How technology continues to influence sports
A few decades ago, an interest in and the consumption of technology was something reserved almost exclusively for people with a pre-existing passion for all that it could bring to humanity. Today, it touches everything, from how people work and socialise, to how people travel and stay entertained. Everyone can see the impact of technology on their personal lives, but what about the bigger picture? Look at any industry and it’s possible to see just how much of an influence tech has had.
And that includes sports. One can argue that the world of sports was relatively slow to adopt technology, at least compared with other industries. But today it’s infused with virtually every aspect, including – in many cases – the action itself. This article will take a look at some of the key ways that the rise of technology has impacted sports, for the better and sometimes for the worse.
Impact on the sport
By and large, the influence of technology on sports has been positive, but some aspects have been less welcome, both by the fans and the players. A shining example of this would be VAR, which has been slowly introduced into football over the past few years. Compared with other leagues, the English top division was relatively slow to adopt this technology, which reviews potentially game-changing moments in a studio away from the pitch.
It has caused many controversial moments since it was introduced because it sometimes gets the decision wrong. It has also been criticised by fans and players because of its negative impact on passion; a player and the fans may celebrate a goal, only to have it chalked off by the video assistant referee. VAR is still in its early days, however, so it’s likely that the technology will be more readily accepted once the creases have been ironed out.
In other sports, this type of technology has been around for much longer. Hawk-eye has been used in cricket since 2001 and tennis since the mid-noughties.
Access to information
One of the key advantages of the internet is that it makes a democracy of access to information. In the olden days, valuable information was acquired through connections, experience or expensive mediums, such as books or magazine subscriptions. The internet changed all that and it has benefited the sports fan as much as anyone else. Today, fans can improve their fantasy football sides by reading in-depth analysis of the form book. They can have a better understanding of which horses are likely to do well in a race by reading expert horse racing tips. They can learn the intricacies of highly technical sports, like boxing, just by watching a few YouTube videos.
Anyone who has watched sport for many decades will have noticed that the quality has improved. People are faster and fitter than ever before, something evidenced by the increase in record-breaking performances. The football of today is better than what it was twenty years ago.
So what changed? It’s not that people born today are more naturally talented than those born in decades gone by. The rise of technology and specifically the data and insight that this technology can bring, has optimised performance. Whereas past players had none, a footballer today will have access to large swaths of data about their fitness and performance. Even the pitch has benefited from technology, with cooling, heating and watering systems that ensure the conditions are always at their best. Additionally, the advancements made in video technology have allowed coaches to get much more detailed information about a player or team’s performance. Essentially, it’s a tool that allows the sport’s best thinkers to bring their best to the table.
Technology has disrupted connections more or less everywhere, oftentimes for the better. This is especially true when it comes to the relationship between fans and the sports teams they support. Not so long ago, the bridge between the club and its supporters was orchestrated by media companies. Today, clubs can control their narrative with greater ease through the use of social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. As well as enhancing the fan experience, this shift has been highly profitable for sports clubs, who can interact with their fans and market their products at the same time.
The viewer experience
The way that people watch sports is virtually unrecognisable from what it was like twenty years ago. Then, the only option was to go to the event or hope the game you wanted to watch was being screened on television. If it wasn’t, then that was too bad. Today, virtually every event is screened and it’s not just the access to the event that stands out, but the quality of the image too.
It’s also increasingly possible to watch events from wherever, using a smartphone or tablet. The “watch any game, anywhere you are” aspect of sports viewership is likely to develop in the coming years too, once the current TV deals have expired. Fans have been clamouring for the chance to legally stream any game for years, but the possibility has been thwarted by earlier deals struck between the leagues and TV broadcasters. Once those deals expire, a league or club-specific online pass will likely be introduced in the UK, as it has for other sports in other countries.
In the future
What’s been covered so far relates to the current impact of technology on the world of sports, but what about the future? What changes are likely to become more pronounced then? The biggest trend will be seen in athlete performance. There’s already a large amount of data readily available to athletes, but advancements made in wearable tech will give more nuanced and useful information. In sport, it’s the little advantages that can help and the data produced by wearable tech can produce – given the right interpretation – big advantages. It shouldn’t be a surprise if records are broken in the coming years, especially in the world of athletics.
The editorial unit