International Centre for
Sports Studies

Avenue DuPeyrou 1
2000 Neuchâtel
Tel +41 32 718 39 00


Mon. 12 August 2013

Interview of Raffaele Poli, Head of the CIES Sports Observatory

Could you first tell us about yourself and your career?

I grew up in Ticino and I arrived in French-speaking Switzerland for my university studies. I got a degree in geography in 2002 and I followed this with a further degree in sociology in 2004 and a doctorate in social sciences in 2008. Meanwhile, I got a job as research assistant at the CIES. In 2005, with Loïc Ravenel I created the Professional Football Players Observatory (PFPO), which became the CIES Football Observatory in 2011, and is now part of the wider CIES Sports Observatory project. Following the success of our creation, I decided to leave the post of lecturer (junior assistant professor) that I held at the Institute of Sports Science at the University of Lausanne to devote myself fully to the development of the CIES Sports Observatory. Today, I am the head of a research team of 7 people.

What links do you have with the world of sport?

I have long played football, a sport for which I had good potential.  I still play and practice from time to time. Unfortunately, after many injuries my sporting ambitions had to be quickly lowered. However, I have no regrets as I have had the opportunity to extend my passion for sport to the academic world as well as research in general. Today, through the work of the CIES Sports Observatory, I am regularly interviewed by the media, governing bodies of sport and professional clubs. I'm in an excellent position to build knowledge on a daily basis, which allows me to play an expert role in a multitude of areas.

Who is your favorite sportsman and why?

I was a big fan of AC Milan in the 1980s and 1990s. I really liked players such as Donadoni for his dribbling qualities and Savicevic for his vision of the game. Being myself a player with offensive characteristics, these two players were the real inspiration for me.

What are the special areas of expertise of the CIES Sports Observatory?

The CIES Sports Observatory research team gathers experts specialized in the statistical analysis of sport. Its aim is to provide services for sports governing bodies in the areas of questionnaire surveys, databases, data mining, business intelligence and reporting. The CIES Sports Observatory has notably undertaken research activities and developed joint projects with prestigious sports governing bodies such as the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the International Ice hockey Federation (IIHF), and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

How does the CIES Sports Observatory concretely impact upon the sports industry?

All of our projects and studies provide added value in terms of empirical knowledge. This allows our clients to be at the forefront of the latest information. Thus, our reports have an influence on the decision making process. Our strong academic background, which has been accumulated over many years, allows us to provide a panoramic overview of the issues of sport and the best advice to our clients.

What are the long term aims of the CIES Observatory?

We hope to have the means to be able to consolidate all of our previous work, to continue to develop further, whilst always focussing on quality. Being part of the CIES, a not for profit organisation, we do not focus on profit. Therefore, our aim is not to become a big organisation but to have an average number of collaborators with a good balance between experienced and junior researchers.