21 March, 2022

Sports data: Flying the flag

Gambling Insider takes a look at Sportradar’s ninth-place spot in The Sport Technology Power List 2021.

To say 2021 was a busy year for Sportradar would be an understatement. It began with the appointment of Jeffery Yabuki as Chairman of the company’s Global Board, closely followed by the announcement of a partnership with the Asian Football Confederation until 2028. The group then launched its Universal Fraud Detection System in February, followed by acquisitions of Fresh Eight and Synergy Sports in March.

Another acquisition in the form of InteractSport came in the months that followed, as well as the appointments of Deirdre Bigley to the Global Board of Directors and Lynn S. McCreary as Chief Legal Officer. Sportradar also announced a 10-year global partnership with the National Hockey League (NHL), shortly followed by the announcement that basketball legend Michael Jordan had assumed an advisory role with the group.

All of those efforts – and indeed many more behind the scenes – have been followed by the company being named in the top 10 of The Sport Technology Power List 2021. The Power List, which was created by the STA Group in association with The English Institute of Sport, features brands that are most active in and have the most influence on the sports technology space.

Sportradar placed ninth in the list, finishing as the highest sports data organisation. To be selected for the list, sports organisations must be a noted federation, governing body or rightsholder, or an established commercial entity whose main market is sport; or which operates a dedicated sports division, or has a technology proposition that is used by several major sports clients. Participants must also operate internationally or dominate a significant domestic market.

To be chosen alongside iconic names such as F1, NBA, UEFA and La Liga is no small feat. It’s a competitive list and includes the fields of performance, technology, and broadcast among others. Sportradar, standing tall in the sports data field, climbed 18 places from last year’s spot in 27th.

Rebecca Hopkins, CEO of The STA Group, told Gambling Insider exactly how the list is drawn up, and how organisations like Sportradar are selected.

“The STA Group champions technology in sports globally via its properties The Sports Technology Awards, The STA Startups and The Sports Technology Annual Review, as well as The Sport Technology Power List,” said Hopkins.

“The Power List, which was created in association with The English Institute of Sport, was launched in 2020. The list is part of The Sports Technology Annual Review, which summarises important technology trends, influences and activity within the sports sector; the purpose of the Power List is to highlight the brands making the biggest impact individually.

“The List and the ranking are finalised by the team writing and editing The Review who draw on industry findings from the EIS’ Innovations Team, insights garnered from The STA Group judges and information from entries to The Sports Technology Awards.”

Hopkins also touched on Sportradar’s achievement, saying: “Sportradar impressed the Power List panel with both the breadth of its offering and its ethos of evolving, improving and creating propositions to meet its target markets’ needs.”

For Dalraj Bahia, Managing Director Operations, Betting and Gaming, Sportradar, the achievement was well deserved, and shows just how crucial data is within the world of sports and sports betting.

Bahia told Gambling Insider: “It’s great news to be in the top 10, but especially as the only sports data and technology company to be chosen. It’s a reflection of how the industry is developing, and recognition of the role data now plays in the wider sports ecosystem and its continuing development. It also tops off a great 20th anniversary year for us which saw the company go public on the Nasdaq and sign some of our biggest ever deals, including with the NBA, UEFA, ICC, ITF and NHL.”

Incidentally, a handful of those brands also made their way onto the list. NBA and UEFA clinched second and third respectively, behind F1 in first. Also included within the top 10 was European Tour, STATSports, PGA, Dazn, La Liga and NASCAR.

When asked how it feels to be among such esteemed company, Bahia said: “These are some of the most well-respected sports brands and federations in the world, so of course we’re delighted to appear in the list alongside them. We’re proud to be a global leader here and represent the sports data industry.

“It’s interesting that as the engagement with data and technology by these brands is at the forefront of their development, we’ve emerged in the top 10 to sit alongside them. We’ve partnered with several of the sports here this year to either renew existing agreements or sign new ones, as they look to the next stages of commercialisation, digitisation and fan engagement.”

Perhaps only The STA Group knows exactly why Sportradar clinched a spot in the top 10, but Bahia has a rough idea of the reasoning. He hypothesised that “this is a sports tech power list and we’ve placed technology at the forefront of everything we do for our customers and partners.”

He continues: “Technology also underpins all of our commercial products and services, including our betting platform, transforming opportunities for bookmakers, and our Ad:s programmatic advertising to ensure personalised marketing to customers.

“Acquisitions made in 2021 – Fresh8, Synergy Sports and InteractSport – are all technology companies that enable us to personalise content or capture even more data points than ever before, which we can use to create new products for customers. The technology enables Sportradar’s innovation, broadens our capabilities offered to the market, and benefits our customers as they develop their sophistication in connecting with fans; digitising their sports and further enabling the commercialisation of their assets.”

When asked what the company’s achievement says about the sports data and technology industry in general, Bahia responded: “It shows how sports technology, and specifically sports betting technology, is now being seen as a mainstream industry. This evolution has been ongoing globally for several years, as most recently evidenced by US betting legalisation. The length of our eight-year renewal with the NBA is no coincidence as it looks to navigate and develop in this new era.”

He added another example of UEFA issuing its first-ever tender for a betting data provider, noting that there is broad acceptance of sports betting due to its role in the sports ecosystem and the contribution it can make to the future of the wider sports industry.

He continued: “Sports leagues and federations are seeing the opportunities to improve their sports, improve their infrastructure, and most importantly improve fan experience and engagement. Betting data and technology is making a real contribution to all these areas and the overall commercialisation of sport as a consumer product.”

Through the likes of digital transformation, AV streams, integration into mobile apps and AR/VR experiences, Bahia explained, the industry is continuing to innovate the overall fan experience.

“Sport at its heart is an analogue experience which is why it’s so engaging for live attendance at events,” added Bahia. “No one wants to change this aspect, but tech can enhance engagement and connect people with the amazing sports around us.”

He explained that sport has taken technology and evolved, and part of this evolution has been unlocking the betting opportunity to drive commercialisation; the flipside of which is that data also becomes a facilitator of integrity and the protection of sport.

The Managing Director also looked ahead to next year’s list, revealing the methods and approaches the company will deploy to try and move further up the table.

“Continuing what we’re doing!” he said.

“It’s fair to say 2021 was a milestone year, but the 20th anniversary of Sportradar is a reflection of the previous 20 years and how we’ve got to where we are. This is a company that cares deeply about our customers, partners and the wider sports ecosystem. That inherent focus is what drives us every day.

“We’ll continue to focus on creating technology that solves problems and creates opportunities for our customers and partners, and we look forward to working closely with them over the next 12 months.”