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Digital revolution in sports: 3 takeaways from Sport Ireland’s very first Sport Innovation Summit

Panel discussion hosted by Darragh O'Grady and Tina Stokes
Published by Fatimah Radiom Behagg & Kazi Ayesha Rahman on November 2023

Sport Ireland just hosted their very first Sports Innovation and Technology Summit onsite at their impressive Sports Campus, and we have a strong feeling it won’t be the last. 

The event brought together leading figures in sports development, enterprises, coaches, athletes, sporting organisations, research bodies and charities—all focused on driving innovation, collaboration and connection in sports. 

As Benny Cullen, Director of Research & Innovation at Sport Ireland, aptly pointed out, “We’re all here because of the potential of sport.” 

To kick off the day-long conference, Thomas Byrne TD (Minister for Sport & Physical Education) set the scene with an open note emphasising the importance of getting more people to participate in sport (with the current participation rate in Ireland standing at 43%). Additionally, he addressed the importance of understanding the needs and behaviours of people to help drive this uptake. 

CEO of Sport Ireland, Dr. Una May touched on the importance of the event as a stepping stone for Sport Ireland to advance its position and drive sports innovation into the future. 

To promote a digital transformation in sport, here are our 3 key takeaways from the event:


1. Embrace The Technological Advantage

Technology can help your organisation to stay ahead of the curve. With technology readily available to us, there’s no reason why we should shy away from it, especially when it comes to sports. It can play a revolutionary role in giving your organisation and athletes a competitive advantage, and we need to be on top of this transformation. 

As Jason Smyth, the fastest paralympian of all time, shared, “Within technology there lies opportunity… those who get ahead of the technology and trends, can take advantage and gain a competitive advantage.”

Jason shared personal insights into the impact of innovations and technology on his own illustrious career and successes, adding credibility to his words.

The question arises: So how do we innovate sports with technology? How do we build an ecosystem of people to drive this digital transformation in sports?

Professional Golfer Pádraig Harrington provides a valuable perspective, advocating for the use of measurable data. As he emphasised, “Use data and do things that are measurable. Having the data is an incentive to people.”

However, as Pádraig pointed out, the data has to be actionable, so people know how to use the insights to drive better performance. 

Digital Revolution in Sports: 3 takeaways from Sport Ireland’s very first Sport Innovation Summit
Jason Smyth sharing insights on the importance of sports technology to enhance performance

2. Make Sports Better With People & Partnerships

Regardless of technological advancements, the impact of networks, connections, and collaboration is irreplaceable, recognising that no technological innovation or digital transformation is complete without the human element.

As Benny Cullen, Director of Research & Innovation at Sport Ireland, shared, “Innovation is not about technology. It is about people. Think about innovation as an ecosystem of people driving that innovation.” 

He emphasised the importance of aligning with others, forming partnerships, and exploring enterprises to strengthen relationships. To drive a culture of innovation and digital transformation, strengthening these relationships is essential. 


3. Use Data To Tell A Story

The sports tech industry is growing fast, fueled by the digital transformation of stadiums, improved fan engagement, and data-driven insights for better performance—and you need to stay ahead of the curve.

Gráinne Barry, co-founder of SportsTech Ireland expressed that people want to understand the story of sport. You need to use sports data to tell stories. 

To make your sport sustainable and future-proof, shifting your focus towards a digital mindset is pivotal, with data being a cornerstone of your strategy. 

For example, technology and data could play a monumental role for athletes, preventing injuries, helping minimise their recovery time, and ultimately enabling them to achieve peak performance. Similarly, it could also help coaches to identify top talent during recruitment, and help monitor athlete development.

These processes, all fully data-backed, contribute to a digital and sustainable sporting environment, touched on by Iñigo Bonilla, Strategic Alliances & Business Development Director, at GSIC, powered by Microsoft, who presented on the importance of technology innovations to connect, build better experiences and develop better solutions. 

Digital Revolution in Sports: 3 takeaways from Sport Ireland’s very first Sport Innovation Summit
Fatimah Behagg (Head of Marketing, JustGo) pictured with John McKenna (General Manager, Table Tennis Ireland) and Matt English (CEO, Special Olympics Ireland)

As a membership management software, JustGo works with hundreds of NGBs, clubs and members—with the goal of streamlining their administrative processes and supporting their evolving needs with the latest technology. 

Our commitment to listening to customers, delivering actionable data, and addressing unique requirements (such as safeguarding and governance) has helped evolve our software into a global platform over the past 20 years.

Having said that, the Sport Ireland Sports Innovation & Technology Summit was an eye-opening experience for us, and we plan to implement all these learnings into our technology as well, so that we can support any organisation looking to expand their sport, and deliver better member experiences with technology.

At JustGo, we’re passionate about supporting sports organisations of all sizes and budgets. Join the thousands of organisations that have already improved their membership management with JustGo, and let’s work together to take your admin to the next level!