In this section
The Dundee United Lab
In 2020 our football club decided to invest in ensuring our decisions were based on evidence, and the Dundee United Lab was formed.
The purpose of the Dundee United Lab was two-fold, better people and better performance to help our football club deliver upon its strategy.
Better people: To ensure personal development embedded within the process of continuous improvement across all football club departments
Better performance: Identifying and addressing applied issues across the club to improve effectiveness
The creation and implementation of the Dundee United Lab was incredibly important given the intense local, national and global competitiveness of the football industry. Therefore, it is vital for our football club to undertake research and generate insights into current practice. This allows our team to be better informed with evidence to make decisions and developments to enhance performance and make a difference to our club strategy: to compete in European football and continue to deliver a successful and financially sustainable football club.
The Dundee United Lab supports research and innovation across our football club and involves a number of areas of work:
- Ongoing evaluation and implementation of evidence informed practice
- The facilitation of education, training and professional development, including unique knowledge exchange opportunities for our teams
- The development of external relationships with key stakeholders, including local and global universities
- The development of a world class student internship programme to added value to local universities and enhance the learning journey of students, alongside brokering new channels for ideas and innovation
- Ensuring we are aware of the latest scientific innovations, global trends and future talent
The Dundee United Lab is facilitated by Tony Asghar MSD (Sporting Director), Sean McGee (Recruitment Coordinator), Dr Ryland Morgans (Performance Director) and Dr Dan Parnell (Head of Football Research), who work collaboratively with departments across the club to ensure positive changes in performance and to connect to an external network of world-renowned researchers.
Tony Asghar MSD: “The creation of the Lab was about us admitting that we did not have all of the answers. That we had to challenge one another to be better and work collaboratively, with experts and the future talent that exists across our local universities to work smarter and develop insights to inform our decisions”.
Sean McGee: “We are making research and innovation part of our day-to-day vocabulary and practice. We focus on identifying problems, strategies to address them, ways to collect objective data on whether these strategies work, before reflecting and shaping future practice. It’s a really simple way of thinking, but the potential impact is incredible.”
Figure 1: Outlines our way of thinking within the Dundee United Lab – informed by action research.
At present the Dundee United Lab oversees research and innovation across the club. The development of education and training is vast and varied from informal workshops on communication, relationships, and applied research skills, through to the development of an in-house ‘Creativity and Innovation module’ for members of the team to better equipped themselves to identify and address performance challenges.
The Dundee United Lab has created positive working relationships with University of Abertay, (Dundee, Scotland), University of Liverpool (England), University of St Andrews (Scotland), University of Birmingham (England), Deakin University (Australia), University of Loughborough (England), and Real Madrid University (Spain). Already these relationships have created 25 internship positions covering topics including sport science, analyst, recruitment, operations, commercial and retail. Through this work the club has added value to the learning journey of these students through amazing real-world experiences in professional football and access to our in-house professional development and mentorship programme. Of course, the football club has also been exposed to some of the brightest talent from Scotland to Lebanon, to India, to the US and Mexico.
Billy Thomas, Assistant Analyst, from Scotland and studying Fitness, Nutrition and Health at Abertay University, Dundee, UK
Aiden Croll, Assistant Analyst, from Scotland and studying Sport Development and Coaching at Abertay University, Dundee, UK; with Aaron Butters, First Team Analyst, Dundee United FC and a Mentor within our internship programme
Jonny Corbett, Assistant Sport Science Support (First Team), from Scotland and studying Strength and Conditioning at Abertay University, Dundee, UK; with Kyler Burns (Head of Sports Science), Lewis Neilson and Chris Mochrie
Here are some insights from members of our internship team and our experts:
The experience I had working at Dundee United was incredible. I was able to gain industry insights that helped me develop and improve my skills in data analysis and creating strategies for the club's growth in their retail department. Colleagues in the club were always very welcoming and interested in my opinions and patient in answering whatever question I had. It was extraordinary growing my network and getting to meet top-class professionals that have been in the industry who shared valuable advice and insights for pursuing my career in football. I am very grateful to the club and their people for opening the doors to me and challenging me to perform my best.
Paulina Rodríguez (Assistant Retail Researcher, from Mexico and graduate on the Football Industries MBA at the University of Liverpool).
My experience within the internship programme has allowed me to have a greater understanding and knowledge of the importance of strength and conditioning in the players to help with injury prevention and rehabilitation. This opportunity has allowed me to get into an industry that I want to continue to work in, in my future career. I feel that the programme has also developed my personal skills, I feel more confident in speaking to new people and making new relationships, it also challenges me to do my best at all times. Everyone at the club that I have met have been welcoming and friendly. I will always be grateful for the opportunity with Dundee United Football Club.
Jamie-Lee Thomson (Assistant Sport Science Support in Our Academy, from Dundee and studying on Sport and Exercise Science at Abertay University, Dundee, UK).
The detailed discussions you have as part of the internship programme, with experienced people in the football industry at Dundee United provide you with different perspectives in looking at and evaluating football related strategies and processes. This has helped build upon my applied and industry experiences, whilst studying for my MBA. My research within the club has helped develop my understanding of player recruitment, insights and valuation.
Joseph Saba (Assistant Recruitment Researcher, from Lebanon and studying on the Football Industries MBA at the University of Liverpool).
Working with the Dundee United Lab has allowed us to offer our students world leading internships within sports science and commercial activities across the club, helping to enhance their learning and redefines what we as a university are looking for from internships. We work closely with staff at the club to identify issues and look at different approaches allowing the development of focused research. This allows an exciting cross fertilization of ideas between practitioners, our students and researchers.
Dr John Babraj (Senior Lecturer in Exercise Physiology, Abertay University, UK)
In working with Dundee United's research and development lab, we are bringing the latest developments in predictive analytics and artificial intelligence in football to aid the club's recruitment process. The innovative and critical approach adopted by the club is helping to mitigate the risk and uncertainty associated with player recruitment and team selection and will ultimately help the club achieve its ambition to regularly compete in European football.
Professor Ian McHale (Professor of Analytics, University of Liverpool, UK).
The Dundee United Lab demonstrates the club’s commitment to basing their practices on sound and rigorous evidence. This approach drives excellence and ensures the players in the club’s care are receiving the best experiences. The Lab has helped reset expectations regarding the mindset and practices of those working in professional football and I look forward to continuing to support colleagues in the club.
Dr Ed Cope (Lecturer in Coaching at Loughborough University, UK).
The Dundee United Lab and the ongoing research across the club enables innovative and leading practices to be developed, a competitive advantage to be gained, and ensures that we get the most out of everything that we do. It is vital that our work is based on sound scientific evidence from the real world to ensure that we are effective and efficient, ultimately enhancing performance, results and development across the club.
Dr Gillian Cook (Dundee United Sport Psychologist; Lecturer in Sport and Performance Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University, UK).
The Dundee United Lab is organically gaining momentum and through its network connects with global networks from its links with the ground-breaking Football industries MBA at the University of Liverpool, to the Association of Sporting Directors, FIFA and its member associations and world learning universities.
Research and Innovation group
The Research and Innovation group will provide leadership, support and guidance for the Dundee United Lab. The group is made up of those people committed to helping the football club deliver upon its strategy, through shaping the influence and impact of insights developed within the Dundee United Lab.
- Dr Liam Anderson, Postgraduate Researcher, University of Birmingham, UK.
- Dr Beth Clarkson, Senior Lecturer in Sport Management and Development, University of Portsmouth, UK.
- Dr Alexandra Culvin, FIFApro; Senior Lecturer, Leeds Beckett University, UK.
- Dr Paul Widdop, Senior Lecturer, University of Manchester, UK.
- Dr John Babraj, Senior Lecturer in Exercise Physiology, Abertay University, UK.
- Dr Ed Cope, Lecturer in Coaching at Loughborough University, UK.
- Professor Ian McHale, Professor of Analytics, University of Liverpool, UK.
- Dr Fergus Neville, Lecturer in Organisation Studies, University of St Andrews, UK.
- Dr Gillian Cook, Sport Psychologist, Dundee United FC; Lecturer in Sport and Performance Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University, UK.
- Tony Asghar, MSD, Sporting Director, Dundee United FC.
- Dr Ryland Morgans, Performance Director, Dundee United FC.
- Sean McGee, Recruitment Coordinator, Dundee United FC.
- Chair: Dr Daniel Parnell, Head of Football Research, Dundee United FC; Association Professor, University of Liverpool, UK.
If you would like to discuss the work of the Dundee United Lab, connect with us, or be part of our coalition for change and improvement please contact Dr Dan Parnell at: email@example.com