League tries new game plan for stats

Game day statistics are something sport fans and media like to see as soon as they can after a match.

Unfortunately the Canadian Football League’s (CFL) stats seem to be more like “game week” ones.

At the end of each quarter, statisticians fill in spreadsheets and photocopy them to send to the press box. These spreadsheets are then faxed to head office and eventually make their way into the corporate database.

Shawn Lackie, director of football media for the CFL in Toronto, said the media has found it problematic to have to reconcile their stat numbers with the official ones from the CFL, as those official numbers can take a long time to verify.

The time had come for the football league to bring in some new technology and solve its process problems. Brent Scrimshaw, senior vice-president of marketing and partnerships for the CFL, said the organization had a look at what other sporting franchises had done. Sun Microsystems Inc.’s name came up over and over, he said. The technology vendor had already gone through implementations with the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball.

“(Sun) came in to see us,” Scrimshaw said. “We came up with a three-year game plan to integrate into our business.”

The Web infrastructure makeover will include using Sun Open Network Environment (ONE) software running on Sun Ray 150 thin client systems deployed from Sun Fire V210 and Sun Fire V240 servers. These will run on Sun’s Solaris 9 operating system. The implementation will also include a Sun StorEdge 3310 array.

The first project will be the stats problem, and Scrimshaw said that system should be up and running by the fall. The league’s site – cfl.ca – will bring in Web services and Java-based applications to provide real-time information through the Web portal.

Sun and the CFL partnered with Toronto-based Vortisol Inc. to develop the applications that will run specifically for the football league. Vortisol is a Web services company that specializes in media applications, according to CEO Tony Iantorno.

He said the CFL has been very accommodating and seem really motivated to move proactively with the technology. “The CFL was in a unique situation, they weren’t five years behind, they were 10 or 15 years behind, so all the platforms they had weren’t enterprise grade.”

Lackie noted that this first stage will allow viewers to go online and check stats during the game. These stats will be sent to the Web site every 10 plays.

Lackie added that this new system will likely save the league several weeks of updating statistics for the record book.

Training will be a large undertaking. Scrimshaw noted that this project will touch every function. “We have to undertake training over the course of the summer in all nine cities.”