A new project involving researchers from the University of Bath has launched, looking at the role of big data, analytics, and the implications of a digital transformation across sport.

Funded by the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and led by colleagues at Brock University in Canada, its focus is the phenomenon of what has been termed ‘the hyperqualified athlete’ – something which has arisen over recent years due to the explosion of monitoring and tracking data in sport.

With so much data recorded, analysed and shared - from the nuances of an athlete’s movement on the field, to their physiological markers, right through to their lifestyle habits away from the pitch – there are wide implications for individuals, teams and the sports industry brought about by an increase in big data in sport.

The University of Bath’s involvement is led by Dr Andrew Manley who will be assisting with the analysis of data and contributing towards the development of academic outputs, conference presentations, and a report for relevant stakeholders. Andrew is teaming up with former Bath colleague, Dr Brad Millington who now works in the Department of Sport Management at Brock University.

Their focus will lie with communication and organisational performance. By exploring emergent relationships – for example, between sports analytics companies and Canadian teams and organisations – the project is poised to deliver insight on effective communication in sport and the role of contemporary technologies in facilitating or hindering this.

Specifically, the project is designed to yield insight from participants on how data can be shared towards common goals (e.g., improved sporting performance) while also navigating potential barriers to collaboration (e.g., impediments to sharing data). The team hope to unearth new perspectives on how data practices can be better integrated into sport.

Commenting, Dr Andrew Manley said: “Sporting performances are increasingly reliant on big data and so its role is changing the game as well as people’s interaction with it at so many levels. The digital economy has inspired both optimism and concern within the industry.

“These looming and important questions form the backdrop to our work, and we are excited to start the data collection for this with our friends and colleagues in Canada and the US. As big data plays an increasing role in sport, we hope our results can help inform emerging policies and practice.”

For the project, research will be undertaken using a range of different methods – from documentary analysis to interviews with representatives from sporting bodies and data analytics stakeholders in Canada.

In October 2023, an overview of the project will be featured in the conference materials at the upcoming Sport Canada Research Initiative (SCRI) Conference.

In addition to Andrew Manley, the project team involves the following colleagues: Brad Millington (Brock University, Canada); Michael Naraine (Brock University, Canada); Liz Wanless (Ohio University, US); and Parissa Safai (York University, Canada).