Lach about their experiences as stats crew members in the European League of Football.

Ever wonder who's furiously charting all the action on the field during an European League of Football game? We got an opportunity to chat with the dedicated stats crews that are the engine powering those live stats, analytics and insights you've come to rely on as fans.

These stats crews are made up of diehard football fans. For 60 minutes of gameplay, their eyes are glued to every snap, scanning, logging and tracking each pass, run, tackle and scoring play. It's a frantic, high-stakes role that doesn't let up—but for these crew members, that constant rush is all part of the job they love.

Join us as we meet members of the stats crews for the Barcelona Dragons, Berlin Thunder and Wroclaw Panthers and discover what drives their dedication, how they master the breakneck pace of an European League of Football game and how they landed a coveted spot on the field, providing a platform for fans to understand the hidden stories behind the action.

Barcelona Dragons - Guillermo Mora

middle: Guillermo Mora (Head of Statistics)

In this interview, we'll hear from Guillermo Mora, a member of the Barcelona Dragons' stats crew. As one of the top-performing teams in the European League of Football, the Barcelona Dragons have relied heavily on their stats crew to provide live data and insights throughout the season. Let's hear what Guillermo has to say about his role in the team's success. Guillermo Mora, is a 23 year old Cloud Data Engineer at Mango. He joined the crew after the first season, following a friend's recommendation. Initially he volunteered to help the team but was later approved by the staff, especially GM Bart Iaccarino, to build a Data & Analytics department and start some projects within the franchise.

Guillermo graduated from UPC (Barcelona) with a degree in Data Science & Engineering and has been working at Mango for two years. His passion for football led him to start a master's degree in "Artificial Intelligence applied to Sports," with the aim of building a professional career in football.

Being in the Dragons' stats crew provides me with tools and knowledge to develop myself, and I learn new things in a daily basis.

Although this is Guillermo's first experience in live statistics, he enjoys helping TV viewers in real-time. Being able to provide extra context for fans during the ELF games gives him a great sense of satisfaction.

One of the most challenging experiences Guillermo faced was during the "Mud Bowl" in 2022, when the Barcelona Dragons played Hamburg Sea Devils at home. The match was interrupted by a thunderstorm, making it impossible to continue playing. Players and staff helped to drain water from the pitch. However, at the resume of the match, the yard lines were almost invisible, making it difficult to collect accurate data.

When it comes to collecting reliable data, Guillermo believes quickness is essential. Watching a football game live and having to take notes on everything that happens is very different from watching it at home. In the stats booth, a football game is fast, and one cannot miss anything. Having a deep understanding of the game also helps to know where to look for accurate data.

To ensure the accuracy of the data collected following games, the stats crew codes some of the previous season's matches during the preseason as training. They focus on complicated plays such as fumbles with returns and unusual flags. During live matches, they have two people working with the CBS software, two people working independently on a spreadsheet, and two others taking notes on jersey numbers and yard lines. This process minimizes the possibility of making mistakes.
The Dragons' coaches used Guillermo's data for training purposes and gameday preparation. This season they will take the department one step further by adding Eric Kiewski as Head of Scouting & Game Analysis. The team also has a data-driven approach, with Guillermo and his team developing some state-of-the-art projects, working with ML & DL models, but they are still in the early stages.

Berlin Thunder - Martin Harder

from left: Martin Harder (Head of Statistics), Jonas (operator) and Britta

Next up, we'll hear from Martin Harder, a member of the stats crew for the Berlin Thunder. Martin Harder is a passionate football fan and a member of the Berlin Thunder stats crew in the European League of Football. With a background in bioinformatics and software engineering, Martin brings a unique set of skills and a fascination with numbers and statistics to the team.

Martin's journey with the European League of Football started when Operations Manager Marcus Döbler called him a few weeks before the start of the first season, asking if he could take over the live stats. Martin, without hesitation, agreed and quickly found a team of 4 to 5 people to join him.

His love for football began in 1993 when he watched the Super Bowl between the Bills and the Cowboys. The following year, Martin started playing football himself and played until 2000. In 2009, he started coaching for the Berlin Bears and later grew into the board of directors, where he remains the vice president today. Martin's diverse background in football and his passion for statistics made him a perfect fit for the stats crew.

On one hand, it's being a part of the franchise and I'm proud to be a part of Berlin Thunder. I'm happy to be able to help. On the other hand, it's the love for the numbers and the excitement of delivering the stats live and having a big responsibility with it.

One of the most challenging experiences Martin faced during a game was on the first match day, where he had to enter a play into the software several times due to multiple things happening at once. Despite falling behind, Martin and his team quickly got back on track and learned to always keep calm under pressure. At this point Martin was really greatful for his great crew.

To become a football statistician, Martin believes it's important to have a good understanding of the game and to focus on your specific task. He stresses the importance of practice and reliability. Martin and his team ensure the accuracy of the data they collect by closely observing the game and communicating with each other. After the game, Martin spends an additional 4 to 6 hours watching every play from different perspectives and making corrections.

While the coaches of Berlin Thunder do not currently use the data for training purposes and game day preparation, they have asked already whether the crew might be able to collect additional data to calculate tendencies in the future.

In addition, data analysis is quite important for the coaches of Berlin Thunder. However, this task is done by Heiko Pawlis another member of Berlin Thunder who joined the team last year having a lot of experience in this field.

Martin Harder and his crew meeting NFL player Marcel Dabo in Berlin.

Martin is extremely happy about his team that is made up of a diverse group of individuals, including two ladies- Britta and Melanie - who both already have experience from the GFL. Britta writes the statistics on paper for us, which she can do perfectly and which is extremely important. Melanie is always on the sideline and usually watches the defense. Then we have Jonas, who can operate the software, just like me. Markus, Tobias and Jens are responsible for watching the offense, defense and spotting. This year we have a new member: Matthias, who will also join the observers or spotters. If we have enough people on game day, I take care of the supervision and organization and I have a look on the game clock and the penalties.

Overall, Martin's passion for football and statistics has made him an invaluable member of the Berlin Thunder stats crew.


Wroclaw Panthers - Jakub Lach

from left: Maciej Kwiatkowski (former K/LB for Panthers Juniors), Jakub Łach (Headof Stats), Dawid Dzieleńdziak (LB for Panthers Juniors)

Last but not least, we'll hear from Jakub Lach, a member of the stats crew for the Wroclaw Panthers. Let's hear from Jakub about his experience working with this dynamic team. Introducing Jakub Łach, a 23-year-old civil engineering student at Wroclaw University of Science and Technology, and the Head of Stats for the Wroclaw Panthers. With a passion for statistics, Jakub previously worked in stats for the Panthers organization before joining the ELF. We sat down with him to discuss his experience collecting live statistics in American football.

When asked about his favorite part of working as a stats crew member, Jakub was quick to share that he loves the ability to provide and share stats during games. From discussions with commentators to post-game reports with players, he values the opportunity to work and talk with statisticians from across Europe. He even had the chance to meet the European League of Football Head of Statistics, Nils Rosjat, and Marco Dunker from the Hamburg Sea Devils during the first season.

Despite the thrill of the game, Jakub acknowledged that collecting data during live games comes with its fair share of challenges. During the very first game of the first season, the crew faced a difficult play with two turnovers in different parts of the field ending with a Cologne touchdown, which proved challenging to input into the software. Another notable challenge was the first-ever overtime in the history of the ELF during the game between the Sea Devils and Panthers. The crew had to call the Head of Statistics, Nils, to help them quickly.

from left: Jakub Łach, Maciej Krupa (Panthers WR)

When asked about the most important aspects of collecting reliable data and what skills someone should possess to become a football statistician, Jakub emphasized finding a quiet place with a good view of the field, dividing roles among crew members, and the willingness to learn and understand their role during the game.

In my opinion, anyone can become a statistician, the most important thing is the willingness to learn and to understand your role during the game.

Of course the other members of the crew also play a key role for the overall accomplishment. Thus, Jakub shared additional information from members of his crew. Maciej Kwiatkowski, a former Panthers Juniors K/LB, became a part of the stats crew after Jakub asked him if he wanted to watch a game from a different perspective. Maciej's background includes playing in the Panthers Juniors section for a few years. His favorite part of working as a stats crew member is having the opportunity to work with his crewmates and look at American football events from a different point of view.

Dawid Dzieleńdziak, a Panthers Juniors LB, became a part of the stats crew after Jakub asked him to help with the statistics. Dawid's background includes playing in Panthers Juniors. His favorite part of working as a stats crew member is the opportunity to work and watch the game with his friends.

Maciej Krupa, a Panthers WR, became a part of the stat crew because his friend, the leader of the stats crew, asked him to help with the live reports. Maciej's background includes being a practice squad player of the Panthers in the 2021 season of the European League of Football. He had no previous experience in doing live statistics before joining his team in the European League of Football. His favorite part of working as a stats crew member was watching the game with his friends, feeling like he was helping the team, and enjoying the air-conditioned box.

from left: Franciszek Gładki (former Panthers RB/WR, currently Warsaw Mets RB), Jakub Łach

Franciszek Gładki is a former WR/RB for the Wroclaw Panthers and RB for the Warsaw Mets. He joined the stats crew through a friend who was already a statistician, and was passionate about sports. Though he had no prior experience in live statistics for American football, he wanted to stay involved with the team after his playing days were over. His favorite part of working as a stats crew member is being able to see the games from a new perspective and stay useful to the team.

Following games, Jakub ensures the accuracy of the data collected by first collecting feedback from players who watch their games later and catch mistakes. He also re-watches the game himself in the following days to check for any errors made live. During game day, the crew notes plays that may potentially contain mistakes.
Finally, we asked Jakub about the coaches' use of the data for training and gameday preparation. He shared that coaches always ask him to send match or first half stats as soon as possible.

Jakub expressed his gratitude to the Wroclaw Panthers for showing him the way of statistics in 2018 and for their continued support during ELF game days, whether that be providing game rosters or headsets or pointing out mistakes.

From Data to Insights: How Stats Crews Impact the Game

As we've learned from our interviews with the stats crews, their work goes far beyond collecting data - it fuels insights and decisions that impact football at every level. In this section, we'll explore the vital role that stats crews play in shaping the game and driving success for teams and players alike. Teams eagerly devour live data and statistics to gain a competitive edge, such as determining how to defend against an opponent's tendencies or which matchups to target on offense. Media organizations use data to augment game coverage with insightful stories and graphics on team performance, player impact, and game trends. Fans have access to more statistics and analytics than ever before to understand and appreciate the intricacies of the game. For example, data on offensive line push, time to throw, and receiver separation helps teams evaluate pass protection and passing effectiveness. Tracking data on secondary defenders aids teams in identifying and exploiting coverage weaknesses. Data on factors like player positioning, acceleration, and distance run provide media and fans greater context about the physical demands and skills on display. From real-time game management to post-game analysis, stats crews enable richer data and analytics that bring more knowledge and understanding to football.

The Future of Statistics in the European League of Football

Statistics and data in the European League of Football have come a long way since the league's inaugural 2021 season. That year presented many challenges, including issues arising from COVID-19 and limited resources, resulting in minimal statistics and analysis. However, the league has since invested in statistics capabilities, launching a comprehensive league statistics website with live play-by-play data and testing live in-game stats during the championship match. Further analysis of the data has enabled predictions and situational performance analytics. The future of European League of Football statistics will see some major reorganization, with plans to implement live stats for every match, detailed player profiles including career statistics, but also some internal improvements to continue to expand the data available.

The statistics crews in the European League of Football may work behind the scenes, but their role is crucial in providing live data for fans, teams, and media. As the sport continues to evolve, the importance of statistics will grow even further, making the job of these dedicated crews even more essential. So the next time you're checking the stats of your favorite players keep in mind that all of this would not be possible without those guys‘ love to the game of football.


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