Innovation Labs in Football

Milan Lab was one of the first centers that invested in sports science in 2002. In light of increased data in sport, many other clubs have followed and very few elite football clubs are without a sports science department or innovation lab today.

We talked to Daniele Tognaccini, Director of the Milan Lab about his experience over the last decades and how he sees the trends for the next years.

AC Milan was the first to start an innovation lab, please can you elaborate on the origins? Whose motivation was the lab?

The story of Milan Lab started with a clear request from A.C. Milan: Create a “decision support system” for all the departments at the club (management, coaches, medical, sports science, marketing, etc.) that, based on past data and learnings, would help make the best possible decisions in the future.

As a consequence a high tech system was selected that was able to collect data and through artificial neural networks provide further analysis. It proved to be the right decision, in fact, the system helped to apply artificial intelligence to all the core business areas of the company for the main objective: “the health of every single football player”.

In the 90’s and 00’s AC Milan was very successful due to your innovation lab, how has game analysis changed since then?

We have much more precise and accurate hardware today compared to the first years meaning we can be much more efficient in processing and analysing the data. The next big step forward will be the generation of a single database for aggregating and aligning raw data from different sources.

We have invested a significant amount of money and effort to develop analysis tools that focus entirely on the athlete. The algorithms were designed to use traditional match analysis methods in order to obtain information on the players’ health.

How do you see game analysis and data usage changing in the future? Is Milan Lab going to change as a consequence?

Everything will change once a reliable system will be able to provide real-time data to the bench for immediate, data-driving, decision-making that can have a direct impact on the quality of the performance and the prevention of injuries.

Milan Lab’s mission is to embrace change so it will be a wonderful challenge to be part of this new development.