Sports Innovation Lab Creates Leadership Board To Set Sports Data Standards

Written By Joss Wood | Last Updated
Sports Data

Market intelligence company Sports Innovation Lab (SIL) has established a leadership board for the sports industry.

Members include reps from MGM, DraftKings, the NFL and NHL. The big issue that the group will try to resolve is athlete data.

For example, this month Bloomberg reported the longest rush of the NFL playoffs to date. It was a 44-yard run by  Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

We know that Elliott hit a top speed of 21.27 miles per hour, and we know that that was his highest speed carrying the ball this season.

We know this because every NFL player now wears a microchip inside their shoulder pads that reports their position 12 times a second.

Now that sports betting is taking off across more and more US states, data like this will make it into wagering. Will Elliott break 22 miles per hour in his next game? Will the longest Super Bowl rush be under or over 50 yards?

The data availability produces some tricky problems, and the new SIL Leadership Board plans to answer them.

Common standards for athlete data

The inaugural board will focus on “athlete data, with the goal of creating measurement standards that athletes, teams, leagues, and sportstech companies can integrate into future initiatives.”

The two co-chairs are eminently qualified:

  • Leslie Saxon, Professor of Medicine and Executive Director of University of Southern California’s Center of Body Computing
  • Josh Walker, Co-Founder and President, Sports Innovation Lab

SIL CEO Angela Ruggiero is a former ice hockey player who won a gold, two silver and one bronze medal in four Olympic Games. She’s a member of the International Olympic Committee and knows sports data from the industry and players’ perspective.

Ruggiero explained what the new Leadership Board will do:

“Through conversations with sports leaders and from what we see daily in our software platform, we know that by creating standards around athlete data for performance and fan engagement, this Leadership Board will help shape the future of sport. Sports executives have been waiting for a solution, or trying creating one in isolation. By bringing the proven model of Leadership Boards to the sports industry, our intention is to accelerate the process by creating consensus and providing actionable solutions for the business of sports.”

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Data can drive performance improvements

The NFL believes that better athlete data will bring significant benefits. Damani Leech, the NFL’s SVP Football Strategy and Business Development at NFL commented:

“A diversity of ideas makes for creative solutions. Our foundational premise of creating athlete data standards is that they will lead to measurable improvements in health, safety, and performance for athletes in every sport. What we have to decide as a league, and with the players, is what technology is of sufficient quality to be used. And just because it’s available, should we use it? Does it belong in our game?”

Privacy and monetization are in conflict

Different sports leagues take different approaches to athlete data. The heart of the issue is the extent to which leagues can demand personal data from athletes and who gets the financial benefits.

  • NBA–The NBA adopted new rules for wearable devices in 2016. It specifies what devices can be used and gives players an opt-out at any time. Data collected cannot be used as a factor in contract negotiations.
  • NFL–The NFL is at the more authoritarian end of the spectrum. Players don’t have the right to access data collected and the data can be used to negotiate contracts.

Add in the potential market for this information from sports betting operators, and there’s an ugly potential mess to clear up.

The SIL Leadership Board has got its work cut out.