After much deliberation, I had to give in and write something that brings my 2 passions in life together – sports & technology. Couldn’t have found a better timing than this, the richest cricket league in the world gets hit by the worst corruption scandal in India, just when a new breed of Sports Management Platforms are being launched to completely innovate and redefine the way “sports” is managed, operated and marketed around the globe.
Sports, by far the simplest form of entertainment for human kind and this planet but unfortunately tainted with signs of corruption, betting and the worse of all – SPOT FIXING and MATCH FIXING, a concept that involves falsification of a result or aspect of the game or match at any given moment. The power and excitement of sports lies in the uncertainty and hope that any team or player regardless of ranking and history has a “CHANCE” to beat the best on any given day, a fact that “my team or player” can win and I as a spectator plays a role in that victory by being loyal. The concept though is destroyed when the result is pre-determined for various reasons, giving the spectators an illusion of uncertainty when the outcome is already decided.
The issue despite being disappointing is not surprising or shocking for it has existed in sports long before you and I were even born. Whether it was the Black Sox Scandal in 1919, the White Sox team including big guns like Eddie Cicotte, Chick Gandil and others allowed the Cincinnati Reds to win the 1919 championships, arguably the greatest competition in the game. OR the Hansie Cronje’s suspension in the game of Cricket in 2000, the South African captain along with a few other South African players admitting to throwing matches against India and England in different series. And of course the latest cricket scandal in IPL (Indian Premier League) Scandal, the league that boasts of competing with the EPL (English Premier Leaguge) in terms of fan following and financial funding and prize money, the list can fill up fairly quickly.
While such issues and instances get even bigger and more common, new laws are being formulated to curb the negative opportunities, put more governance and regulations around sports. But is that the right solution or the only solution? A lot of countries already have legalized betting infrastructure but that has not helped in stopping sports corruption. So what else can be done? Can technology play a role?
Bring Technology & Data Driven Sports Management Platforms
Bring the concept of an end-to-end online sports ecosystem, an online sports management platform that provides a fully digitized OPERATIONAL & ENGAGEMENT MODEL to run sports in any country. These platforms are not completely new but not common either, the recent acquisition of WePlay by TeamSnap is one of the many mergers and acquisitions that have happened in the recent past. There are quite a few marketing platforms for specific sports like XGames, NASCAR but they primarily focus on content, games, fan loyalty and so on but there is a dearth of a complete Sports Management Platforms like 10Wickets,TeamBug and so on.
I have been particularly monitoring the growth of 10Wickets which is a start up from India but targeting global markets and building a platform that is “game agnostic”, it focuses on the game of CRICKET but built to expand to other sports as well. With a group of investors already behind the concept starting in India, the platform could bring a dramatic shift in the way sports is managed and run at the both the grass roots level as well as at the professional stage. It not only provides a well connected network of players but organizers, clubs, sponsors, promoters and any other official associated with the sport. What excites me most though is the availability of DATA at all levels that is bound to play a key role in providing transparency to the overall system. Besides the standard capabilities like:
- Team modeling
- Event planning and management
- Content publishing & marketing
- White label solutions for teams & clubs
It offers a “FREE” platform, an entire sports ecosystem that provides a full-blown social structure (aka facebook & twitter for sports) and has plans to expand to even an operations and management platform to run the game at any level. I got some initial glimpses of the platform during a beta drive from the team.
But how will the Online Sports Management Platforms make a difference?
- 1. Improve Sportsmanship & Professionalism at the Grass Roots Level – The most important element of this platform is proximity to amateurs and not just pro athletes and officials. A common platform available for schools, clubs, un-organized local teams brings a sense of accountability, ownership and the need to follow a well defined process and system.
- 2. Transparent Online System – A fully transparent online system that is driven by processes, tools and most importantly rules that cannot be overridden for personal benefits.
- 3. Equal Access to Authentic Data for All Fans & Officials – Of course with an exception of admin roles but from a fan and player standpoint, they all have access to the platform. The platform provides everyone access to all sorts of “AUTHENTIC” data, from scores, rules, selection decisions and criteria driving these decisions. We can only imagine the power of this “BIG DATA” from all sources of sport action at all levels.
- 4. Run Reports & Analytics on BIG SPORTING DATA – A dream of the past but today’s reality, having the capability to slice and dice the sporting data for both amateur and professional players provides a powerful tool to regular fan. A capability that is only available to statisticians within studios during LIVE games.
- 5. Equal Opportunities to Everyone – A typical corruption issue in sports is favoritism and lack of equal opportunity to all athletes and players but an open system with data, scores and rules EASILY available at all levels can mitigate the “behind the closed door” decision making and make officials more accountable for their actions & decisions. Players will have answers to questions and so will the fans.
- 6. More Streamlined & Structured Selection Process – A process that is driven by processes and tools and eventually could be “automated” to a great extent because it is based on “RESULTS” and “FACTS”. An algorithm that takes into account different factors can come up with recommended teams for colleges, cities, states and countries. How is this different from selecting the top 20 students from a GMAT exam?
- 7. More Opportunities to Hidden Players & Officials – The platform also provides a simpler way to network with officials, apply for sports jobs and get EXPOSURE otherwise only available to a selected few.
- 8. Fan Management & Loyalty Platform – A social network of fans by sport, by team and other categories. One stop shop to buy tickets, earn coupons overtime and a sleuth of other benefits for fans.
- 9. Legalized Betting Platform – Obviously a debatable component of this platform. It is an area that is strongly capable of fighting corruption at the highest level. Legalize betting through an online platform through regularized and governed law and processes. A key challenge in sports that is the primary reason for spot fixing and match fixing.
Am sure this is just the tip of the iceberg, whether corruption get curtailed from sports or not, only time will tell but there is one thing for sure, with the evolution of technology and data, the adoption of such Sports Management Platforms is only a matter of time, it’s a natural outcome which is much needed to protect the very essence of why the concept of “sports” exist.