Key takeaways of the 3rd FC Barcelona Sports Technology Symposium

For the third year in a row, FC Barcelona organised the Sports Technology Symposium at the famous Camp Nou stadium. With a clear vision on leadership, the club embraced technology and innovation as never before. As such, the event became part of the Barca Innovation Hub, the club's platform to facilitate networking and cooperation in various domains. The goal is clear: be the best in the world. About 500 people from across the globe were brought together during this 2-day event. A mix of topics were presented by speakers with different backgrounds in soccer, basketball, baseball, Formula 1 and other sports and technological domains.

Based on all presentations and Q&A´s, there were some general conclusions to be made: 

  • Sports analytics is becoming more and more important within the different subdomains of sports. The key will be to keep implementing new technologies as soon as possible in the process in order to create more user-friendly systems that really target the needs of the end-user. In addition, start-ups and companies should explore other business models than just licensing technology to a particular club or organization, since many smaller organizations lack budgets.
  • The million-dollar question however remains: does the use of sports technology actually lead to winning more games? Various opinions exist, but overall, there is the tendency to believe so. A combination of scientific studies and personal experiences should/could confirm these believes in the future.
  • The player or team performance area of sports technology is still not well connected to the digital marketing, smart stadium or fan engagement part. Consequently, there is a lot of potential to learn, safe money and time when silos would be brought closer together. 

A particular area that was touched upon was player tracking and how teams use video, event and positional data to take smarter decisions. Stuart Metcalf of Tottenham Hotspur FC explained how they use this information for physical and tactical training and decision making. Other speakers including David Fombella of Sevilla FC, Daniel Stenz of Shandong Luneng Taishan FC, Vosse de Boode of AFC Ajax, Timmo Hardung of 899 Hoffenheim and Emmanuel Faloba of the Red Bull Akademie gave similar explanations. 

Antonio Gómez and Javier Fernández from FC Barcelona explained how they integrate both scientific research as practical tools within their daily regime of different sports training programs (for football, basketball, handball, futsal and hockey).

In addition, Nicolas Evans of FIFA explained how they try to introduce technology to football by balancing tradition with innovation. Also UEFA (Daniel Marion) was present to explain how they try to leverage technologies for the good of the game.

People from other famous companies and agencies such as Google, Twitter, Samsung, Ferrari and NASA and teams such as the Sacramento Kings, NY Mets, Olympique Lyonnais, Philadelphia 76ers, Chicago Cubs, Portland Trail Blazers and All Blacks talked about other (often marketing) related topics.

In the framework of sports technology, people often refer to Formula 1 as the sport where innovations happen first. Gareth Griffith of SBG for example, showed how data and mathematical modelling are used in tactical decision making during the race.

To conclude, Formula E champion Lucas Di Grassi showed how Audi is using artificial intelligence to develop the world’s first driverless electric racing car.

This article was originally published on and written by Kristof De Mey: