If you want to do your own football analysis today – write an article, create a chart, build a neat online tool – you can’t legitimately acquire the most basic stats about AFL matches, not even the scores.
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The AFL could and should create an API: a simple online interface that publicly serves up very basic football data such as match scores in a computer-readable format. It could do this simply, cheaply, and without exposing any advanced stats that Champion Data rightly consider to be proprietary and valuable.
- Dramatically lower the barrier to entry for anyone with an interest in building something on top of football stats, allowing them to get started with a bunch of basic, legal data.
- Signal an interest in and acknowledgment of the growing amateur/semi-pro analytics community and its audience.
- Grant the AFL some control over what’s happening. At the moment, it has a fence around every single piece of data, a bunch of tunnels going underneath, and no idea who’s digging them or why. If it added a gate to the fence, many people would use it, because gates are easier.
Today there are excellent free APIs for practically all major world sports, except AFL. There are dozens for cricket and rugby, and hundreds for soccer. In the US, you can’t move for tripping over a baseball, basketball, or football API. But for AFL: nothing.
Regardless of where you land in the wider debate over exactly which stats should or shouldn’t be kept secret, surely no-one is being served when basic match scores are kept under legal lock and key. Fixing this could create a platform for analytics innovation, discussion, and expansion.