Tackling sporting excellence with technology

May 08, 2015 18:43
Technology can help improve the game for rugby players as well as fans. Photo: hkrugby.com

In March, more than 120,000 fans swarmed the stands at the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, some flaunting colourful costumes to support their favorite teams.

And with a whopping 240.2 percent mobile subscriber penetration rate in Hong Kong, rugby fans found that there are many ways to express their passion toward the sport, such as posting their favorite pictures taken at the pit and sharing them on social networks as the matches unfold.

I went to watch the matches with BT customers, partners and staff.

But when I took off my suit, I was just one of the avid fans who enjoyed the game as much as everyone else did.

I’m passionate about rugby, and I enjoy it immensely.

Hong Kong has come a long way, not only in building itself up as a world-class venue for international rugby competition but also in elevating sports excellence in the local community.

As a member of the board and director of coaching of the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, I’m glad to tell you that the standard of coaching and play in rugby across minis, youth, schools, tertiary, clubs and the national teams has improved immensely in recent years, and this bodes well for the future.

It will take more than shouting and sweating – we should use everything we can to drive development and boost performance, including technology.

It’s amazing how much technology has helped to change the game over the years, from the size and shape of the ball (to allow a longer and more accurate pass or kick), the design of the jerseys (to help with speed and grip), to GPS-enabled team strips (to enable more accurate player analysis) and video replays (to allow for more accurate decisions on key moments).

The pace of change has been as thundering as the action on the pitch.

How we view every captured sporting moment and deliver the content to viewers is changing, too.

In Britain, referees are fitted with microphones so that spectators at the ground can tune in to the audio and listen in to the referee in the midst of the action.

Improved camera angles and cameras fitted to the referee’s shirts give us the action from a perspective that we have never had the privilege of before.

I’d like to share the experience of Inoke Afeaki, a former Tongan international rugby player who recently spoke at a BT event about how technology was affecting today’s game.

Inoke works with the many talented players of the Singapore national team.

Over the past 12 years and playing on three rugby World Cup-winning teams, he has seen an astounding amount of change in technology.

It’s now pervasive and flexible and allows for a fully immersive and interactive experience both online and offline.

Technology allows his team to connect with people all over the world and to share information.

It improves their ability to study the way they do things.

For example, video analysis of each match allows people off-field to gather insights, improving strategy and tactics.

It can then be delivered to the coaches and players for a better match result.

Essentially, technology helps us tap into the team’s full potential.

With advanced communication solutions available in the Hong Kong market, coaches and players separated in different locations can also discuss their strategies in crystal-clear voices, as if they are located in the same room.

These developments, among many more, are changing the way we coach, manage teams and develop players.

Technology has helped improve the game for players and viewers -- making it faster, better, fairer and more entertaining, and it’s exciting to imagine what changes the next few years hold in store.

Given Hong Kong’s sophisticated network infrastructure – both wired and wireless – and the keen adoption of technology by the local people, I see no reason why we can’t apply some of these strategies when training the Hong Kong team.

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President of BT Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa