Can Innovation be Applied to Professional Sports?

Hurling figurines in storefrontThis is Part II of the MBA Beauchamps Series October event, ‘A Conversation on the Business of Sport.’ Part I is here.

Asked about innovations they have seen or would be beneficial, McDonald of Horse Sport Ireland said, “Professional sport is all about TV.”

Show jumping does not feature as prominently on TV as it did 15 or 20 years ago, he said.

“At the international level, our sport needs a fair degree of modernization,” McDonald acknowledged.

Soccer adjusted from scheduling all of its games at the same time on Saturday afternoon to spreading them out over the week, he said.

But in terms of rule changes to the game itself, Delaney noted those come very slowly. The rule prohibiting the goal keeper from picking up back passes was the significant change he could recall.

Referring to Thierry Henri’s infamous handball in Paris, Delaney said to laughter that he would like to see video technology introduced.

Deutrom of Cricket Ireland, noted how the shortened, or T20, form of the game has attracted new audiences. Although started in England, the game caught on in India especially after the promoter built relationships with Bollywood stars, he said.

However, McKenna said most changes to rules of play come slowly. The biggest innovations are in communications and sponsorship, he said. While the GAA is an Irish organization, the other sports groups are affiliated with larger multinational parent organizations.

That can slow decision making even more, the speakers said.

Browne spoke of his admiration for the way British Cycling has advanced the sport in that country where they created a new position called the Director of Marginal Gain. This person identifies areas where the athletes can improve. “They cut thru all the bullshit,” he said.

Asked about doping and the scandal buffeting the cycling world, the panel said it cannot be tolerated. And there is no point trying to hide it either. “There is always a day of reckoning,” said Deutrom. “You won’t hide those stories, not in today’s world,” Delaney agreed.

Horse sports in Ireland have suffered because the country was forced to hand back an Olympic medal after one horse was found with banned substances in its system, he noted.

“There is no good news in anti-doping,” said McDonald. If doping tests turn up negative, the programme’s effectiveness is questioned. But if the tests are positive, you also have problems, he said. “You have to be completely and utterly dedicated to stamping it out.”

Image of “hurling” figures courtesy Caitfoto via Creative Commons License on Flickr.

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