One in four sports fans surveyed for a new poll would like to see more artificial intelligence (AI) technology used in games to help match officials make faster decisions.
While Video Assistant Referees (VAR) have been criticised in some quarters for interrupting the flow and taking the magic out of football, audiences believe officials are too slow to make decisions and this hampers their enjoyment of sporting events, the poll found.
The research of 2,000 sports fans found one fifth of respondents would also like to see more funds pumped into tech which analyses the performance of players and athletes.
Respondents said they would also like to see more money spent on developing technology that helps coaches scout players and predict what strategies competitors will employ.
“This summer is set to be a sporting spectacular. With the help of technology, it will reach more fans than ever before,” said Sam Seddon, a client executive at IBM RFU and Wimbledon, which commissioned the research. “But as this research shows, technology is not just for spectators. Players and coaches can see the benefits in games and training which ultimately provides a better viewing experience for fans.
The majority of respondents also thought there should be a greater investment in sporting technology at a grassroots level.
Leatherhead Football Club, which plays in the seventh tier of English football, put more money into sporting technology last season.
“While AI might not be a normal team’s changing room secret weapon, Leatherhead FC started using the technology for pre- and post-match analysis, as well as opposition scouting, to coaches and players, alike,” said Joe Pavitt, of IBM. “Over the season, the technology assisted the team to improve its game.
“With the help of AI, Leatherhead ascended 12 spots up the league, rounding off an incredibly successful 2018/19 Season.”
Mr Seddon added: “New digital technologies are clearly a great way of engaging with sports fans this summer and beyond. In 2019, Wimbledon is raising the bar by including enhanced AI-powered automated video highlights using state-of-the-art sound analysis and building an app for tennis-lovers in countries with lower bandwidth so they don’t miss out.”
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