Expert opinions, TECHNOLOGY

Digital tools in sport: Forecasts, expectations and reality

With the growing universal penetration of digital technology, when the Russian economy and society have largely gone digital, Russian sports are somewhat lagging behind in this regard, for both objective and subjective reasons. Let’s try to figure out what is happening in the sports industry in Russia today when it comes to digital transformation. In any case, one must bear in mind that sport is only part of society, although a very important one.

Russian Interactive Football Championships. Courtesy of Vladimir Astapkovich / RIA Novosti

1. The demand for digital tools in sports is only taking shape, and this holds true for both professional sports and leisure-time physical activity. Leading professional sport clubs and leagues have by now implemented various IT services, databases and CRM systems, which significantly improve their interaction with spectators and fans.

However, smaller clubs also need digital accounting for their sports infrastructure and competitions. This is extremely important for amateur athletes who regularly practice their sport for the sake of fitness and for health benefits. The demand for digital tools here is bound to grow with every year because as many as 70% of the Russian population are expected to regularly participate in sports by 2030. These people will need to keep track of where and when they can practice the sport they chose to do. A digital transformation of the sports management system is the only way to provide clear answers to their questions.

2. The Physical Fitness and Sport Development Strategy until 2030 specifies two very important priorities of digitalization:

  • Adopting digital technologies for managing sport infrastructure, to ensure comprehensive approach to best availability, effectiveness, safety and management of sport facilities;
  • Stimulating engagement in sports by creating and promoting digital services, mobile apps, social networks and customer relations systems.

3. It is the first time that the issue of customer-oriented service has become so extremely important in the sport industry. The government seeks maximum engagement of the population in sports so specific and clear answers to certain questions are necessary:

  • How to find a convenient and quality club for a specific sport (preferably, within walking distance)?
  • What conditions can this club offer, from payment terms to quality and customer service?
  • What sport facilities are available when it comes to opening hours and convenient booking?
  • What competitions are available and how to enter?

The list of questions may go on. Essentially, we need an accessible and convenient marketplace for sport facilities, with answers to our questions and various options. This functionality is not possible without digital transformation of the sport management system.

4. In the age of digitalization, new sports emerge because of digital revolution, becoming a fact of life. Cybersports have been on the rise for about ten years. We also have competitive programming. We often hear about phygital sports. Soon we may witness drone and quadcopter racing. The world is changing in a sweeping way, and it is important for sports to maintain this digital pace and rhythm.

5. Phygital sports are among the digital sports that are being actively developed and promoted. Essentially, it is a type of multiathlon where physical activity and digital sport are equally important. Considering the general computerization and IT penetration, it is extremely important for the state to develop this type of sport. It is necessary to find a good balance between digital sports and a healthy lifestyle that relies upon physical activity. Phygital sport is a hybrid and synergy that are so relevant today in the era of total digitalization.

6. For this new sport to develop successfully, it is important to organize various events of different levels and scales. One event of this kind is Games of the Future, planned for 2024, that will demonstrate a completely new sport product, a synergy of conventional entertaining sports and digital activity. The games consisting of 16 unparalleled high-tech events will take place in Kazan.

These are the forecasts, expectations and reality of sports in the era of complete IT penetration and digitalization.

By Vladimir Lednev, Ph.D. (Economics), Professor, Vice President of the Synergy Moscow University of Finance and Industry, Academic Supervisor of the Department of Sport Industry and Deputy Head of Sport Management.

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