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Brentford have announced the appointment of Rasums Ankersen to the role of Director of Football at Brentford FC. Rasmus is Chairman of FC Midtjylland (FCM) – owned by Brentford owner Matthew Benham.

The role will be shared with Phil Giles – Head of Quantiative Sports Research at Smartodds – Matthew Benham’s company that provides statistical sports modelling services.

Rasmus and Phil will oversee the footballing side of the club – responsible for managing recruitment of new players and staff including the appointment of the new head coach – an announcement which is due imminently.

On the new appointments Matthew Benham has said “We were very clear that we wanted Brentford to be a club that could reach the Premier League and stay there. We believe that can ONLY be achieved sustainably with ain innovative approach to player recruitment and the overall management of the club. Rasmus and Phil can help us achieve our aim”.

Rasmus said “Brentford aspire to and will, I hope, become known as one of the most innovative and forward-thinking clubs in Europe and it is fantastic to be asked to contribute to the achievement of that ambition”.

FC Midtjylland qualified for the Champions League yesterday (Sunday) with a 2-0 defeat of “The Manchester Utd of Denmark” – FC Copenhagen. They are 1 point shy of winning the Danish Superleague with 4 matches still to go (they could still win the title if they lose ALL their matches – with 2nd place Copenhagen having to win all their matches and turn gain a goal difference of 13 goals on their rivals).

Before Benham bought into FC Midtjylland, they were on the verge of bankruptcy. He decided to approach Rasmus after reading a .

Rasmus will retain his role at FC Midtjylland alongside his Brentford role.


Check out the interview with Rasmus on BBC Five Live – David Pleat showing himself up to be stuck back in the 80s with his post-interview summing up.


You can also find a couple of very interesting articles on how FC Midtjylland go about their business and how this may be mimicked by Brentford over the next few years below.

Soccer analytics revolution underway at Benham’s Brentford, Midtjylland – Sports Illustrated

A few of interesting quotes from these articles:

Ankersen: “We can’t outspend our competitors,’ Ankersen says. ‘So we have to outthink them. And we think that careful analysis of data on leagues, teams, and players can give us an edge”.

Ankersen: “The progress of data analysis (in football) has been limited. Rather than a revolution, we have something closer to a gradual evolution. While there are definitely some very smart people (doing data analysis) with bright ideas working at big clubs, they don’t have any true influence on important decisions their clubs make.Not so at Midtjylland. The revolution is coming from the top, because there the boss is an analyst.”


Benham: “One lesson I’ve learned is if you go to a manager and say you’ve been unlucky and you actually deserve to be higher, that’s actually quite an easy message to give to a manager, naturally enough,” Benham says. “But if you say to a manager, ‘You’ve been lucky, you deserve to be lower,’ that’s actually an incredibly difficult message for the manager to swallow.”

Ankersen: “We look into all possibilities in football, because there are a lot of inefficiencies,” says Ankersen. “One of the inefficiencies is the transfer market, which we’re trying to exploit by using data in a more intelligent way.”

Ankersen: “One game doesn’t tell you anything as a scout. If you base your opinion of a player on a few games you’ve attended, it will blur your vision. It’s a small sample. We believe it is more effective to see lots of matches on video”

Ankersen: “We believe a lot in improving the professionalism of players,” he says. “We’ve never understood why a football player shouldn’t be as professional as an individual athlete. An individual athlete optimizes every single part of his game. Nutrition, everything in small details. But football players don’t do that. Why not? We think there’s a big opportunity there.”

Benham – Frustrated with what he describes with disdain as “the English way” of doing things in soccer said “If we go back to the Brentford situation, there’s obviously a huge amount of criticism from the English media that I wanted to change the manager and in fact get rid of the role of manager and have a head coach instead. 

The way the English media were portraying it, they were saying, ‘It’s wrong, the owner wants to be the all-powerful dictator, when it should be the manager who’s the all-powerful dictator. And the thing is there shouldn’t be anyone who’s the all-powerful dictator. Really, the idea is just to get lots and lots of bright people involved, have lots of debates and interactions and just always look at how can we improve? How can we be different?”

Benham: “I’ve obviously had an enormous amount of success in sports betting, but that doesn’t guarantee anything whatsoever that I’ll be successful in sports clubs.

That last quote is the key.

The future of Brentford FC is very much in the ‘revolutionary’ arena. Although managers like Arsene Wenger have been using stats to identify relatively unknown players like Patrick Viera for years, the approach of FC Midtjylland takes the integration of stats into the way a football club does its business to whole new level.

FC Midtjylland undoubtedly have benefitted from this approach. But will it be successful on an ongoing basis for FC Midtjylland and Brentford?

Who knows?

Many fans are nervous about Brentford delving into the unknown. And unsurprisingly so. For the majority of people, change brings fear.

But the change is out of our hands. The decision has been made.

And looking forward, the idea of taking on the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea using forward thinking approaches as opposed to just throwing money at it which can have catastrophic results (see Portsmouth, Wolves, Coventry City) sounds quite exciting it has to be said …

We will be discussing this and more stuff on the .

Billy Grant