Did you attend the rugby, football or any sporting event this weekend? And when you were there, how much time did you spend on your phone? After attending a Celtic football match, my brother was frustrated about the number of fans spending more time glued to their smart phones instead of actually watching the match.
The reality is that technology continues to disrupt our world and the sports sector is no exception. Digital advances mean that technology is transforming the fan experience like never before. Today, it is not just about watching a game. Fans want to be able to interact with it, socialise with fellow fans and place bets. All of this can happen in an online environment, thanks to our smart phones and the sports industry is certainly capitalising on this.
One of the most common examples of the sports industry using technology is through offering in-stadium Wi-Fi. This is convenient for fans. It allows them to share their sporting experiences on social media, stream matches and use real-time online applications (such as in-stadium betting). We have even seen Snapchat providing football fans with geo –specific filters and Facebook being used to stream key sporting moments including Tom Brady’s record-breaking performance at the Super Bowl.
Offering fast and reliable Wi-Fi is only the beginning. Sports clubs in the US go even further. Many are at the forefront of investing in and using technology to engage and entertain supporters. Some American sports clubs (such as the New England Patriots) offer tailored digital experiences and apps which allow individuals to find parking spots, watch instant replay videos and even order food and drinks to be delivered to their seats. This use of data and technology is only set to increase. Deloitte recently flagged that a major theme on the horizon was the use of augmented and virtual reality in sports venues.
While this changing landscape offers exciting opportunities for the sports industry and fans alike, it also poses some threats. As well as overcoming the technical and logistical obstacles required to offer these perks, there are also legal concerns. Data protection and cyber crime are fundamental considerations.
Sports clubs and associations (and their tech providers) will have access to more data than ever before. Although, the use of “big data” can transform businesses and give them invaluable insight to analyse and market in a personalised way, this must be balanced with the looming General Data Protection Regulation. As well as having watertight data protection policies and procedures, clubs will have to ensure they also have robust contractual terms with processors and use clear notification and consent mechanisms with individuals.
Tied in with this is the need to keep data secure. Cyber criminals are now commonplace in our society and digital innovation will make the sports industry a target. Like any organisation, clubs need to be proactive rather than reactive to cyber crime attacks. The increased fines and sanctions under the GDPR are a concern for data controllers and processors alike.
Even with these challenges, there is no doubt that this is an exciting time of change for the sports sector New technology and infrastructure is likely give clubs the upper hand, improve the fan experience and keep more supporters coming back. I suspect even my brother would be won over (and perhaps even cope with Celtic losing) if he had the luxury of having food brought to him without having to leave his seat.