Whether amateur or professional, televised to millions or played amongst friends at a local park, sports have increasingly become integrated with the latest modern technologies.

As fans and viewers, we can watch live rugby or soccer from our phones, check play-by-play statistics, and wager on the results, all while sharing thoughts via our favorite social networks. As participants, we can wear running watches that monitor our health, use scouting tools to plan games against rival teams, then use software to dissect and analyze every move.

The science and study of elite sports

An entire scientific and technological ecosystem has evolved around sports, which has never become more apparent than in professional competitions. In the past, the humble manager of a soccer team chose the players, planned tactics, and was even largely responsible for transfer decisions. These days, they have entire coaching teams, featuring dedicated specialists such as data analysts and nutritionists, plus a small army of scouting and technical staff at elite clubs.

Professional sports have increasingly required greater emphasis on performance. Rather than just visually seeing an athlete has done well or being a matter of opinion, we are now bombarded by big data and statistics. They say the numbers don’t like and it’s hard to hide from statistical evidence, whether good or bad for the participant. Nevertheless, statistics are now seen as vital towards improving and optimizing performance.

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Renowned for their innovation, the Sports Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) even has an entire Rugby Science department, with leading academic experts dedicating their careers to research and study of the sport. Some of their important research has helped to reduce catastrophic injuries, using collision simulators to study impacts to the body in tackles. Some vital research has also contributed towards changes in the rules of rugby.

In many elite sporting competitions, motion tracking technology has brought about multi-faceted enhancements. For the participants, there is an abundance of data available to help improve technical performance and tactical strategies. For the spectators, vastly improved visual presentation during events, accompanied by greater engagement thanks to instant access to data that can be followed.

The online sports betting revolution

Despite strict and prohibitive laws for internet and mobile casino gambling, sports betting is entirely legal in South Africa and governed by the National Gambling Board. The most popular sports for wagering tend to be football, rugby, and cricket, although the biggest and best online betting sites offer a huge variety of other sports markets.

As in most countries, the growth in popularity of sports-related gambling has been massive in recent years. Between 2010 and 2019 South Africa, gross revenues for sports gambling roses from USD $185 million to more than USD $462 million. With more domestic and international wagering options than ever before, those figures could even double in the next few years.

Mens red Nike shoes
Source: Tom Sodoge / Unsplash

Thanks to improved and lower-cost mobile connectivity, most users now access betting sites via devices like smartphones and tablets, which have now overtaken desktop computers and laptops for ease of use and preference. Betting sites are also reliant on cutting-edge technology, capable of processing millions of data points every second, such as updating scores and odds from thousands of live soccer games at any given time.

Equally important for website and app users is the reliability of online transactions, both for deposits and withdrawals. Given recent e-commerce and virtual payment platform improvements, bettors have a greater choice of reputable and trustworthy options. Credit cards and online payment services like Skrill are widely accepted, while Bitcoin is now accepted by many betting sites.

Engagement is the ultimate payoff

Technological innovations have forever changed and enhanced our involvement in sports. Digital age advances help sports to improve and evolve, with the key payoff being enhanced performance. Meanwhile, the same technologies have contributed to making sports more engaging for spectators. Whether playing or watching, the greater than ever sense of participation means that everyone wins.

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