5 Ways Tech has improved sport

October 7, 2020
Performance Comms

…AND 5 WAYS (I HOPE) IT IS ABOUT TO

Never before has the world of sport needed technology more than it does now, to crack the code on COVID and get fans back watching live sport safely.

It got me thinking about the myriad tech innovations with sporting applications that have already launched, are about to launch or are still buzzing around their inventors’ heads – what they have meant and what they will mean for sport.

The sporting experience – as participant or spectator – has changed immeasurably over recent years and will chart an even faster evolution if 5G installation & adoption, and the endless possibilities that new level of connectivity will bring, can quickly overcome the hurdles it currently faces.

Amongst our daily challenges at Performance Communications is telling complicated tech stories simply.

Looking at the thousands of tech innovations already at play within sport and those that are coming – I’ve tried to distil the thousands into two lists of 5: the ways that tech has already improved sport, and another of how we hope it is about to.

Would love to hear your thoughts – both on the inclusions and more importantly, any open goals I’ve missed (wouldn’t be the first time) by leaving anything out.

1) You’ll never walk or run/ride alone

The loneliness of the long distance runner…or rider or swimmer or paddle boarder, has been eradicated by tech.

Whilst you may train alone, the ability to share what you are up to, the targets you have set and progress against those targets on the likes of Strava, MapMyFitness and MyFitnessPal is invaluable in providing the discipline and focus that you miss without the support of a team – once family and work have consigned team sports to history.

And training alone no longer feels lonely. One of the few silver linings of the Covid cloud has been the sense of community engendered by the likes of Zwift and RGT, bringing together thousands of individuals from across the globe onto virtual roads and paths – to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of training together, not alone.

2) Sport never stops

Throughout my childhood, the gaps between live sport on TV felt interminable.

The proliferation of sports broadcasters, media and rightsholders serving up a non-stop source of live, retro and feature content has well and truly filled these gaps, but it’s tech that has enabled this wherever and whenever consumption – meaning you can now scratch your sporting itch 24/7.

3) The show just gets better & better

Players are now fitter, stronger and better coached; boats, cars, bikes are lighter and faster; racquets, bats and clubs are more powerful; kit is lighter and more aero/aquadynamic; officiating is more accurate (ok, getting there!); cameras are better and are everywhere; data and stats are limitless and live; playing surfaces are better; all as a result of technology.

4) Not mainstream, no problem

Unless you follow mainstream sports, you have traditionally been badly served by broadcasters and sports media, who understandably curate their offering based on the commercial potential of the eyeballs per sport, and are only able to pay occasional lip service to more niche sporting interests.

No more. Whilst not always incorporating the most high quality production, the relative accessibility of camera equipment and free live streaming via YouTube, Facebook Live, Twitch or other apps, you can watch competitive marching band, ballroom dance and bowls to your heart’s content, irrespective of how small your community is. Fill yer niche boots.

5) Pro-Am For All

Inevitably, pro sports provides a popular testing ground for new technology, helping players and coaches push ever further the limits of human performance.

Once new tech is adopted however, the speed with which that technology is now democratised and made available to the amateur sportsman is increasing, as evidenced with the likes of school or grassroots teams using PlayerTek, Coach Logic and playing on Playsight smartcourts. 

FIVE WAYS WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO TECH IMPROVING SPORT

1) A truly connected stadium experience

It seems like we’ve been waiting for this one forever.

First it was 4G, then it was wifi-enabled stadia. Much was promised – as we excitedly expounded in our 2016 Future of the Sports Fan study – but the reality has so far fallen way short, and we’re still waiting for the tech to deliver.

The idea of being able to order food, drinks and merchandise from your seat (potentially a must in the post-Covid era), see where the loo queues are shortest, watch replays from the camera angle of your choice and enjoy multi-sensory fan experiences – including being able to take and actually share pictures and videos – across venues is hugely appealing.

As the experience of watching sport at home continues to improve, and ticket prices for live sport rise, venues have their work cut out to continue to lure crowds and 5G might just provide the magic bullet they crave.

2) Lights, Camera, Action!

Perhaps the single biggest difference between viewing sport live and at home is the restricted perspective that TV offers you.

Admittedly, this focused view is presented to you by a well-trained and experienced director who knows where you should be looking and when. But often what happens off the ball in football or behind the front group on the road in cycling is just as fascinating – as viewers have recently been able to enjoy courtesy of the BT Sport App and Velon.cc’s on-bike footage from this year’s Tour de France

TV blinkers will soon be a thing of the past as you will be able to curate your own viewing experience – which camera, what view and at what moment – you will be in charge.

So far, augmented and virtual reality have struggled to find their purpose within sport. Offering you an instant 360-degree perspective from the seat beside the manager in your team’s dugout, all that is about to change.

3) Stats Fantastic

As with camera angles, the data you can view will no longer be controlled by the programme director’s whim. Whether at the game or at home, you will be able to select player-by-player how much ground they’ve covered, how many passes completed, shots/assists etc and receive live data from their wearable tech.

The commentators will continue to furnish you with what they consider to be salient facts, but you won’t have to wait & if data is your thing – no stat will be out of reach.

4) Suits you, sir!

As every aspect of our life shifts from ‘set menu’ to ‘a la carte’, so our consumption of sport will trend that way too, facilitated by tech.

As more and more rightsholders develop their own direct-to-consumer offers, we will no longer be obliged to accept the traditional packages offered by sports broadcasters, and will be able instead to curate our own viewing schedule – as Now TV already allows – selecting exclusively the teams, players and events that we are interested in. No chaff, just wheat.

5) What’s Next?

Probably my favourite of all the benefits tech will bring to sport is the one we do not know yet. As highlighted above, the increased connectivity new tech brings will present limitless opportunities for brilliant minds to create new and exciting solutions, beyond this Covid purgatory. I cannot wait to see and experience what those are.

Charlie