In this article…
Love them or hate them, Opta defines the events you place most of your bets on, so you need to know exactly how they are settled.
In this post, I will give you the history of Opta, the background of how they collect data, and then the definitions for key football events and my opinion on them.
❓ Who are Opta?
Opta, also known as StatsPerform, is a British sports analytics company founded in 1996 to analyze Premier League games.
In 1997/98, Opta became the official provider of Premier League statistics, and, in 2006, they started collecting real-time data for football matches.
Opta offers data for over 30 sports in 70 countries. In football alone, they cover over 1,000 leagues globally and are the official data partner for major leagues like the Premier League, EFL, La Liga, and MLS.
Opta is also the trusted data source for major broadcasters, bookmakers, and even powers my Bet Builder Stats tool.
📊 How do Opta collect stats?
It may surprise some people to learn that most of Opta’s data and stats are actually collected manually by part-time and full-time employees, known as ‘loggers’.
While AI software aids the process, there’s still a need for manual review to ensure data accuracy. Sometimes, they collect up to 2,000 pieces of data per match.
Typically there are three analysts in each live football match: one for the home team, one for the away team, and a third person to double-check the data. Then, after the match, there is another team to ensure 100% accuracy.
The analysts use a mouse or control pad to record over 60 different events in a match, which can add up to around 2,000 pieces of data.
These events include actions like passes, touches, shots, crosses, and dribbles. It requires intense concentration and focus to ensure nothing is missed.
I spoke with someone who did this job, and they were responsible for two clubs—one in the EFL and one in Sweden. They had to become familiar with every player, including details like hairstyle, boot color, and shirt number, so they could track each player’s actions accurately.
Data is available in real-time to clients, so broadcasters and media companies can show live updates or bookmakers can settle bets immediately.
🗒️ Opta’s Bet Builder Definitions
Opta have definitions for over 60 different football events that occur during a match.
I’m only going to delve into five key definitions that will most likely be relevant when you’re placing a Bet Builder, or wondering why you’re Bet Builder hasn’t won!
🎯 Shot on Target
The official Opta definition for a Shot on Target is:
“A deliberate attempt to score that is on target. Includes all Goals being scored and shots on target saved by the Goalkeeper.
It also includes shots on target that are Blocked by a last-line defending player, preventing the ball from entering the Goal.”
The confusion arises when determining if it’s a ‘deliberate attempt to score.’
For instance, a cross from open play or a corner that reaches the goalkeeper in the six-yard box may be counted as a shot on target. However, analysts must assess if it was a deliberate attempt to score, taking cues from the player’s body language and technique.
Another common frustration for bettors is when a shot is blocked heading for goal by a defender who isn’t the last line of defence… Opta will only count it if it’s the last defender who blocks it.
🛑 Fouls Committed
The official Opta definition for a Foul Committed/Conceded is:
“Any infringement penalised as foul play by a referee that results in a free-kick or penalty event.
Offsides are not given as a foul committed/conceded, neither is an incident where a match official has played advantage and subsequently cautioned (yellow carded) a player.”
One of the biggest frustrations here is when your player commits a foul, the referee plays advantage and cards him, but it still doesn’t count for your bet. That is something I personally disagree with.
Everything else is self-explanatory, it makes sense for offsides not to count.
🩹 Fouls Won
The official Opta definition for a Foul Won is:
“When a player wins a free kick or penalty for their team after being fouled by an opposing player.
There are no fouls won for a handball, dive, back pass, illegal restart, dissent, GK 6-second violation or obstruction where a free kick is conceded.”
The list of events that aren’t counted is very important, in particular, handball and obstruction.
For example, if a player attempts to take on his opponent and is stopped by a handball, it will not count.
Additionally, if two players are battling for the ball, and an opposing player traps it between their legs in order to stop one of them from playing, that won’t count as it is obstruction.
I have an extensive guide on betting on Fouls Won that you might find useful.
The official Opta definition for a Tackle is:
“When a player connects with the ball in a legal, ground-level challenge and successfully takes the ball away from the opposition player.
The tackled player must be in controlled possession of the ball to be tackled by an opposition player.”
It’s important also to note that the bookmakers will settle based on ‘Tackles Won’, this adds:
“A Tackle Won is deemed to be when the tackler or one of their teammates regains possession because of the challenge, or the ball goes out of play and is safe.”
This is what creates confusion with bettors. When betting on a tackle, most people will be unaware that the tackler or one of their teammates must regain possession or the ball leaves the field of play and is ‘safe’.
Settling a tackle bet is also very subjective as the Opta analysts must be sure that the player being tackled is in control of possession.
🧤 Goalkeeper Saves
The official Opta definition for a Goalkeeper Save is:
“A Goalkeeper preventing the ball from entering the Goal with any part of their body when facing an intentional attempt from an opposition player.”
Importantly, this includes: “unintentional or misplaced efforts on target from a Goalkeeper’s own teammates, but only if the intervention is not perceived to be a routine collection of the ball.”
But does not include: “If a prominent defensive action from a teammate prevents the ball from entering the goal, this will be categorised as a Block, not a Goalkeeper Save.”
Finally: “If the ball goes behind the Goal because of a Goalkeeper intervention, the match officials must award a corner for it to be recognised as a Save.”
It’s a lot to take in, and it’s a relatively new market, so there’s still a lot to learn.
A goalkeeper punching the ball, for example, does not count. Also, if the goalkeeper tips a cross over his own crossbar, it does not count.
It is important to remember that a goalkeeper save must be an ‘intentional attempt’ on goal from an opponent.
I hope you will find this post helpful in understanding Opta’s role in the sports betting industry.
I like that Opta settles bets for most UK bookmakers, if not all. This creates consistency and makes it easier to research bets since I know how to use Opta data.
I have one criticism of Opta: there is no appeals process for contentious analysis decisions. Their lack of communication often makes them the subject of scrutiny and criticism, particularly on social media.
Make sure you check out my Bet Builder Stats tool, which uses only Opta data to help you pick a smarter Bet Builder.
If you have any questions about Opta, please let me know on Twitter.
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