Injury cost in the Premier League

...

Deloitte’s recently-released number crunching for the 2019/20 football season made grim reading.

With the coronavirus crisis taking hold in March 2020, it led to a worrying drop in revenue right across the European football landscape. The big five leagues suffered a combined 11% revenue drop as TV companies renegotiated deals for games that were no longer taking place. Commercial revenue was impacted due to a lack of footfall and, of course, matchday revenue was decimated by the restrictions.

And we’re not even into the rough stuff yet.

If 2019/20 was bad, 2020/21 will be much, much worse. It’s been a season played out in virtually empty arenas, and while TV broadcasters have been largely sympathetic, that hasn’t precluded them from attempting to revise existing deals and barter to get more, for less.

The Premier League, for so long a proponent of exponential revenue growth, was happy to extend its current deal with no premium rise. Other leagues, such as Serie A, accepted a small drop. And others, like France’s Ligue 1, led to the collapse of a media organisation, one which will have significant ramifications for years to come. La Liga, meanwhile, looks to be on the verge of welcoming private equity investment in order to alleviate significant cash flow problems.

Efficiencies are essential

What does this mean? Well, it has led to much introspection in club boardrooms. The tap has been turned off and savings need to be made. Efficiencies now aren’t optional, they are essential and the first port of call has to be squad depth and squad spend – traditionally the largest outlay for all clubs.

High earners are coming under scrutiny, and the number of players required to ensure optimum performance throughout a season is also an area of research. But maybe they are looking in the wrong place – arguably the biggest saving can be made in injury prevention.

Their prevalence is an obvious hindrance to squad optimisation. There were a huge 21,004 days lost among the 20 Premier League clubs last season due to injury (a day lost is simply a day within the season where that player is unavailable due to injury). Each one of these has a wage value attached; for every day that player doesn’t train and subsequently doesn’t play, it’s a sunk cost.

Looking specifically at Manchester United, they alone suffered 966 days lost in 2020/21. Using a breakdown provided by PremierInjuries.com, we can identify exactly which players were missing, and how long for.

From there, we can use Manchester United’s estimated wages for each first-team player in 2021/22, and break down to an individual level what each day lost for each player would cost this season, and what the cumulative total cost of those days lost looks like.

MANCHESTER UNITED

Days Lost

966

Total Cost of Days lost

£20.78m

Perfentage of days lost to injury

14.48%

Projected Saving for every 10% improvement in availability

£2.08m

As you can see, the cost of those 966 days based on the players who were missing was an estimated £20.78m for the season. It’s a staggering amount, and, based on Zone7’s case studies and work with a host of established clubs, utilising a collection of technologies and methods, significant reductions can be achieved.

When assessing the Premier League as a whole, the potential gains are obvious. The total number of injury days in the Premier League in 2020/21 was 21,004, when we include players who were still out injured as the season drew to a close. This represents 16.6% of the total days for all players in the season, as shown below:

PREMIER LEAGUE, TOTAL

Premier League Squad Size

25

Total Days in 2020/21 season

253

Total Premier League Days (20 Teams)

126,500

Total Days Lost

21,004

% of Days Lost

16.6%

We have taken projected salaries for every player in the Premier League in 2020/21 and performed league-wide calculations on a per-player level. Put simply, we took every incidence of injury in the entire 20/21 season and worked out how much that injury cost the team in question. From there we can calculate how much injuries cost the Premier League as a collective.

We can derive that £197m worth of days were lost last season. The condensed calendar – the season started five weeks later than scheduled due to the coronavirus crisis – clearly had an adverse impact on player injury management.

Zone7 has already performed extensive case studies with our clients and the efficient application of our human performance optimization and injury prevention system. With over 200 million hours of athletic reference data, Zone7 can preempt injury and optimize training schedules leading to significant reductions of injury propensity, based on case studies completed with professional clubs in competitions such as the UEFA Champions League, Premier League, and La Liga.

The key here is how the analysis itself is interpreted (or misinterpreted) as prediction; Data visualization and manual interpretation techniques are not AI.

What Zone7 brings is the ability to alleviate the burden of extracting insights, to allow experts more time to spend on the interpretation and implementation. Zone7’s proprietary algorithm takes things further than merely providing intelligence, instead offering forecasting and proactive recommendation.

A reduction of just 1% in injury rates in the Premier League equates to a saving of £2m, and if Zone7 technology were consistently applied across the competition then the savings are potentially game-changing, anywhere up to £100m.

As the beginning of the coronavirus financial fallout is laid bare, clubs are being coerced into changing habits of a lifetime. But with savings like these, the volume of the question grows louder; it’s not a case of why Zone7, rather, why not?

Methodology:

  • For days, we have taken the season to be from the first day of the 2020/21 season to the last as the injury data is only available for that period.
  • Player salaries are gathered from respected sources but are only a projected of a player’s basic weekly salary excluding bonuses or signing-on fees