The CIES Football Observatory: how geography helps us to understand football players market

Room B
Wednesday, 2 September 2015
15.00 – 16.45
big data, football, map, migration, observatory, sport

Established since 2005, the CIES Football Observatory ( is a research group within the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES). Its research team gathers academic geographers who work on sport for several years. Its aim is to provide top level services for football governing bodies (federations, leagues, clubs, media), producing and exploiting a vast amount of data on football players. Indeed, with globalization of sport, new issues emerged these last years: new regulations for transfers, definition of sporting nationality, preservation of national training organization, emergence of new markets.

The aim of this proposal is to show how geographical issues on football – and sport in general - have become the specificity and identity of the CIES Football Observatory. 15 years ago, such works were not considered as responsible because sport didn’t appear like a “real” geographical object. Fortunately, this has changed both for academics and sport governing bodies.

The contribution of geography can be express into several points. First, the comparative approach inherited from quantitative geography led us to the concept of “observatory”. It permits to produce clearly defined indicators comparable in space (between countries) and time (depending on the season). Secondly, the observatory is designed using the theoretical framework of international migrations, and particularly the circulatory approach. It considers players as migrants for whom the movement is an element of their career progression. Finally, mapping is still a great tool for revealing such spatial information. In this context, we developed a dynamic mapping adapted to the trajectories of players.

Loïc Ravenel
Centre International d'Etude du Sport
loic.ravenel [at]
Roger Besson
Rafaelle Poli

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