Wednesday 16 December 2020 7:02 am

What the tech happened to sport in 2020?

Comparing the lack of sport with the other crises witnessed this year would be disingenuous.

Still, an awful lot of people had large holes in their lives when live sport went off air in 2020. 

Some entities filled the gap fast, most notably motorsport, in no small part thanks to its embracing of esports.

For anyone resistant to the concept of competitive gaming: sorry guys, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

Following the challenges of the past 12 months, it’s fair to say that technology – in all forms – is now the bedrock of sport.

This is due to two things: the insight tech offers, and its enabling of greater efficiency.

Financially tough times mean that every line on the profit and loss statement is under scrutiny.

It affects all aspects of sport. From athlete performance and fan engagement to broadcast and venues, what now unites all sport organisations is a need to see return on investment.

This is being achieved through speed of service, rationalisation of human resource, cost savings in areas such as travel, or increased revenue through improved insights.

Artificial Intelligence is prevalent everywhere because it is exceptional at unearthing new insights and challenging thinking. (Yes, the banks realised this ages ago but sport has now caught on).

All organisations of any size harvest data on several fronts and AI is making that data more valuable.

With private equity becoming more of a driving force in the sector, you can’t help joining a few dots between the two trends.

Cyber security reared its ugly head many times in 2020, with its highest profile casualty being Manchester United.

As hackers get smarter and data hauls get bigger, the hazard is greater.

While this isn’t sports tech per se, it is a huge consideration of technology’s importance in the business of sport. 

At the start of lockdown, the prediction was that we would each emerge as part of Team Drunk, Team Chunk or Team Hunk.

Fitness technology played an enormous part in getting more of us into the last group and investors in Peloton, Strava and Zwift felt rather pleased.

With Apple launching a digital fitness offering this week, the sector is certainly thriving. 

In terms of athlete performance, from weekend warriors to the elite strata, a surprising lag has been in marrying great apparel and footwear to integrated software.

Given the hit to budgets next year, this is unlikely to change but developments in software are, frankly, mind blowing.

For example, coaches now have the ability to assess bravery.

How many of us have a former team-mate we wouldn’t mind going through that assessment?

Rebecca Hopkins is chief executive of the STA Group.

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