Technology and sport have a long and storied history together, though perhaps the single most impactful development in that journey was the introduction of video cameras and televisions in the early 20th Century.
As this technology became more widespread and accessible, people were able to watch sports from the comfort of their own home, revolutionizing the way it was consumed by the masses.
Technology still plays a huge part in how people watch and follow sports today. The tech behind televisions has evolved dramatically, with smart TVs and 4K screens now common in many homes.
We can now watch sport in ultra-high quality, providing a viewing experience that was previously unfathomable. Plus, fans are able to watch sport from virtually anywhere now as almost all major sports are available to be streamed on devices like tablets and smartphones.
Many of these sporting events will also remain available online after they’ve aired, meaning people can go back and check them out if they missed them live.
Further still, sport news today is disseminated much faster than it used to be and is practically instant. Thanks to the internet and other advancements in technology, the sport news cycle is endless and accessible from almost anywhere.
In terms of the ways in which technology is impacting the way sport is actually played, there have been many fascinating developments over the years. The most noteworthy technological advancements are those that have been made in the interests of making sport fairer.
Take soccer, for example. Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology is now widely used in major competitions across the world, including the Premier League. After an incident on the pitch, such as a potential foul or handball, the referee can signal for a VAR review.
An assistant referee then takes a close look at footage from various angles of the incident, and gives their verdict. This has transformed the way soccer is played, with many fans claiming it slows down the momentum of games and can be a flawed system.
Others, however, see VAR as a positive change. They claim that it makes the game fairer, as officials are given more opportunity to spot and deal with rule infringements.
In theory, it should also reduce the amount of simulation in matches, as officials can get a clear look at whether contact has been made on a player who goes down, however this does still remain a widespread issue in the sport.
For decades now, tennis has utilised Hawk Eye technology to allow players to challenge the umpire’s call. The technology uses several cameras to track the trajectory of the ball and accurately display where it landed on the court.
This changed the rules of tennis, as players are now granted a certain number of challenges per set. Once they make a challenge, Hawk Eye is used to determine whether the umpire was correct or not.
Cricket uses the same technology to also project the trajectory of the ball when it is bowled. This is used to help determine LBW (leg before wicket) instances, wherein the ball needs to have been on course to hit the stumps before it hits the pad of the batsman in order to be deemed a wicket.
The technology shows where the ball would have travelled were it not stopped, thus providing a ruling that can massively impact the game.
Rugby uses a blend of VAR and Hawk Eye, in which a Television Match Official (TMO) uses Hawk Eye technology to look at an incident from every angle before making a decision.
This sort of tech is also used to track statistics and measurements in games. In tennis, for example, radar guns are used to track the speed of serves and shots, and these figures are recorded on a database.
Likewise, Hawk Eye technology in cricket is used to track things like bowling speed, spin and other interesting metrics that become publicly available. This adds another dimension for fans to find interest in, but also provides more data for athletes and coaches to study in order to improve performance.
In terms of performance, technology has also impacted the equipment athletes can use, whether it’s in training or competition. In athletics, for example, sweat-wicking clothes prevent sweat from being absorbed and instead wick it away from the body.
Developments in technology have impacted the world of sport in huge ways and, as innovation continues, that trend is unlikely to change. While the merits of some forms of technology like VAR are still debated, the use of empirical data and accurate projections is helping sport become fairer and more dynamic.