DFL launches venture capital arm to invest in start-ups, SMEs

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The German Football League (DFL), organisers of top two divisions of German football – Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga, have a new venture capital subsidiary that will invest in technology startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Under the program called “DFL for Equity,” DFL will become the world’s first football league to launch an investment arm to create a portfolio of investments in innovative companies in the media, technology and sports industries. The move will see it acquire shares in companies primarily through intangible assets rather than cash, as well as through collaborations with further partners.

The DFL described the DFL for Equity subsidiary as ‘the next logical step’ after setting up its host broadcast arm Sportcast in 2006, global media rights sales business Bundesliga International in 2008, digital media content firm DFL Digital Sports in 2012 and data arm Sportec Solutions in 2016. It further stated that the latest move is part of its strategy to be involved across the entire media value chain of German soccer.

DFL chief executive Christian Seifert, “The DFL’s ability to systematically cover the media value chain is what sets it apart in the arena of international football. In the interests of both the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 clubs, we want to draw much greater benefit in the future from the positive growth of companies that are closely allied with the DFL.”

DFL for Equity has already made its first investment by acquiring a ten per cent via a variable deferred profit share stake in Israeli startup Track160, which will gain access to the DFL’s match database and digital archive to develop its artificial intelligence (AI)-based analytics system.

Track160’s technology is unique in the sense that it uses AI and deep learning to capture the motions of players and the trajectory of the ball without the need for GPS or other wearable sensors, expensive hardware or human operators, making it a cost-friendly option for both Germany’s elite and lower-league clubs.

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“Track160’s system will find application in future-oriented fields such as match analytics, coaching, sports medicine, media offerings, and gaming,” Seifert said. “The start-up is developing a system based on artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning that will capture in 3D form the motions of the players and the trajectory of the ball.”

“Unlike the systems currently in use around the world, the Track160 system uses only the match video and does not need GPS or other wearable sensors, expensive hardware or human operators, making it an interesting proposition not only for elite teams, but also for amateur clubs of all divisions,” he added further.

Track160’s technology is unique in the sense that it uses AI and deep learning to capture the motions of players and the trajectory of the ball without the need for GPS or other wearable sensors, expensive hardware or human operators, making it a cost-friendly option for both Germany’s elite and lower-league clubs.

Track160’s co-founder and chairman Miky Tamir, “We are excited about the new opportunities our partnership with DFL will open up for us. The sportstech industry is transitioning to a new era, one in which data and AI-based technologies will make fascinating new applications possible. We want to revolutionise the world of sports with disruptive new coaching, media, scouting and gaming applications.”

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