Data analytics and sport: a match made in heaven?

Sectors | Sports   |   
Published March 15, 2014   |   

Big data has seeped into all aspects of life and the sporting world is no exception. Data analytics has been applied to sport as varied as cricket, football, American football, basketball, rugby, Gaelic games, motor racing, tennis and sailing.

Analytics isn’t solely put to use to improve performance, either. For IBM’s work with the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the original objective was to engage with fans and, for this, they created TryTracker.

TryTracker is intended to make rugby accessible to new fans by providing a better understanding of the game, says Alex Phillips, senior managing consultant on business analytics and optimisation at IBM Global Business Services UK and Ireland.

This was also the case in cricket, a sport that demonstrates early adoption of new technology, according to Will Gatehouse, big data lead for Accenture in Europe, Africa and Latin America (EALA).

Gatehouse cites the use of Hawk-Eye and extensive, detailed television coverage to encourage more cricket fans. “All that feedback is giving the fans a deeper insight into how that game is being played,” he said. “Not only are the die-hard people able to the get the insight, it really helps to explain to the armchair-type fans, too.”

The media has also copped on to this necessary fan-service, and both Phillips and Gatehouse have noted a surge in interest coming from various outlets wanting to attract fans to their coverage. “A couple of the media outlets are interested in seeing how we take the numbers and make them more intuitive for the fans, to be able to tell a story. And linked to that is the technology underneath it,” said Gatehouse.

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