Technology in Sports, a boon or bane?
By Rey Sumaru, General Manager IT & Innovation, Melbourne Cricket Club
Founded in 1838 the MCC (Melbourne Cricket Club) has more than 110,000 members and a waiting list of over 230,000, making it the biggest sporting club membership within Australia.
The MCG has established a marvellous history that compares favourably with any other in the world, hosting plenty of international cricket including the first-ever Test and the 1992 World Cup final, countless VFL/AFL Grand Finals, and the 1956 Olympic Games.Apart from its sporting events, the MCG has also witnessed many blockbuster music concerts, and even Pope John Paul II held a mass there when he visited Melbourne in 1986. In this interview, Rey shares his insight on sports industry and how MCC has established itself over the years.
1. Serving as the General Manager for IT and Innovation in a sports organization for half a decade must have acquainted you with numerous challenges in the industry. Can you throw some light on some thevarious obstacles that have encouraged the use of technology in the sports industry today?
In my role as the General Manager of IT & Innovation at the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC), I would not say they are obstacles but, new challenges as to the way Fans, Stakeholders and Teams, expectations have changed in regards to being engaged or connected at all times.
Some of the key drivers for my organisation to adopt or use technology to address the expectations of our customers.
• With the emergence of Digital & Social Media, the Fan expectations of being connected at all times and the shift in demographics (Gen Y) who are time poor and reliant on technology, has prompted Organisation such as the MCC to adopt emerging technology to meet the demand.
• From an operational perspective, the need to utilise Data Analytics, to make timely decisions based on customer insights has allowed the MCC to be more nimble and efficient
• Security Risks - both, Cyber and Physical security has prompted the MCC to use the best technology available, to ensure a safe and secure environment for our customers.
2. What are the present technologies that hold themost value for the sports industry today?
• High Density Wi-Fi and Distributed Antenna Solutions for Stadium wide connectivity, helps us engage more effectively with our patrons / stakeholders.
• Artificial Intelligence (AI)– assists with customising/ personalising interaction with patrons and players. Fans and teams these days expect personalised interactions. Technologies such as AI, allow us to meet this requirement.
The dependency and union between sports and technology will merge and be seamlessly integrated
• Virtual Reality / Augmented Reality (VR / AR) – helps us provide a unique experience, a sense of being involved, part of the team / action.
• How much significance do purpose-built, tailor-made solutions hold for any sports business over the general and traditional solutions available in the current market?
• Purpose built solutions definitely provides the MCC with an edge over competitors. Currently a lot of sports is shown Live on TV or streaming to devices, so we as Stadiums need to provide a unique Stadium experience that enables the fans to interact and have access to instant replays / referees, coaches communication, wearables, etc, which cannot be replicated at home.
3. What do you think are the key essentialities that sports organizations look to have in their solution partners? More than addressing the silos currently plaguing the organization, how important is it to have a sustainable solution that can address the future necessities of organizations?
We look to work with partners that add value to our business and have;• Business and Market awareness – partners who are Innovative, and has integrity and proven solutions in the market place.
• Understands our Strategy and our Environment (Stadium / Sports) and has a Shared Vision.
• Quick to respond to emerging technology and customer expectations / demands
4. From your invaluable experience, a decade or so down the line, what can be the factors that would present the most challenges to the sports industry? What can be the future consequences of adopting a full digital norm for any sports organization?
I think there will be a greater expectations from our customers (fans & teams) for personalised, accurate and timely information. By adopting a full Digital Strategy, organisations can further augment the experience by;
• Using Big Data to enhance the Fan experience, based on Customer Insights, and trend analysis, which will lead to exceptional customer service.
• Sensory Strategy – elevate the sensory (feel, sight & sound) experience of the fans, provide a Stadium experience that cannot be replicated at home.• We also need to ensure that we get the balance right between using technology and traditional customer service
5. Where does the future of the union between sports and technology lie? What are the technologies that you believe can completely transform and revolutionize the industry in upcoming years? Wearables, player Tracking, Fan movement / preferences
The dependency and union between sports and technology will merge and be seamlessly integrated. Listed below are some emerging technologies that I see transforming our industry;
• Connected Clothing and Wearables, both for players and fans, which will enable greater interaction between the players on the field and the fans in the stadium.
• Using NFC, RFID to measure movement, speed, acceleration, location, of players which will assist teams with management of players health and injury.
• Utilising VR / AR to connect with fans and bring them closer to the action, being made to feel part of the team.
• Use of Biometrics and microchip ticketing for ease of access to sports stadiums and ensuring the fans safety.
• Cashless transactions, will enhance speed of service
• Enhancing, IoT related technologies, to personalise the fan experience.