#SportTechXI – It’s coming home, it’s coming home

I was inspired by Tech Nation and their #UKTechXI, so I thought I would add a more on-theme #SportTechXI to the equation, bringing to light what tech would make my starting XI and how this tech can get a healthier, happier and a more active capital!


I am going to use my experience in the physical activity and sport sector, how tech can get more people healthier, happier and more active and recall on my coaching days with Millwall Lionesses and Team GBR Women’s Football to somehow replicate the skills that I wanted in players with the type of companies and technology out there, bear with and read on!

Here we go, I am playing 1-4-3-3. Why is the GK always left out?

GK: What do you want in a modern goalkeeper? Calm, safe pair of hands, confidence and good distribution from hands and feet in particular (basically not Willy Caballero – sorry Willy if you are reading this), we want someone in goal that will do well in what they are expected to do but can also turn defence into attack and link the play. So, I am going for those tech companies that concentrate on providing a great service in one ‘thing’, for example platforms that allow the consumer to book aspirational events, runs, swims and races.
Why is this good for participation? Some of these events can serve as entry points to participation and can feed to more on-going opportunities (turning defence into attack) or keep those already active pushing their motivations and limits (stopping the leak).
Examples: Let’s Do This, Find A Race

RB: Gone are the days where your full-backs stop at the half way line, we need someone here that can contribute at both ends of the pitch, picking up less active Londoners in their early stage of behaviour change, making their activity fun, creating a sense of belonging and continue to drive their motivation! With this in mind, I am going for start-ups on the gamification spectrum! Why? Well… the element of gamifying physical activity could be less daunting for people not contemplating or avoiding being physically active. Gamification can be engaging for these people because of the ‘fun’ element of taking part in the game and are therefore becoming active as a by-product – I know what you are thinking –PokemonGo but with a longer lasting effect.
Examples: Run an Empire, Racefully, ONiGO

CB: I want balance with my centre backs – to get people active, we need a variety of products, services and interventions in the market. So, my first centre back is alike a Pique or Steph Houghton type player. They can bring the ball out, comfortable on the ball and can play through the midfield or hit my wingers or number 9 directly and with purpose. So, I want a tech product that can ‘help people like me find other people like me’ and join them in taking part in sport. This product can also allow teams to find players and players find teams. Building participation, connections, communities online with off-line experiences and providing ease for consumers!
Examples: Find a Player, Deuce, Easy Tennis, Spryt

CB: As above, with the aim of having a balanced back four, I would like my second CB to be organised, a provider of insight, communication and not afraid to get stuck into a challenge, in this sense and with relevance to the sector, my choice here would be tech companies providing monitoring, insight and evaluation solutions to activity providers/commissioners, therefore supporting the understanding of consumer behaviour, quantifying participation levels and showcasing the impact and effectiveness of funding invested and interventions created.
Examples: Upshot, Kinetic Insight, Substance, MyCustomerLens

LB: I want my left back to provide a contribution at both ends but to be adaptable too. We can’t have both full backs racing forward at the same time and leaving the back line exposed, so flexibility is key here. Demi Stokes or Lucas Hernandez do it brilliantly! Tech product wise, how about giving the consumer the ability to live stream physical activity and fitness at their convenience, location and comfort. Whether the tech is facilitated by a business as part of enhancing or engaging their customers or directly being ‘sold’ to the consumer.
Examples: Flex, Fitswarm

CDM: As with leading players in this role within modern football – Kante, Busquets, or the emergence of Walsh in the Lionesses set up – this player at times goes unnoticed but let’s face it, every great team has one of these, they do work that allows those ahead to flourish and provides protection for those behind. These are the aggregators of open opportunity data, tech companies sitting behind the scenes and powering customer facing platforms and campaigns with live opportunities (yes gone are the days of static data, we cannot continue to hope that people go to something and it happens to be on!). This tech in our sector goes unnoticed as perhaps is the case with others but their functionality is key in allowing consumers to navigate public transport, book holidays, find a table within a restaurant or for us, search, find and book that squash court live from source – magic!
Examples: imin

CM: This is my number 10, the De Bruyne to Belgium, the James Rodriguez to Colombia, the Coutinho to Brazil, if possession is controlled and the ball control goes through the midfield third, this player has the ability to create the right supply to my front line, join in attack and at times go beyond my number 9 with forward runs. For me, I want my 10 to be the Expedia and Hotels.com to sport. Our sector is now all-in on open data via the OpenActive initiative, opportunity data which can give the consumer the ability to search, find and book physical activity live from source, but also data that can support those local services prescribing sport or activity opportunities that can be used to cater for the demand created by campaigns such as This Girl Can.
Examples: Get Active, Get Inspired

CM: I am completing my engine room with another key component needed in order to make open data work for the sector, if the base of my midfield is aggregating and providing data (if you are looking to use open data, you can always go direct to the source, for correctness sake), my 10 is showcasing and using data and looking to do great things for the consumer then the missing link is the booking systems and tools that create activity opportunities as open data. Those products that allow community clubs, leisure operators, governing bodies of sport and individual instructors and coaches to manage their sessions, bookings and payment transactions. I want a willing runner here, a grafter and box to box midfielder – please enter my Rakitic to Croatia!
Examples: Open Sessions, Makesweat, Played, MyLocalPitch

RW: So far, we have had products operating on SaaS, marketplaces, booking systems, gamification and wearables plus some to come on AR/VR, so we need to bring something different to the team and range of products in the market to cater for consumers – less active Londoners, lapsed consumers or active people, with this in mind I want my number 7 to be automating and personalising health, fitness and wellbeing through use of AI. London was recently named Artificial Intelligence (AI) capital of Europe, home to 758 AI companies – double the total of Paris and Berlin combined, the physical activity and sport sector needs to benefit from this and we should embrace tech companies using this technology (and all others too) to get people healthier, happier and more active!.
Examples: Baby2Body, TrainAsONE, iPrescribe Exercise

LW: I was fortunate enough to be part of the technical team for the GBR Women’s Football Team that won gold at the World University Games in Kazan in 2013 (I know, it was 5 years ago but I will never get tired of this one), back then, I saw a younger Fran Kirby (still at Reading at the time) coming of age! Not only did Fran win best player of the tournament and top goal scorer in the process scoring this beaut in the final vs Mexico, but she grew in confidence as the tournament went on and did magical things on the pitch. Back to SportTech, well this has to be a VR product, whether it is transporting people doing yoga in a studio to a beach in Hawaii, doing indoor rowing in the Artic or using this tech to support people with rehabbing and speed up their recovery time – if the participation sector works closer with those building on this tech, the opportunities can be revolutionising!
Examples: Immersive Rehab, Virtual Reality Fitness

CF: Harry Kane displayed against Tunisia and Panama the knack that makes a great No.9, being in the right place at the right time, 5 goals later, England are on their way to win the World Cup! But I also want my number 9 to stretch the play with runs in behind the opposition back 4 and at the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 Jodie Taylor, on route to winning the golden boot, did this amazingly well. The point here is that strikers at times get all the glory but football is a team effort, just like getting 1,000,000 more Londoners happier, healthier and more active so I want my 9 to be a rewarder / giver! People go out for a walk, run, cycle, play walking football or netball, well let’s reward them with things that matter to them and can continue to motivate them.
Examples: Sweatcoin, Sport Heroes

Manager: Deputy Mayor of London for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement – Matthew Ryder. Not only he leads from the front by getting around London on his bike but he also likes to talk SportTech.

Well, I hope you have enjoyed that as much as I did in writing it! There are fantatstic opportunities emerging in SportTech and one of these is the Civic Innovation Challenge. If you’ve got the solution for one of the two sports challenges, you still have time to enter. The winning start-ups will receive £15,000 to test their product with Hackney Council and Ealing Council.

Alex Zurita

London Sport, Specialist Advisor for Technology for Participation
Follow Sport Tech Hub
Share this article via:
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on facebook