Sports Analytics Impacts Practice

24 July 2018 19:11

Sports Analytics Impacts Practice

Mario Guajardo, in collaboration with Gonzalo Zamorano and Guillermo Durán, programmed the 2018 schedule of Superliga, the main league of professional football in Argentina.

NHH’s Associate Professor Mario Guajardo, in collaboration with Chilean engineer Gonzalo Zamorano (Univ. of Chile) and Argentinean mathematician Guillermo Durán (Univ. of Buenos Aires), programmed the 2018 schedule of Superliga, the main league of professional football in Argentina.

As part of his småforsk project on applications of sports analytics, Guajardo visited Argentina in early June this year to collect the data and conditions required for this scheduling problem. Using mathematical programming techniques, Guajardo implemented an optimization model into a computational code and designed an efficient solution approach to obtain a number of alternative solutions. This was crucial to address a difficult problem involving 26 teams, an uncommonly high number in comparison to other leagues. One of the solutions of the model led to the schedule finally adopted by the league managers, improving considerably over their previous practice.

The improvements include, for example, a better distribution of home and away matches among the teams, consideration of operational and television factors, and a much more even distribution of the distances travelled. In contrast to previous schedules, where some teams travelled two or three times more than their neighbours, the new solution promotes a fair schedule for all teams. The approach has received great attention in the media. Argentinean newspapers have colloquially praised this piece of research as the “equivalent to the work of 17 mathematicians”, and the famous sport commentator Mariano Closs referred to the model as “more than the Coca Cola formula”. The tournament will be played between August 2018 and April 2019.

This new sports analytics application adds to many other research projects with impact in practice where Guajardo has worked. In the most recent conference of the Association of European Operational Research Societies, that took place in Spain, he became finalist of the EURO Excellence in Practice Award by his work “Scheduling the South American Qualifiers to the 2018 FIFA World Cup by integer programming”.