Revolutionizing the game: How Fan Controlled Football scored big with IBM Watson® Studio

By and Steve Adler | 3 minute read | March 8, 2021

The growing importance and impact of data science and advanced analytics cannot be understated. It is transforming how industries from banking, supply chain, and healthcare operate more effectively and inform better data-driven decisions. But as the saying goes “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy” and the worlds of data science and American football have finally collided.

It really should come as no surprise that one of the most popular sports in the world that relies on endless permutations and variables such as down, distance, a combined fourteen offensive and defensive players lined up against each other in a plethora of formations has now begun to embrace the virtues of data science. By using real-time data, teams can navigate a multitude of options, enhance decision making, and yes, wait for it… score. Forgive the sport pun.

Fan Controlled Football (FCF) is reinventing sports for the digital age. Founded in 2017, FCF is a real-world professional sports league stacked with pro-caliber athletes from NCAA Division I and II programs, the CFL, XFL and IFL playing fast-paced, high-scoring 7-vs-7 style of football played on a 50-yard field, where the fans are in charge. For the first time in sports history, fans get to call all the shots for their team, including team branding, personnel decisions and real-time play calling. FCF combines the passion of live sports, the competitiveness of fantasy sports, the interactivity of video games and the global reach of esports all into a live-streamed, real-life experience.

The FCF league features four teams, each consisting of owners that are some of the most recognizable names in the world of sports and entertainment such as Hip-hop mogul Quavo, Super Bowl champion Marshawn Lynch and pro-wrestler Miro.  Each game is 60 minutes and livestreamed on Twitch.

To help enhance the fan experience and empower fans to make better decisions, FCF partnered with IBM Watson to infuse its advanced artificial intelligence capabilities into this game-changing concept. While synonymous with AI for business, Watson has put on the football helmet and pads this time to leverage capabilities like AutoAI and Watson Machine Learning, to predict play results and analyze situational game data in real-time to provide fans with key insights to enable more informed decisions.

“Watson enables FCF to leverage its best-in-class AI capabilities to enhance the Fans’ game day experience by instantaneously providing them with highly correlated and relevant data which assists them in making more informed play call decisions, faster.” – Steve Adler, CTO of FCF

Through FCF’s mobile app, the fans are presented with an offensive play selection before each down. They quickly view the plays and then vote on which play they want their team to run. They have just seconds to analyze the available play options provided by FCF, take into account the current game situation, and then try to make the best decision possible for their team. The winning play is relayed to the QB and run by the fans’ team.

The inaugural season showcases Watson providing each play’s probability to succeed, leading to a first down or touchdown.

“FCF is a great organization to partner with. We have just scratched the surface on the possibilities of our partnership. Watson is able to provide a host of other insights to further enhance the innovative and exciting experience of FCF and potentially run its own team!”- Marc Nehme, CTO of IBM Watson Strategic Partnerships

Learn more about Gartner’s decision to name IBM a Leader by reading the full Gartner Magic Quadrant for Data Science and Machine Learning Platforms.

And, if you have not already done so, head over to Fan Controlled Football and join a team so you can be part of this exciting experience.