AiSCOUT is a football app, but no ordinary app. This one really has the potential to impact the world game.
The premise is a simple one. A player downloads the app and then records him or herself doing a set of drills, which is then uploaded.
Then, in theory, they can be scouted by any club or association in the world - even European and world champions Chelsea, who have actually helped develop the app itself.
And the best thing for the players? It doesn’t cost a penny!
The app could get you seen by a professional club on the other side of the world without leaving your garden and allows you to be scouted from anywhere on the globe.
“Great scouts have great networks, but the football community is so vast that their network can't possibly reach everywhere," explains AiSCOUT’s Chief Operating Officer and Head of Sport Science Richard Felton-Thomas.
"And even if it could, they would never have enough time to properly and fairly assess all of the talent. Therefore there are many players in areas, and particularly deprived areas, that are not being seen."
90min sat down with Felton-Thomas, who can’t hold back his excitement about what he has helped develop in the last five years.
But he first reveals how the idea and concept for AiSCOUT came about via founder Darren Perries.
“It was 2017 when the idea arose. Darren had a son who was released from Tottenham’s academy, and from there he had various scouts and agents asking for information about him,” he revealed.
“Now Darren isn’t one of these footballing dads, so he didn’t know what was being asked for and if he did, how to get it or produce it.
“He asked Spurs, but he was baffled by the lack of data around players and he went on this journey, he spoke to people in and around football, sports science and wanted to see how he could bring it into a data space – and that is where it started.”
Now, little more than four years later, AiSCOUT is up and running and set to be fully recognised and verified by Fifa, who have been quick to see the potential.
The app has been included in Fifa’s innovation programme and is set to be validated with the final tests being carried out at Loughborough University.
“Things have gone well and quickly, and we're going through Fifa now and that is a huge thing for us, but we are delighted they have recognised what it is we are doing.”
The app itself is available for anyone to download, and that is the key – the players are free to use it from the off.
“It is free to any player worldwide, what they see is the list of various opportunities. It can be from European champions Chelsea to Grimsby - who are non-league - as well as various other opportunities such as university scholarships or international teams.”
Felton-Thomas explains that a player is tested at a baseline level, which is set by any club or organisation, and it is the player who needs to opt into a trial that is listed. The clubs don't just have open access to a player's details.
The app was brought to market after major research involving Premier League sides Chelsea and Burnley.
“We spent three years doing research and development with Chelsea, another year with Burnley and others around the world, we have created a scoring system for each level. But any team we work with get their players to do the drills and that creates the benchmark for that club and what they are looking for. There can be different drills for different positions - in every club or trial you could and likely will do different things.
“Each club can do what they need, we have a suite of drills and then they can choose which aspects of a player they want.
“If we take a player who does a basic dribbling task, we know that is not a game situation but if we also do cognitive tasks, we then know those who can take in information quicker are those ones who can translate that to football skills quicker.
“In addition, for clubs, seeing game footage is not the first step of talent ID as the opposition and quality of the game is so variable. The AiSCOUT trials set a benchmark to give the clubs an immediate idea if a player is capable and worth looking into further.”
AiSCOUT are quick to confirm that the app is not a replacement for the traditional scouting system, but instead something that can be used alongside that – it allows clubs to access players in places they could not and would not normally venture.
“Scouts are still involved, they still need to look at players but using this they can look at more players. This is technical scouting, and now it is just making sense of it.
Whilst the dream for AiSCOUT is to uncover the next Messi or Ronaldo, the main aim is to help all footballers, from professional to amateur, improve their game and performance.
“99% of people who use the app won’t make professional football, we know that, but we can give feedback to everyone's exercise and videos which is specific to their level – we want to improve everybody as much as we can. We want to improve anyone who uses our app,” Richard continues.
“Yes, this app is for the clubs, but we do want to improve them all as footballers.”
AiSCOUT will make money as a business but that will all come from clubs and associations. It is free to the players and always will be.
“Clubs pay for this and I would say it is less than a full-time scout. And it is unlimited to how many trials they hold or how many players they look for. But it is all separated by age and agenda, as this is for women too, let’s not forget that.”
In terms of their reach, the app is now in full flow and clubs are signing up at a rapid rate. There is a waiting list to make sure the app maintains full functionality, but it is expected that by mid-2022 the number of clubs will be in the hundreds given the interest being shown, and the hope is every professional club in England will be clients.
“Every month we are adding clubs and organisations – we have 150 waiting to run trials. In England we have every level covered on the pyramid from Premier League to non-league, we have Germany, Spain, Italy, France, United States and major interest in Asia and Africa – it is just a matter of getting everyone online,” he confirms.
“We want dedicated teams in every area, so we understand what is required and we are getting there.”
AiSCOUT have already seen some success during their early trials, with Irish youth international Ben Greenwood.
“During our beta, we had a player from a private academy. Chelsea spotted him, and he trained with them for a lengthy period before being signed by Bournemouth and is also now playing with Ireland. To be able to see stories like that already is hugely rewarding,” revealed Richard.
So now you can give it a go. Simply use the QR code below and follow the link. Hopefully for some of you, the start of your footballing journey - perhaps to the professional game - is about to begin.