SportsTech Week in Barcelona

Rohn Malhotra
Nov 21, 2019 · 7 min read

A classy conference at the Camp Nou

If you’re looking for quality content from a SportsTech conference then the Barça Sports Technology Symposium is a must-not-miss. The event’s fifth edition, hosted on Nov. 14 and 15 at the historic Camp Nou, as always, was the culmination of Barça SportsTech Week which brought together over 1,500 experts in coaching, analytics and tech. All this is as part of Barça Innovation Hub’s, led by Javier Sobrino and Albert Mundet, aim to build a community around tech and innovation in sport.

The two-day symposium has established itself in the industry as a benchmark for SportsTech content and this year’s edition certainly maintained that standard by featuring high class speakers covering topics ranging from performance, data analysis, digital experiences, management, fan interaction and social responsibility. Goes without saying that this kind of expertise attracts top sports executives from all over the world so the event is a great place to network as well. Quick shout out to Steve Gera who did a great job moderating the whole event.

Sports Data and EA Sports have come a long way from these first iterations

The event kicked off with a great presentation from Trip Hawkins, founder of EA Sports. Talking about where the idea for digital sports games came from, to the first avatar of EA Sports to the present day where, as he put it, EA Sports are the ones with the leverage when talking to major Sports Leagues and Teams. That is quite a journey! Trip also spoke about a major reason behind the breakout of a game like Fortnite which made a high quality battleground game super accessible to the masses: by humanising the act of shooting someone in the face by doing it in ridiculous costumes and with crazy victory dances therefore making it fun rather than something only for ‘serious’ gamers.

And that was just the start. Each of the next few sessions had some very interesting insights. While I tried my best to, unfortunately I couldn’t catch each session. I had to make time to meet with all the cool people there as well. Here are my big takeaways from the event.

What Pioneering truly means and the future of Sports Nutrition
The fast paced collision of the real and digital world

John Casey (Flagship Pioneering), Aaron Frank (Singularity University) and Tucker Kain (Dodgers / Elysian Park Ventures) focused on the future and encouraged the SportsTech community to think a decade ahead while also explaining the importance of human health and sustainability.

Data analytics and understanding the human body by Cirque du Soleil

Was fascinating great to hear from Bryan Burnstein, Head of Performance Science at Cirque du Soleil, who touched on data analytics at the entertainment group and how it can be used to inform conversations with performers, an interesting touch given the raging success their show Messi has been. He and his fellow panelists, Rui Alves (Formula E) and Bernadet Van Os (NL team) touched on the impact that tech has had on improving athlete and player performance.

Understanding real inventory and doing the best with it

The case study presented by Victor Oliver (FC Barcelona) on how they revamped their ticketing structures to increase inventory and provide fans with better seats was very innovative. José Carlos Franco García (LaLiga) and Maurizio Bonomi (AC Milan) discussed they ways in which data can help clubs to manage themselves and better serve fans.

The next panel covered high-performance technology that is being used in sports venues. Speakers were Eduard Martin (Mobile World Capital Barcelona), Fernando Cucchietti (Barcelona Supercomputing Center) and Carlos Rabazo Márquez (Telefonica).

Asking the right question from Sergi Oliva
New data points to engage fans from Charles Rohlf
The impact of small differences from Ian Graham

One of my favourite sessions of the event and a sore topic for a lot of analyst: How to transfer data insights onto the pitch. Sergi Oliva (Philadelphia 76ers) spoke about how close they get to the actual players while Charles Rohlf (NBA) spoke about the interaction of data with fans. Ian Graham, Director of Research at Liverpool FC, spoke about the impact of analytics in the Board Room of the football club rather than the pitch, mainly it’s impact on recruitment.

Challenges of focusing on mobile users though this is the trend

Day 2 kicked off with a Mobile focused panel speaking about fan engagement, specifically surrounding the challenges that come with smartphones and connecting with fans in a personalized way. David Bailey (Formula 1), Nichola Spencer (The Rugby Football League) and Penelope Tomasi (UEFA) each provided some great insights. Was especially interesting to understand the challenges UEFA sees from a mobile perspective.

New technology adoption at the Premier League and understanding an ARF matchday

Next up was another great session. Steve Palmer (The Premier League), Daniel Pelchen (Collinwood FC) from Aussi Rules Football (ARF) and Lorenzo Dallari (Serie A) spoke about how technology and data aid in making competitions remain at their highest level. Understanding the deep analytical structures behind Aussie Rules Football teams (who can have upto 13 analysts!) was really interesting to see.

The final panel was a very important discussion on social innovation through sports. Dr J. Antonio Ramos Quiroga (Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron), Mariona Miret (FC Barcelona) and Grant Jarvie (University of Edinburgh) shared some great points about things like using SportsTech to help prevent bullying and limit emotional distress in children. My favourite line however was from José González-Dans (Real Club Deportivo la Coruña) who talked about how the club is using ocean recycled materials for their jerseys, saying how a club by the sea was trying to save the sea. Brilliant.

INDESCAT Sports Innovation Day

The week kicked off for me before the Barca SportsTech Symposium actually, with the Sports Innovation Day hosted by INDESCAT on Nov. 12. The Catalan sports cluster, put on its third edition of its INDESUP Investment Forum. INDESCAT has set out to help members attain new business opportunities by encouraging and supporting innovation, entrepreneurship, visibility, talent, globalization and networking. The event took place in the Auditorium of the Barcelona School of Management of the Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona) with a really good turnout of around 200 attendees who discussed current trends and networking between start-ups and investors was encouraged. Thanks to Xavi Faura and his team for organising such a well planned event.

SportsTechX was invited to present and join a panel on SportsTech in Europe (in our broken Spanish!)

Some really good startups presented at the event. Here’s a quick look at them

NutriTape: Adhesive wearable providing nutrition for endurance athletes

Metrica Sports: Computer vision based sports analytics

PunchLab: Sensor based tracking attachment for punching bags

SoCourt: Automated video highlights captured through mobile phones

Volava: Peloton like interactive cycling app

WeFish: Interactive application for recreational fishing

Barcelona in 2020? Definitely!

Once again, FC Barcelona and the Barça Innovation Hub put on a fantastic event. Am already looking forward to the 2020 edition of the symposium! And big thanks to team INDESCAT for their excellent work.

A couple of high quality events in one of my favourite cities in the world. A week very well spent I would say.

Learn all about the global SportsTech VC landscape in our new, Global SportsTech VC Report. The report provides a deep dive on investment activities in the global SportsTech landscape along with investor trends and industry insights.


Rohn Malhotra is a Co-Founder at Berlin based SportsTechX — Data & insights about SportsTech startups and the surrounding ecosystem. You can get in touch via LinkedIn, Twitter or email.

SportsTechX

The #1 source for data & insights about Sports Tech startups and the surrounding ecosystem. More infos at www.sportstechx.com

Rohn Malhotra

Written by

Co-Founder at SportsTechX | Dog lover and major Sports nerd.

SportsTechX

The #1 source for data & insights about Sports Tech startups and the surrounding ecosystem. More infos at www.sportstechx.com

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