TSG Hoffenheim: Football in the Age of Analytics
In 2015, Dietmar Hopp, owner of Germany's Bundesliga football team TSG Hoffenheim and co-founder of the global enterprise software company SAP, was considering how to ensure long-term sustainability and competitiveness for TSG Hoffenheim. While historically a small team from bottom rungs of the league, TSG Hoffenheim, with revenues of 60 million to 70 million, reached the top division of the Bundesliga in the 2008-2009 season thanks to a deliberate strategy focused on enhanced scouting, strong youth programs, and innovative technology and analytics that improved player development. In 2014 Hopp, who had personally invested 300 million in the club, built a "footbonaut," an automated training environment that collected data on players' skills and strengths. The tool, one of three in the world, helped scouts and coaches better assess and develop each player. Yet some managers felt the technology was a distraction, an investment too expensive for a team that was not yet cash-flow positive. The team finished the 2014-2015 season in eighth place, below the top division, and Hopp wondered whether the focus on technology and analytics was the right strategy to grow the club. He wondered if the "moneyball" approach-when a smaller team competed with wealthier teams by using statistical analysis to buy undervalued assets and sell overvalued assets-could work in football and if investments in technology could lead the team to financial independence.