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Widnes Vikings: Performance driven by data

After a successful entry into the Super League, Widnes Vikings’ Head Coach Denis Betts was facing a challenge – creating a competitive side that could survive at a premiership level. He turned to Maltacourt to give him the edge.

“Sport is about guts and instinct and using your body as a tool. But, if you want to improve, it’s about capturing and using information,” explains Denis. “That’s where Maltacourt come in." 

A game-changing partner

Denis approached Widnes fan and Maltacourt CEO Matt Beech with a proposal – the sponsorship of a data-gathering system that would put the club on a level with the league’s leaders. Matt immediately saw how much the club and Maltacourt’s customers have in common.

“We’re not a freight business anymore, we’re an information business. The most important thing in logistics nowadays is data; collecting it, analysing it and sharing it. Knowing exactly where things are and when shipments arrive shapes our customers’ business processes. It is the foundation on which their success depends,” reveals Matt.

Capturing data about the players’ performance does the same thing – telling Denis how his lads need to improve, and how to channel the team’s efforts where it counts, as he explains:

“In the past we’d say ‘ok, we’re going to work hard this session’… but we wouldn’t really know what we’d got from it. Thanks to Matt, we can concentrate our energy properly.

A life-changing tool

SportsCode combines GPS tracking and biometric data, which are collected from players during training and on a daily basis. This is fed to a computer suite and interpreted by sports science students from John Moore’s University. Denis knows his players’ core temperatures, how well they’re landing on their feet, how far and how fast they’re running, and everything else in between.

The system also allows Denis and his team to film and edit games, playing back specific sections to individual players: “Most sports men are visual thinkers. Being able to show them videos on my phone, point to something and say ‘look, you need to change this’ – it’s fantastic.”

With this information, the coaching staff can anticipate and avoid injuries, boost player development, extend careers and save the club money. But the benefits go well beyond the teams’ technical performance. The system is also creating a more honest, professional culture among the players.

“The lads send me information every day using a smartphone app. They tell me how they’ve eaten and slept, who’s ready to play, who’s out with injury – comparing physical performance to mental attitude,” says Denis. “If someone isn’t pulling their weight, or they’re going out and getting drunk all the time, I can see it and I can ask them why. It’s led to more open conversations about their home lives, and whether they’re taking things seriously. Ultimately, it’s changing the way we play and train because it’s changing the way the players live.”

A more sustainable club

The benefits of the system are only just coming to light for the Vikings. Given time, Denis is confident it will translate to victory for the Vikings. “Maltacourt have given us a way to recognise and reward hard work, and to make the club more sustainable.”

For Matt, the relationship goes well beyond corporate sponsorship. “They’re our local team and I wanted to support them. Without local clubs like the Widnes Vikings, there wouldn’t be a community.”

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