How Tech Is Changing The Way We Watch And Bet on Sports
Sports is an area with vast potential for tech applications, and in the past couple of years it has taken off like never before. Some purists may resist the advancement of technology into sports, while others argue that it has improved fairness for players and enhanced the experience for spectators. Whichever view you take, it’s sure that sports and technology will continue to align closely. Here are some of the most significant ways in which tech is transforming sports for both players and fans.
Goal-Line Technology And Other Sensor Tools
The watershed moment for goal-line technology in European football came in 2010, during the World Cup in South Africa. Against the background hum of the vuvuzelas, Frank Lampard scored what should have been an equaliser against Germany. The linesman ruled that the ball had not crossed the line, and England went on to lose the match 4-1. This was the moment that FIFA boss Sepp Blatter had a change of heart about goal-line technology (GLT) and started advocating for its use.
The tech was already there, having been developed from cricket’s sophisticated Hawk-Eye sensor analysis system. Following the FIFA ruling, GLT was introduced to the English Premier League in 2013, and has proven itself to be an effective and popular tool. Hawk-Eye (cleverly named after its creator, Professor Paul Hawkins) is also a vital component of international tennis and cricket, as well as being deployed for the Olympic Games.
5G To Boost Mobile Sports Betting
Watching and betting on sports go hand in hand, and sports betting accounts for round 30-40% of the global gambling market. In the USA, it’s reported that around 50% of the population have placed at least one bet on a sporting event in their lifetime.
Watching sports is a social activity, so when mobile betting came along it opened the door for punters who’d rather be at a bar with their friends than watching at home. It also allowed for in-game betting, and it’s thought that around 70% of UK sports bets are placed after the game has started.
This type of betting hasn’t taken off in the same way in the USA, but with 5G that may be about to change. American sports like baseball are perfect for in-game betting, with so many individual outcomes throughout the game – imagine being able to bet on every pitch. 5G will give the speed and responsiveness needed for such lightning fast decisions, and it may also give fans the means to watch the game from their device at the same time. You can read more here about new betting sites offering the latest in-game betting options.
5G may still be a way off in terms of widespread coverage, and there is a lot of uncertainty over when it will be available to all. Mobile battery life is also a limiting factor for such power-draining activities as watching sports matches. Even so, the vision is there, and we can be fairly confident that it will be realised before too long.
Wearable Tracking Technology
This is the new frontier of sports-related tech; wearable devices to monitor and track player performance through speed, performance, and biometric measurements. In conjunction with key performance indicators (KPIs), such tech can be used to mould and customise training for individual athletes, identifying areas where they can improve and optimising their performance.
Most of us should be familiar with this type of wearable tech, since individual fitness trackers became popular with those wishing to monitor and improve their health through exercise. The applications for professional athletes go beyond training, and in the future they may be made available to spectators during gameplay. This has the potential to be included in sports wagering too – for example, fans could bet on which player will be the fastest on the pitch.
Concerns have been raised from some quarters over the use of tracking and monitoring tech, in particular in UK rugby union. Critics claim that overuse can end up having detrimental effects, with players focusing too hard on satisfying prescribed KPIs rather than on the outcome of a game. Players have also complained for the invasive nature of the tech, saying that constant monitoring makes them less likely to take risks on the pitch, and even holds them liable to financial penalties if they fail to meet certain targets.
AI To Regulate Betting Habits
Speaking of sports betting, some of the new technology being deployed is designed to tackle the 1.8% of UK gamblers who have been identified as being medium to high risk for problem gambling.
Betting shops across the UK have now been fitted AI-assisted software that can detect patterns of problematic behaviour and trigger a temporary shutdown. The tech is designed to recognise patterns such as playing games in rapid succession and chasing losses.
The system enforces a thirty second lockdown when such behaviour is detected, with messages about safe gambling displayed on the screen. Staff are also alerted, who can then approach the player to discuss any issues they might be having.
Campaigners have called the measures a step in the right direction, while questioning the efficacy of such a short break. A similar project in Norway found that even a break of ninety seconds was insufficient in curbing problematic behaviour.
The Future Of Sports Tech
Looking to the future, it seems that technologies that focus on fan engagement will be the biggest growth area in the next twelve months and beyond. Sports betting comes under this umbrella, but it also includes areas such as live streaming platforms and the brave new world of esports, which has been gradually gaining credibility as a sport in its own right.
Finally, technology is being used to enhance the spectator experience when visiting sporting venues. Tottenham Hotspur Football Club opened its new state-of-the-art North London stadium in 2019, offering football fans a high-tech venue with cashless transactions, full WiFi coverage and a dedicated app to enhance the visitor experience.