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New Business Director Will Rolt talks data tech and its impact on sports

The impact of technology on sport, such as Hawk Eye and Snicko, may have enhanced the viewing experience for fans and viewers but judging by this week’s woeful performance by England in Adelaide it hasn’t necessarily translated into an improvement of the involved team’s capabilities.

Date capture in sport is nothing new – it was pioneered in the 1950’s by a former RAF officer who created a system that notated players’ moves in football matches. He used the technology of the time – a pad of paper and a pencil – to record trends in the game and the impact of his data is credited with encouraging the fondness for the long-ball game among football managers.

In the 1990’s, the extensive use of cameras in football, rugby and other professional clubs allowed for a more sophisticated and less laborious form of post-match analysis and also for rivals to compare competitive performance.

More recently still, clubs have married up data from digital cameras and GPS satellites to sensors worn in the sportsperson’s clothing to provide real-time monitoring and also allow for a newer and more bespoke way of coaching. The benefits for fans is clear – it enables them not just to see how well their team is performing but also to pick out individual performances during a game (assuming that is, they can get a wifi signal, which is far from guaranteed as any visitor to Twickenham will testify).

Whether the roll out of even newer technologies, such as Virtual Reality that enables players to practise against rival teams ahead of a big game, will have an impact on their performance, we’ll have to wait and see… but let’s hope the RFU has invested more time in exploring the impact of new technology on player performance than the ECB seems to have done.