KENYA BROWN - Sunday, March 22, 2015
AZ Alkmaar are bringing aboard Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane as an adviser.
By adding Beane, whose ideas were highlighted in the book "Moneyball" written by Michael Lewis, the team hopes he can provide advise "in the areas of high performance and innovation. "
"I am truly excited for the opportunity to be part of AZ Alkmaar in an advisory role," he said in a statement on AZ's website. "Despite being a great football club with a storied history, they face many of the challenges we have with the Oakland A's. My love for football and AZ's vision of the future of the club made this an attractive pursuit."
The Dutch Eredivisie has always been dominated by the likes of powerhouses Ajax and PSV Eindhoven. Between the two teams they have won a combined 43 league titles. Rotterdam-based side Feyenoord have won nine. Within that time period, Alkmaar have only won two titles (1981 and 2009).
The 2009 title is significant as businessman Dirk Scheringa and his DSB Bank were the primary sponsors of the team. However, after that title-winning season things went awry and the bank was declared bankrupt, leaving the team to sell some of their top players.
The Cheese Farmers have been able to survive on a modest budget thanks in part to new sponsorship and the shrewd dealings of AZ technical director and former U.S. national team midfielder Earnie Stewart. They have remained competitive in the league, but have not reached the heights they once attained six years ago.
Soccer has always trusted the instincts of coaches and scouts to find talented players that can fit into a team's system. Statistical analysis, or sabermetrics, which is used in baseball nowadays, is still rather new to the sport and some analysts believe this method cannot work.
Big clubs like Real Madrid, Manchester United and Paris St. Germain continue to spend big on players based on the market. However, with Beane making his first foray into soccer, some analysts believe this could be a change, especially for modest clubs in Europe.
"I would say unequivocally that markets for players are much more inefficient in soccer than in baseball," said Chris Anderson, co-founder of the sports analytics consultancy firm Anderson Sally, in an interview with CNN. "The combination of a global market plus inefficiency means that is a huge opportunity in soccer that there isn't in the same way in baseball."
Beane's appointment as an adviser is not a desperation move by AZ as they would not just hire anyone from off the street. The 52-year-old follows the game and has spoken about his desire of one day being in the front office of a soccer team once his tenure in baseball ends.
AZ is the right place to start as they already follow a strategy similar to what Beane does with the A's. The team may not have the budget like Ajax and PSV, but by having guys like Stewart, who knows the game in Holland very well, and bringing on Beane, they could have AZ once again being contenders for the Eredivisie title for years to come.