Why Sport Needs To Embrace Technology

Sports of all kinds have a mixed relationship with new technology – any technology. Anything that smacks of ‘change’ in just about any sporting arena, bar F1, is likely to have people of a certain age banging their tea cups and muttering darkly about tradition, history and ‘the good of the game’.

Whether it is a matter of goal-line technology, the size of a tennis bat or the length of an artificial leg, there will always be someone moaning the death of sport as we know it (Lewis Hamilton and co aside). Given the rise of digital games over the past decade, those old-timers are not only failing to move with the times, they’re clearly so far behind them they probably don’t even know what day it was this time last week. It is no news that technology is a giant part of our lives and influence a lot of things in the modern world. Goal line technology can show us if a goal is legitimate, or if a tennis ball is within the lines on the court. These types of technology help to decipher whether points are gained or lost, and cut out any human error.

Loughborough University have a Sports Technology Institute for Undergraduates and Postgraduates. Their aim is to impact sport through global, social and engineering research. The institute houses the Sports Technology Research Group, one of the largest groups of its kind in the UK testing and manufacturing sporting goods. They research shoes and clothing that can improve sport ability, the institute also boasts state of the art equipment and test rigs to trials new sports technologies and whether they could be put to the test in the field. They intend to create and release new technology every year.

The FIFA Interactive World Cup is now a recognised sporting event; all around the world e-gaming competitions fill stadiums and offer prize money that ranks with traditional multi-million dollar sports like golf and tennis, and virtual, digital races are now something that you will see in just about every betting shop and every betting page you visit. Never mind the expensive, messy, unreliable and weather affected business of actually racing real live participants, modern punters are just as happy it seems backing virtual equine and canine competitors.

Whether the old timers like it or not, sport is moving wholesale into the digital age. It may not always have quite the same sweaty character as it did back in the day, but the urge to compete is very much alive and kicking right across cyberspace. If sport is fundamentally about competition, it really doesn’t matter what the scenery or the setting for a contest might be. If the key ingredient is one competitor being better than the next, what kit they play with makes no odds.
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Wonky white lines, wooden tennis rackets were the same for both teams back in ‘the good old days’, and the same equality is what marks the point of departure for all sport. The technology is never the issue – the essence of sport, of all competition and all the associated betting and journalistic activity that go hand in glove with them, is that kernel of human competition.

There have always been people who didn’t like change. But, as in sport so in life. As often as not those die-hard conservatives are overtaken, outgunned and out-funned by more clear-sighted players who aren’t tied up in their own nostalgia and who can see that whatever else new tech does, it makes it possible to compete better, more easily, more conveniently, faster, cheaper and more reliably than ever before.