The Future of Sports
TL;DR – Let’s Jam at GEM (13) themed Sports Innovators : Shaping the Future, touched on various interesting topics within the industry such as analytics and big data and Malaysia’s stand in the innovative climate. Concerns were raised by the lack of data analytics awareness in Malaysia’s sports managements and governing bodies.

To say sports has been a large part of human society over the years is no overstatement. Over the past 100 years the industry has been picking up pace from friendly amateur competition to the now big money business where the best of the best athletes competes on their respective fields. But where do the industry stands in this age of analytics and Big Data? Where are we as a nation is moving towards in this innovative climate?

In the last Let’s Jam at GEM 13 themed Sports Innovators: Shaping the Future some of these questions were touched upon. Moderated by the charming and witty Jeffry Ong (former Malaysian Olympic swimmer and currently the Regional Commercial Director at PGA tour, the four other panels are Nicholas Mak (co-founder of KOA Fitness, Under Armour Athlete, Astro Arena Host), Jin Tan (CEO of SportsPlay), Nik Erman Nik Roseli (a sports lawyer), Geraldine Go Bernardo (former Philippines Women’s Dragon Boat athlete and now the founder of Sports Management Council of the Philippines) and Juliana Ali (a duathlon and triathlon athlete).

Analytics and big data in sports is not something new. The more popular example would be the case of Oakland Athletics baseball team as highlighted by Martin Lewis in his 2003 book, Moneyball, which was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill in 2011. How science based data were used in evaluating performance, developing strategies and scouting talent – which eventually have become more advanced with better technology and focuses on how owners and managers can make better decisions on their organizations such as fan engagement, ticket pricing, player’s salary etc.

Where are we amid all these advancements? Juliana Ali voiced her concerns by the lack of data analytics awareness in our sports top managements and governing bodies. How all components – the people (players, managers, media, fans etc), process (training, scouting, performance feedback), and technology – needs to work together to improve the overall competitiveness of Malaysian sports scene. Jin Tan’s presentation also touches on several problems that hampers this side of development as there are limited entry points and outreach, but is optimistic towards the future.

This reflects the current reality of our sports industry, even with several successful public programmes such as Sports School and the famous Fit Malaysia programme – sports engagement and interest remains low especially in our schools. Even from the grassroots level itself the act of supporting and nurturing our kids athletic interest and potential is important. The panel also believe if the government paid more attention to sports and starts commercialising, it could be the very impetus needed.

In the high of our Malaysian contingent’s impressive 145 gold medals (with a total of 323 total medals) success during the last SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, more investments and attention is needed towards growing our sports industry – and doing it through analytics and science based data would be the right step in.

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