Sports Ticker #107: football sustainability, AI team selection and new F1 tech – a speed read of commercial updates from the sports world

Published on 22 May 2024

In a fortnight which saw Manchester City bag its fourth consecutive Premier League victory, Brazil announced as the host of the 2027 Women's World Cup and Will Smith purchase his own electric powerboat team, we bring you updates on sustainability in football, AI in cricket, and bees in baseball.

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Sport Positive's support? Positive

UK-based sports sustainability organisation, Sport Positive, has published its Environmental Sustainability Report, its fifth annual update which focuses on the environmental performance of all 20 Premier League clubs. It found that they have "markedly improved", mainly driven by voluntary action. To give a flavour of what clubs have been doing in this space, the report found activity such as: clean energy generation at stadiums; sustainable transport policies; net zero targets; external sustainability accreditation; and water reuse effects at training grounds. 8 clubs now have a specific brand identity for their environmental efforts and 16 have sustainability webpages, though those that choose to publicly promote their sustainability progress should ensure that any green claims are accurate, transparent and can be backed up. This is particularly important given regulatory scrutiny in the area. The founder of Sport Positive, Claire Poole, commented "times have changed", pointing out that club videos now include recycling, driving electric vehicles and eating plant-based food.

Billie Jean King Cup and Microsoft Team(s) up

The premier international team competition in women's tennis, the Billie Jean King Cup, has renewed its partnership with Microsoft as its Global Technology and Innovation Partner for 2024-26. The partnership started in 2020, when the tennis competition rebranded from the Fed Cup in honour of Billie Jean King, the most successful player in the tournament's history. Since then, Microsoft has provided the players with a dashboard through which a wealth of data is made available, including player movement, ball, shot and scoring data. Teams can review real-time match insights on Microsoft Surface tablets, enhancing opportunities for match and performance analysis. The future of the partnership will focus on developing this tech solution, by improving the data analysis functionality based on player and coach feedback. AI will also be integrated into the platform, providing in-game synopses of the data and AI-generated insights. Monica Robbins, Director of Sports Partnerships at Microsoft, said "In the spirit of the competition and the legacy of the Billie Jean King Cup we look forward to continuing to innovate and help teams find their competitive edge".

Formula 1 app-celerates

Formula 1 has announced its partnership with Globant, an international IT and software development company. Globant will use its digital expertise to redesign and enhance the pit wall system, which provides key in-race data to racing teams. Another one of the key improvements planned by Globant is enhancing fans' experience at the tracks, which will include the development of a race day app to link racegoers with the circuit, teams and key partners. The app is also intended to function as an interactive platform for racegoers to share their race day experiences, with Globant's goals including creating tailored moments for fans on the big days in Formula 1 racing. Jonny Haworth, Director of Commercial Partnership at Formula 1, said "F1 has always been at the forefront of innovation and this partnership will allow us to use the latest technology to give fans the once-in-a-life time experience they deserve." Globant's branding will be displayed on the physical trackside at select events as part of the deal.

Liverpool and AXA play keepie uppie

Liverpool FC and its official global training partner, AXA, have agreed to a five-year partnership extension until at least 2029. The partnership has been focused on AXA's ownership of naming rights and other brand development opportunities, with AXA featured on all Liverpool training kits, as well as in the names of Liverpool's AXA Training Centre and AXA Melwood Training Centre. The latter facility is the state-of-the-art home of LFC Women and is stated to embody AXA's dedication to supporting women in sports, by providing a secure and empowering space for the LFC Women's team and girls' academy to thrive. Ben Latty, Commercial Director at LFC, commented "Partnering with global brands and developing long-term, meaningful relationships is a vital part of our commercial strategy", while Virginie Berçot, AXA Global Brand Director said "Becoming the sole and exclusive global training partner of the club is a significant milestone for us, reaffirming our strategy of a fruitful and purposeful collaboration around our brand priorities."

AI in cricket, just the ticket

The England Women's cricket head coach, Jon Lewis, has revealed how he has made use of AI as a squad selection tool, and says the technology was crucial with helping his side draw last summer's Ashes series. Specifically, Lewis relied on AI technology provided by London-based PSi, which plots projected outcomes depending on the composition of each side. Using the tech, coaches can input various team compositions and the AI will then run thousands of simulations of the game using those compositions and provide a statistical basis for the various potential outcomes. Lewis relayed that he will "always go with a people first approach", adding that "data can ... give you a really objective view of what could happen and what has happened previously. I think it will help with borderline decisions in terms of selection and match-ups." Lewis was speaking in the context of the announcement of England's first squad of the summer for the T20 and ODI series against Pakistan, in which England were victorious.


Extra time...

… and finally, in an un-beelievable turn of events, the bee attack described in our Sports Ticker #104 has been repeated. A recent Major League Baseball (MLBee) game in Phoenix, Arizona was delayed for two hours when a swarm of bees interrupted play. Immediately beefore the Arizona Diamondbacks played the Los Angeles Dodgers, a swarm of bees descended on some netting by the pitch's home plate. The crowd was abuzz with excitement waiting for emergency beekeeper, Matt Hilton, to arrive after beeing called in (from his son's baseball game, which was not an MLB match) to rescue the day. Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero" played to the crowd's cheers as Hilton was hoisted 30 feet into the air to reach spray/vacuum range of the gathered bees. Once the crisis had been averted by Hilton's heroism, he was rewarded with the ceremonial first pitch of the game. He later commented "I wasn't expecting that - I thought I was just going to do my thing and cruise out." It has been reported that bees are an ongoing menace in Arizona sports, due to the hot temperatures.

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