Unless you’ve been living in a cave you can’t have failed to notice that the eighth Rugby World Cup tournament kicked off last Friday at the home of rugby, Twickenham Stadium.Since the first contest held in New Zealand and Australia the tournament has changed beyond all recognition. Interest among viewers has grown exponentially – cumulative global viewing figures in 1987 stood at 300 million contrasting hugely to the 4 billion mark in 2007.
With an increase in public interest has come a corresponding increase from advertisers and brands. Equally technology has developed in ways thought are unimaginable, benefitting both players and fans. While fitness apps and the use of live data on players’ on-field performance has changed and improves training regimes, fans of the tournament will also have their experience enhanced in many ways. Hawk-Eye technology, familiar to cricket fans, is being used for the first time in rugby in order to allow match officials and medical staff to make decisions more quickly –this should speed the game up for fans. On a basic level, Transport for London will be showing live scores and updates on its display screens at tube stations for those viewers unable to watch on ITV Player– something that commuters during the London 2012 Olympics will be familiar with.
For those fortunate enough to be going to the games, Blippar-enabled tickets will give smartphone users the ability to scan their tickets and see the exact view of the pitch and stadium from their seats before they get into the ground. Once inside, there are touch screens and radio links that have been enhanced to provide commentary explaining the on-pitch proceedings as well as the usual referee commentary.
The way that technology is enhancing sport in general and rugby in particular may contribute to the tournament being the third largest sporting event on the planet. It’ll be interesting to see what opportunities technology provides for brands, fans and viewers by the time the next tournament kicks off in Japan in 2019. Either way, let’s hope that it’s England defending the championship.