Edinburgh offers to help The Scottish Football Industry

“Scottish football is undoubtedly a real pillar of connectivity, both locally and internationally, something that is not always grasped, understood or capitalised upon by the Scottish Government or maximised by individual football clubs and we can and want to help both do better” writes Grant Jarvie 

Football clubs and sport maximise the use of data on-field performance. They need to approach the use of off-field data in the same way. The Academy of Sport and the Bayes Centre partnership at the University of Edinburgh can help. 

Covid 19 exposed all areas of public life, including Scottish football. The football habit was broken, clubs were worried about fan engagement, lost revenue and season ticket sales. 

A study led by Professor Jarvie of the University of Edinburgh in partnership with Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibs and Motherwell football clubs has traced fan engagement and mapped the localities of season ticket holders. 

It also provided data on the international engagement resulting from the recent European Football Championships matches involving Scotland and Hampden. 

36% of the season ticket holders across the four clubs resided in either the most deprived or second most deprived postcode districts. At the same time 37% of season ticket holders, from the four clubs, resided in the 20% most affluent areas. 

Scottish football crosses the wealth divide. Covid 19 did not respect local or national boundaries and disproportionately affected certain neighbourhoods while furlough and in many cases loss of jobs threatened available disposable income that might have been spent of football. 

The decision to offer free season tickets to those who had purchased a season ticket the year before is but one example of a club understanding the Covid context, the issues in the community and this being reflected in the new season ticket offer and pricing.

Those who walk through the turnstiles remain local and, in some cases, very local i.e., within the vicinity of the stadium. 90.94% of Aberdeen season ticket holders come from AB postcodes; 88.84% of Hearts and 88.51% of Hibernian season ticket holders reside within EH postcodes while 79.88% of Motherwell season ticket holders reside within ML postcodes. 92.3% of Motherwell season ticket holders reside with Motherwell or Glasgow postcodes. EH4 (NW Edinburgh, Cramond / Blackhall / Craigleith) is in the top postcode for both Hearts (5.79%) & Hibs (7.03% of sales). 

Football supporters are known for their loyalty. This impact is economical but there is also a social dimension. Football clubs are cultural institutions and important in the meaning making of places, a sense of place pride and a focal point for the community. This is perhaps showcased in the relatively distance decay of season ticket purchases the further you move away from the football stadium. Any disconnect between a football club and its community has social implications around social capital, wellbeing, and happiness. Football clubs thinking of re-locating stadiums need to think this through because it is not always the case that re-location works for those coming through the turnstiles.  

Scottish football is more heavily dependent upon gate receipts (48%) than any other UEFA member. Five Scottish football clubs have asked accountancy firm Deloitte to grow their commercial income. The extent to which clubs can grow the supporter base, provide fans what they want and increase revenue necessitates understanding fan engagement and satisfying the consumption of football both inside and outside of the stadium. Clubs have considerable international reach as do the Scottish national teams. 

International relationships need to be constantly worked at if the desire is to grow and engage this audience. The benefits include minimising the risks associated with an over-dependency on a specific income stream such as gate receipts. 

In one 5-week spell one club had an international following on you tube across 21 countries.

Hibernian have regular followers from Australia, Ireland, USA, Germany, Canada, Netherlands, Spain, Turkey, Poland and New Zealand. Regular followers of Aberdeen are from Germany, USA, Australia, Ireland, Canada, Austria, Russia, Switzerland, Ukraine, Spain and the Netherlands but also Nigeria and United Arab Emirates. 

When it comes to the national men’s team Scotland’s regular weekly viewings during the European Championships extended beyond Europe. 

International engagement with one match over one three days helps to illustrate the potential international connectivity that can be facilitated through football. 

If Scotland is ambitious about foreign policy and international relations the political parties need to recognise the tools that they have, and football is one of them. 

The Scottish Government is currently revisiting its national international engagement strategy it should find a space and resource to maximise football as a significant tool that it has at its disposal.  Imagine, for example, if the football and the sport reach was greater than the diaspora reach? 

Nor is building and sustaining relationships with fans an activity that occurs just in the stadium or just around matchday or during the season. Something that applies to both the men’s and women’s game. Opportunities exist to grow meaningful conversations with and extend the football family through social media and digital platforms is a 24/7 – 52 weeks a year activity. The data below evidences the decline of activity post season and the differences between the SWPL clubs over one 12-week period. 

Whether it be local or international, the club or the national team, men or women the pandemic has not gone but has created a set of circumstances which has forced Scottish football and society to reflect about what is important. This needs to continue in an informed way. By doing so further safeguard’s footballs future while offering financial, economic and political benefits to the people of Scotland through football. 

Data has informed Covid decision making. It can help secure better football futures by helping football clubs in Scotland and the national teams further understand who and where their audiences are and what they want. 

Written by: Grant Jarvie, University of Edinburgh

This project was supported by the DDI project who are support the Doing Data Better conference on September the 30th, to find out more and book your free place, click here.

Using data to prevent disease

Scientists around the world have been using data to help prevent disease, including Covid-19, flu and food poisoning. 


Since the beginning of the pandemic, scientists have been analysing large amounts of data relating to coronavirus and patient genetics, to identify patients at risk and devise treatments. Read our blog post about using data to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic.


Influenza A virus is known for causing bird and pig flu. The virus is able to jump species, including from animals to people. Seasonal epidemic outbreaks cause significant disease and death.

An analysis of DNA data of 60 flu patients in intensive care revealed an unusually high number with a variation in a gene called IFITM3. This was found by researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute and the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

The gene variant may explain why apparently healthy people have needed intensive care after contracting swine flu, while others were symptomless and unaware they had been infected. 

It was the first time a gene has been linked to the body's defences and could be used to screen for those most in need of vaccination.

A US$3 million study led by Roslin aims to develop a tool to forecast and control bird flu outbreaks. It will use more than one million data entries relating to the virus genome, derived from global surveillance programmes.

A related study will use genetic data to produce a library of genes that reduce Influenza A infection in pigs and chickens, and genes that limit the spread of the virus to people. 


If Staphylococcus aureus bacteria get into a cut, they can cause infections that, in rare instances, can be deadly. Antibiotic resistant strains of the bacteria, such as MRSA, are a major cause of hospital acquired infections. The bacteria is also a burden on farms as it causes diseases such as mastitis in cows and bone infections in chickens.

A team led by Roslin analysed data obtained from the genome of more than 800 strains of bacteria that were isolated from people and animals. They found that each time the bacteria jumps species, it acquires new genes that enable it to survive in its new host.

The findings could help improve the use of antibiotics and design better strategies for limiting the spread of disease.

Food poisoning

Certain strains of Escherichia coli that are normally harmless residents of the gastrointestinal tract of cattle can cause serious human disease if we ingest food or water contaminated with them.

Researchers used software that compares genetic data from bacterial samples isolated from both animals and people. The software learns to recognise the subset of strains present in cattle that are a threat to human health, and this information can be used for control strategies. 

A related study analysed data of the genome of Salmonella, to investigate which bacteria strains can cause food poisoning. 

Outbreaks in farmed animals

Data derived from the DNA of farmed animals enables research into preventing and mitigating diseases. 

For instance, scientists analyse data of the genome of animals to better understand how it drives resistance to disease. This knowledge could be used by farmers and breeders to improve animals’ health, welfare and productivity.

Dr Emily Clark from the Roslin Institute said: “Having high quality information about the genomes of animals has huge potential to prevent and mitigate the effect of disease outbreaks quickly, limiting potential effects on food production and improving animal welfare.”

An example is work led by Roslin scientists that used precise genome-editing techniques to remove a small section of a gene that is targeted by a deadly pig virus, called porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus. This small change conferred resistance to a disease that kills newborn piglets and costs the pig production industry more than £1.75 billion per year in the US and Europe alone.

Salmon health 

One of the major health problems facing farmed salmon is sea lice. These parasites attach to the skin of the fish, often causing open injuries and stress. Different species show varying resistance to sea lice – while Atlantic salmon is susceptible, coho salmon, a Pacific species, is almost completely resistant. 

Scientists are analysing data of the salmon genome and its function to compare how different species respond to lice. 

Dr Diego Robledo from Roslin said: “This knowledge could help us identify the key mechanisms underlying resistance of coho salmon to lice, which we can then use to increase resistance in Atlantic salmon via different methods, including genome editing.”

Roslin experts will be part of the One Health panel at our annual data conference on 30 Sep, book your place here.

Using data to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, scientists have been collecting and analysing large amounts of data relating to virus and patient genetics, to help to tackle the disease. Data has been fundamental to identifying patients at risk, devising treatments and tracking coronavirus spread and the development of new variants.

Patient data
Researchers have studied the genetics of Covid-19 patients to understand why the disease affects some more seriously than others and pinpoint potential treatments. They identified 13 DNA variations associated with patients developing the most severe form of Covid-19.

They compared genetic data from almost 50,000 Covid-19 patients with that of healthy volunteers. By pooling large amounts of data, scientists in the Covid-19 Host Genetics Initiative, a global collaboration involving more than 3,300 researchers and 61 studies across 25 countries, were able to produce robust analyses more quickly, and from a greater diversity of populations, than any one group could have done on its own.

Dr Kenneth Baillie, Academic Consultant in Critical Care Medicine and scientist at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, said “By working together across the whole world, we are able to accelerate discovery for the benefit of patients.”

A related study, led by the University of Edinburgh’s Institute of Genetics and Cancer and the Roslin Institute, asked people who have used DNA home tests, such as Ancestry DNA or 23andMe, to contribute their data. The team aims to identify genes that influence the risk of developing Covid-19 or that affect disease severity, by comparing volunteers’ symptoms – or lack of them – with their DNA.

Another study, led by Imperial College London and the Universities of Edinburgh and Liverpool, analysed blood from more than 500 Covid-19 patients across the UK. Patients with severe Covid-19 have been found to show increased levels of a key protein in their blood. This information could help to identify patients at risk in early stages of disease and provide a target for new treatments.

The work involved the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC), the ISARIC4C (Coronavirus Clinical Characterisation Consortium) network and more than 200 hospitals collecting data from Covid-19 patients.

Factors such as smoking and high body mass index also cause patients to suffer from acute Covid-19, a study involving Roslin researchers reported.

Data for tracking spread
Coronavirus genetic data from patients and wastewater can be used to identify virus variants and to track spread. This can be combined with data on vaccine uptake per region, number of cases and surveys, to help to inform government decisions.

A Covid-19 early warning system could prevent future lockdowns in Scotland by combining data on vaccination, wastewater samples and surveys. Scientists will forecast the pandemic’s trajectory, enabling identification of potential hotspots early, predict stresses on hospitals, and create more focused access to vaccines. The project, led by the Roslin Institute, is a partnership between the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Scottish Water.

Professor Rowland Kao, Chair of Veterinary Epidemiology and Data Science at the Roslin Institute, said: “This partnership aims to identify strategies to show localised Covid-19 outbreaks, by rapidly identifying them and introducing local control measures such as surge testing and intensive contact tracing. A key to this is to understand how the numbers of people being vaccinated may vary geographically, as any local clusters with larger numbers of unprotected individuals could drive local outbreaks. In a winter where resources will also be strained by flu and other seasonal infections, controlling those outbreaks, if they occur, could be crucial to avoiding further lockdowns.”
Previous studies led by Roslin scientists compared the virus’ genetic makeup in different areas of Scotland and combined this with models of virus incidence, distribution and spread. They found that the autumn 2020 wave of the Covid-19 pandemic mostly originated outside Scotland, namely from Europe or other parts of the UK.

The evidence has been collated by Covid-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK), a partnership of NHS organisations, UK Public Health Agencies, Wellcome Sanger Institute and 12 academic partners, led by the University of Cambridge.
Dr Samantha Lycett, lead author of the Scottish study from the Roslin Institute, said: “Data from the genetic code of the virus collected from Covid-19 patients allows us to quantify the number of coronavirus introductions in Scotland and understand spread from one region to another. As part of the COG-UK consortium, we feed this information to the Scottish Government.”

Researchers continue to make valuable discoveries in understanding Covid-19 and contribute to tracking and managing the disease. For updates, please visit the Roslin Covid-19 research webpage.

The experts will also be part of the ONE Health panel at our annual data conference on Sep 30, book your place here.

Time to take back control of our data

MIT’s Alex Pentland speaks to us about the importance of ‘neighbourhood data’ in tackling some of the world’s biggest challenges – and why we need data unions.

Alex Pentland was once named one of the seven most influential data scientists in the world.

Five years ago, his ground-breaking book Social Physics described how ideas flow through social networks and are ultimately transformed into behaviours.

It demonstrated the value of ‘digital breadcrumbs’ – vast quantities of small pieces of data created by the widespread use of mobile phones, credit cards and social media.

This information shows what people really do with their lives, not what they say they do when answering surveys.

Professor Pentland, based at the globally-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes collecting and analysing this data could help tackle an enormous range of global problems.

This is because the information is genuine, real-time and paints a clear picture of interactions (social physics) at a neighbourhood level.

He relates this specifically to Covid-19: “You can do a good job managing public health using census data, but you need neighbourhood level data to see disparities in health outcomes. You cannot answer ‘Why are these people dying and those people not?’ until you make local-level maps.”

He cites one specific recent example: “Our Covid-19 work in New York showed many people were getting infected in grocery stores, so they changed the policy and brought orders outside rather than letting people in.

“You can also use data to identify local patterns, like more people suddenly going to hospital, to predict where outbreaks will happen. Israel uses that operationally to identify Covid-19 outbreaks as early as possible.”

Read the full interview from Professor Pentland's here.

Professor Sandy Pentland will be talking at our annual Data Conference on Nov 6. Book your place today. 

Interview conducted by David Lee.

Value of Data

The DMA’s Value of Data campaign was launched in 2018 to elevate and champion the role of data – from the classroom to the boardroom, to help organisations responsibly deliver value to their customers.

The campaign is journeying through an engaging roadmap through challenging ethical and legal landscapes to allow bold, innovative, and data-led approaches to customer engagement to thrive.


As an industry, we need to restore trust and establish the true worth of information, which benefits both brands and customers.

By creating a universal understanding of the value of data we can help brands and customers enjoy more meaningful interactions.

The DMA is leading the data debate from Scotland – and will drive the conversation across the UK and the world.

Ethics sit at the heart of the Value of Data campaign and will help mould a responsible route forward for practitioners.

DMA Scotland are working closely with academia, government & industry to unlock the vast potential of the industry.  

The campaign started with the question, ‘How can we put a value to values? How do we bring values and value together to help create business results and customer outcomes?’

An introductory piece in the shape of keynote whitepaper, helmed by key contributors from the University of Edinburgh and Design Informatics lead into the first of a series of lectures and the interactive ‘Happening’, which illustrated our objectives in a fun yet challenging format for the attendees.

The key contributors for our whitepaper ‘Shifting Values: An introduction to the value of data in the digital economy’ were Professor Chris Speed and Dr Ewa Luger.

This introductory paper examined themes of control, horizontal thinking, designing value and the ethical use of data. Read Shifting Values Whitepaper.  

The campaign has delivered webinar ‘Is Consent Broken?, The Value of Data Happening, Searching for Value in The Age of Data, A Reception at Holyrood.

The DMA has been working with Ethical Intelligence’s CEO and Founder Olivia Gambelin, to establish a wider understanding ethical frameworks.

To uncover the true potential value of data through ethical innovation, this stream of work looks to increase understanding of the frameworks through which ethical decision making can be conducted. 

The The Worth of Ethics whitepaper was published alongside Data Ethics – Tech’s Greatest Asset webinar in June 2020 and we have more planned around this activity.

The Value of Data campaign runs Creative Data Academies and Creative Data Labs through DMA Talent  programmes to show how data, insight and information are harnessed by people in the creative industries to craft beautiful, memorable experiences, and hopefully an exciting career in our industry

The NeuroDiversity Initiative helps organisations widen their talent pools by making adjustments to physical working practices and shifting culture to accept individuals in the workforce who are neurodiverse.  For more information contact DMA Talent.

Find out more about the DMA’s Value of Data Campaign

Article written by DMA Scotland.

Firas Khnaisser, Chair of DMA Scotland will be joining the line up for our annual data conference at 2pm with the presentation entitled: Enough about data, let's talk about people. Click here to book your place. 


Hardwiring ethics into a future worth wanting

How can we fuse technology and ethics to create the kind of future we want? Professor Shannon Vallor, Director of the Centre for Technomoral Futures in Edinburgh, talks to the DDI and David Lee about why we must act urgently.

Every day, we all make a multitude of instant and often emotional online decisions, which leave behind a digital footprint.

We might have an uneasy sense about that digital footprint, a feeling that the data we generate by these online decisions might be used in ways we don’t like, or don’t fully understand.

Yet how often do we stop to think how we might shape technology in an image we want, and not just allow it to shape us?

Professor Shannon Vallor arrived at the University of Edinburgh as the first Baillie Gifford Chair in the Ethics of Data and AI, and Director of the new Centre for Technomoral Futures at the Edinburgh Futures Institute – determined to accelerate the debate about creating what she calls “a future worth wanting”.

“The digital environments we have built are not conducive to the kind of community, democratic structures and types of leadership that we want for our futures,” says Professor Vallor, who has worked at the intersection of ethics and emerging technologies for 15 years.

“So what kind of digital environments, platforms, processes and systems do we need to enable a future worth wanting, where we can flourish together?”

Professor Vallor, who came to Edinburgh from Santa Clara University in the heart of Silicon Valley, says we shouldn’t accept that powerful technology will inevitably mould our fate.

“We must avoid technological determinism that says technology leads and society follows,” she says. “That’s a lie, a convenient lie for those building their values into these technologies.

“Technology and Artificial Intelligence are human all the way – built to promote, optimise or systematise; built to create power and realise specific values in the world.

“Humans are the creators of technology and technologies are therefore reflections of human power, will and values. We need to ensure human accountability isn’t lost.”

This is at the heart of the mission of the Centre for Technomoral Futures.

It starts with the premise that technology and morality, or technology and ethics, are not unrelated.

“The aim is to move away from that artificial, damaging split between technology and society,” says Professor Vallor.

“Doing technology right is no different to doing society right,” says Professor Vallor. “Technology does not live outside our social world; it’s interwoven.

“I want to figure out, using a blend of data-driven and humanistic tools, what are the forms of expertise, technological and moral, that can design and manage systems that work better for people, to build better worlds.

“It’s not the tools themselves that can build those better worlds, it’s people and the moral and social intelligence they use.”

Read the full interview here.

Interview conducted by David Lee.

Hear Professor Shannon Vallor at our annual Data Conference, book your free place today

Coronavirus Contract Tracing App is Privacy Secure, but Still Has Issues

Last week, a new Covid contract tracing APP was released in England and Wales.

The original app was steeped in controversy from who won the APP contract, Tech giants refusing to ‘home’ the App and conspiracy theories emerging about what the UK Government planned to do with their personal data. The UK Government appear to have learned from its early mistakes and have demonstrated how they want to build public trust to ensure that the app can be effective as it can in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

The App’s Privacy Notice is as you would expect, available online to reassure people about the use of data and signposts a section which explains the data journey and how personal data is used in different every day scenarios. A Data Protection Impact Assessment is also available with more information and assurances given on the ICO website. It is going to take some very creative PR to change a lot of mindsets and break down barriers to the public downloading and using the App.

Read more in DMA's Coronavirus Contract Tracing App article.

Want to find out more about the DMA Membership visit DMA.



Article written by DMA Scotland.

Firas Khnaisser, Chair of DMA Scotland will be joining the line up for our annual data conference at 2pm with the presentation entitled: Enough about data, let's talk about people. Click here to book your place. 

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