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Technologies Powering the New Normal in Sports

Sujith Vasudevan, Assistant Editor, CIO Insider

The bromance between sports and technology goes way back. From broadcasting technologies changing the way the world looks at live sports events to data analytics helping German football team to (for instance, they cut down the possession time from 3.4 seconds to about 1.1 seconds) win the world cup. Today, the global sports realm is slowly getting back on its feet, after months of Covid-19 lockdown, learning to adapt to the new normal of silent galleries. Technology, which previously played a role around ensuring fair play in all formats, and optimizing the talent within sportsmen, going forward, has a more significant role to play – giving fans the experience back!

It’s quite evident that football couldn’t hold back for so long with different football leagues in the world resuming matches behind closed doors. Bundesliga, Germany's primary football competition was the first major league to resume, followed by English Premier League and La Liga. But the fans are the ones who make a stadium come alive with their antics and emotions. It is also a significant part of the television/broadcasting experience. Most of the broadcasters now use crowd noise as a part of the coverage to try and give the experience back to viewers around the world.

In a recent interview, the director of BBC Sport, Barbara Slater commented, “Artificial noises improve the enjoyment of football fans watching games on TV or mobile devices. There is a broad consensus that actually some sound enhancement makes it a better viewing experience.”

A recent report from Capgemini also points in the same direction. In a survey of around 10,000 sports fans from nine countries, nearly 70 percent of them state that the use of emerging technologies, including augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, or biometrics has enhanced their overall viewing experience, both inside and outside the stadium. It’s the Asian fans who lead the adoption and acceptance of emerging technologies in sports. The survey also indicated an interesting statistic pertaining to the younger fans: they are forming a good passionate proportion through offline and digital channels.

Most of the broadcasters now use crowd noise as a part of the coverage to try and give the experience back to viewers

On the other hand, in addition to fans, there is a dire need to ensure that the players and athletes are able to live with their spirit in mint condition as well. There again, technology and technology companies could be a prime savior. For instance, Zwift, which is a Californian startup, creates a virtual world for cyclists. The company recently raised $120 million to develop its platform that connects physical indoor trainers, helping them pedal inside, wherein their friends can join on rides together and they can choose a wide variety of virtual landscapes on screen in front of them.

It’s quite evident that the sports industry is on its toes to ensure that the experience is intact for every stakeholder. The global sports industry currently is valued at $1.2 trillion and is increasing with a sudden deviation to the digital experience road. Also, the niche sports technology market was projected to reach $31.1 billion by 2024. It remains to be seen how the technology companies could make up for the current slowdown and meet these numbers after all.

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