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Digital and Technology Disruption

Digital and Technology Disruption

Panel Members: Michael Cole, Chief Technology Officer – European Tour Group; Bill Jinks, Technology Director AELTC/Wimbledon Championships; Vinayak Shrivastav, Chief Executive Officer – Magnifi; Sanjeev Katwa, Technology Director –
Tottenham Hotspur Football Club

How do you harness cutting edge technology to bring traditional events like the Wimbledon tennis tournament, professional golf or professional football to a modern audience, and what will be the next steps? The panelists outlined the enormous changes taking place now, and in the future. Michael Cole said: “Technology is having a huge disruption. Five years ago the smartphone was frowned on at golf tournaments. Now, this is the only device I want people to bring. This is your cash, this is your ticket, this is your everything.”

Sanjeev Katwa believes Tottenham Hotspur have been pace-setters in this field: “ I think we disrupted things early on. When we opened up the new stadium. In April 2019, we thought the mobile device was the only thing you needed. Cashless stadium, wifi, digital ticketing. We helped to set the bar quite high. Others are now following.” He continued, “Now it is about taking better decisions about how we operate in our venue. We know queue times, dwell times, how much beer is sold, how many rocket salads are left at the end.”

Bill Jinks outlined his major concern: “We have to put new tech on a 101 year old stadium, Centre Court. The disruption is all about data. The players are expecting more. We now have ball-tracking for line calling, for example. The demands are coming from all sides, players, fans, partners. How do you package all that up and it still looks like Wimbledon?”

Cole’s issues were different: “We don’t have a stadium! We have to construct that temporary stadium week in, week out. Our biggest challenge is how we can get that consistency of delivery across all our territories and continents as technology plays a bigger and bigger role in sport itself. We are 100% cloud-based.” And for sports fans who can’t get to the stadium or venue for the event, the changes are likely to be even more dramatic. Shrivastav said: “We are trying to cater for the people who can’t go to the stadium. We are creating personalised highlights for specific players. Personalisation is important for how you consume sport digitally. I can do that using AI. We used to enjoy watching five minute highlights…now it’s come down to 20 seconds.”

The developments in technology are likely to lead to a whole new way for sports fans to watch sport, according to Shrivastav “Virtually, actually sitting in a seat, consuming a match as a live experience. They want to feel the crowd noise. How much of the live sports is going to be consumed virtually, when you don’t really need to be in the stadium for the live experience.” And for Katwa and Tottenham: “The virtual stadium is interesting. We have to look at the demographic of our fans. They consume content in a different way. Having the same content shown in different ways. TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and everything else. I’m interested in blockchain and football analytics.” Shrivastav: “The way AI has changed is about engagement. Short video content, personalised content. AI has to be there to create volumes. Can I get my content quickly, when I want it?”

Cole also looked ahead: “Automation is going to be huge. In broadcasting-we own European Tour Productions. At each golf event there are 15 production trucks, 200-400 personnel, 100 cameras on the course.. How can we do more remote production? Sending 200-400 people around the world is not good for us, for them, or the planet. Our graphics are already produced in New Zealand”.

Cole added, “We want the Ryder Cup to be pioneering for technology.”And there are developments away from the live sporting action, Jinks said :”We looked at digital collectibles. Digital artworks that were unique. There is now a secondary market for those   out there. What is sustainable in that space? We have our eyes peeled for the next opportunity in that space.”