In the first episode of the WFS Talks, Player Lens co-founder Lee Hemmings shares insight into how his platform is keeping the transfer market moving by helping clubs, agents and players overcome travel restrictions and social distancing.
In 2013, Lee Hemmings quit a highly successful career as a stockbroker to pursue a vision that had been on his mind for a long-time: disrupting football’s transfer market.
Until then, the transfer market had remained unaffected by the technological innovations that had already transformed other areas of the sports industry. It was a market that had continued operating in the same manner for decades, with agents benefiting from poor regulation to pocket enormous sums of money for go-between roles that Hemmings thought could be made more efficient and transparent by applying technological tools.
During his extensive career as a stockbroker, Hemmings had seen to what extent the internet could increase the efficiency of a market and consequently reduce transactional costs. Adapted to the transfer market, Hemmings predicted that this could mean curbing inflation – one of the football industry’s major concerns.
Seven years later, time has proven him right. His project, Player Lens, is known as football’s LinkedIn, and has become a crucial tool to keep the market moving in times of financial struggle and new travel restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
The social media-style platform connects all the three aforementioned industry instigators involved in the transfer market (clubs, agents and players) in a secure digital space, allowing them to understand what each of them want to achieve. Both clubs and agents can advertise footballers looking for a team, but it also allows footballers to promote themselves, unravelling an entirely new scope of opportunities for them.
“If you bring efficiencies to a market and make business easier to do, then the need to charge exponential amounts for that comes down” said Hemmings in World Football Summit‘s opening episode of the newly-launched WFS Talk series. “What we do at Player Lens is connect thousands of players, hundreds of clubs and hundreds of agents efficiently on one platform so our need to charge money that someone might do it manually is obviously a lot less so it naturally brings that fee down.”
Despite the overall transfer market falling up to 40% during its most recent summer window, and the number of players signing for clubs in the five major European leagues dropping up to 35%, Player Lens saw its activity grow by 133%.
Aside from bridging distance in times of travel restrictions and social distancing, the platform allowed the industry to solve an unprecedented challenge: a market where the supply of players exceeded demand, due to the impact of Covid-19 on clubs’ revenues.
“Where we found a hole in the market this summer is that there was a lot of players that had been released by their clubs because they needed to reduce their wage bill,” explained Hemmings.
“By allowing players to advertise themselves we allowed them to be potentially seen by clubs that are looking to recruit players. This solves two problems: it finds a job for someone out of work but it also finds a player for a club with a relatively low budget that can’t afford transfer fees in the current environment.”
Clubs can search for players based on; position, age, nationality and expected salary, among many other parameters. Players listed for transfer can specify countries or leagues in which they would or would not like to play.
Each player’s profile includes a complete breakdown of their performance statistics and videos of their most recent matches, just like a real-life Football Manager. As Hemmings points out, you can not only find a player, but also evaluate him and compare his stats with those of similar players within the same platform.
Currently there are over 600 professional clubs from 50 different countries registered on the platform, and approximately one hundred agents have signed up since they were able to just a few months ago.
Football Director at @LUFC Victor Orta on utilising the analytic tools.#LeedsUTD#football #footballbusiness #footballtransfers pic.twitter.com/D1E73RATRW
— Player LENS (@PlayerLENS) December 8, 2020
Clubs cover the major European and South American leagues as well as the emerging Asian and African leagues and, last summer, over 2,500 players were put on the market through Player Lens, which facilitated transfers between teams currently playing in the Champions League and also transfers that brought South American players to Europe and Asia.
That time was an extremely unusual transfer window, so it’s difficult to quantify how much clubs saved thanks to Player Lens. What is clear to Hemmings, though, is that the platform has allowed operations to be carried out that would otherwise have been extremely complex to do, while the efficiency and transparency provided by his platform will help bring down inflation and benefit the industry as a whole.
Looking at the future, Hemmings predicts a much more tiered market, with gaps increasing between leagues and clubs that command different revenue streams. Also, he predicts a much more globalised market, since all stakeholders will be moved to look beyond traditional markets to maximise their income.
“To achieve their real value in the market, players may need to look beyond where they are currently based and we’re seeing more people willing to do that now,” said Hemmings, who believes all this could lead to football’s top clubs accelerating plans to create a European Super League, “because the bigger clubs will be looking to continue maximising their revenue in order to bring the best players they can.”
To find out more about Player Lens, you can visit their website HERE.