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When tech made champions: five digital innovations in sport

By: Lydia Bird

What makes a champion? In sport, the line between winning and losing can be miniscule. Raw talent, endless training and a strong strategy are all key ingredients for edging the competition. In recent years, however, technology has also had a major impact – both on and off the pitch.

Here is our run down of the digital innovations that have transformed the way the world’s best sportspeople train, play and win.

Fitness trackers are redefining health

Health trackers have come a long way from the days of clipping a pedometer to a belt. Nowadays, it seems every other wrist has a high-tech watch wrapped around it. For elite athletes, this has been revolutionary.

Wearable tech can record endless streams of data, empowering medical professionals to formulate completely bespoke training programmes. This not only helps with injury management, it can prevent them from occurring in the first place.

For some, such as endurance athletes, fitness trackers can even save lives by measuring heart rate, hydration levels and temperatures. Combined, these benefits have allowed sportspeople to push themselves to new heights.

Analysing every moment with performance data analysis

Even the most ardent coach would struggle to notice and recall every essential moment during a game or training session. But with the evolution of performance data analysis technology, video footage, hardware like fitness trackers, and software can combine to build a rich and easy-to-interpret data set, ideal for improving strategy.

Consider Leicester City Football Club’s use of performance analysis technology during their historic Premier League-winning year. Players wore devices to collect ‘data relating to acceleration, direction, position and, crucially, the impact of collisions’, which could then be analysed using software. With this level of insight, champions can emerge where they are least expected.

Hawk-eye technology vs. sharp-eyed referees

Sometimes, a few millimetres can be the difference between victory and failure. When those moments occur, most athletes would argue the human eye can rarely be trusted to make a judgment. Just ask John McEnroe, who spawned comedy sketches and even the title of his own autobiography when he famously shouted ‘You cannot be serious!’ during a Wimbledon line call dispute.

Fortunately, technology has stepped up in recent years, helping referees to make crucial decisions in those hard-to-call moments. Hawk-eye – popularly used in sports such as tennis and cricket – is a great example of this.

Using high-end cameras above the field of play, Hawk-eye analyses the flight and trajectory of a ball to produce error-free decisions. Hawk-eye is highly accurate and works in real time, meaning it has had a significant impact on a number of historic sporting moments.

Game-deciding moments with VAR

There were plenty of memorable moments in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Not least the introduction of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology, which allows goals, decisions and mistaken identity issues to be reviewed when a ‘clear and obvious error’ had been made.

The World Cup was the first competition to use VAR in full, with 335 incidents checked throughout the tournament. It is no coincidence that the 2018 Cup was the cleanest tournament in over twenty years: David Elleray, technical director of the International Football Associate Board (IFAB), said this was likely due to a heightened sense of pressure on players to behave themselves.

VAR had a direct impact on some key ‘win-lose’ moments. Title holders in Germany found themselves knocked out when a VAR review of an allegedly ‘offside’ stoppage-time goal from South Korea was reviewed.

Video content: winning new fans

From the training room to the pitch, technology has made the difference between winning and losing in any number of sports. However, it is not all about player performance or referee decision making. Content assets such as footage can also play a key role in sporting success.

Digital content technology has revolutionised the way teams and federations are able to store and share their recordings of key moments, helping them to win new fans, capitalise on their extensive assets, or even review old footage for training purposes. With archive digitalisation, efficient cataloguing, powerful insight capabilities and a multitude of other features, modern video technology can put content to work, helping sporting groups to drive success as a result.

Make the most of the technology available

Champions will always rely on grit and talent to make history. But with so much technology on offer to help athletes and sporting organisations thrive, it is time to start taking advantage of all the tools available.

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