We often tend to take things for granted and forget to value how technological progress around us has improved our lives in ways we can’t even quantify.
We only get to appreciate things when we practice gratitude for what we have and learn a thing or two about how these things came into existence.
While watching Wimbledon last week, I experienced one of these moments where I thought – “wow, things must’ve been so different before that problem was even solved!”
The technology that verifies controversial situations during sports events – AKA Hawk-Eye.
In today’s post, I want to bring to your attention the fantastic story of Dr. Paul Hawkins and how his work teaches us a lesson on the evolution of sports.
Dr. Paul Hawkins
In 1999 in the city of Winchester, Hampshire – artificial intelligence Ph.D. graduate Paul Hawkins founded a startup out of college with the mission to “be the trusted choice for pioneering and inspiring change in sports.”
Like any other entrepreneur, Dr. Hawkins faced many challenging critiques at first, in a world of sport where innovation wasn’t as welcoming as it is today.
It took Dr. Hawkins about 18 months to have an entry point in sports with a small TV broadcaster for a test match cricket coverage.
This is what it looked like back then:
Today, Hawk-Eye employs over 1,400 people, and the technology is used in more than 80 tournaments worldwide, in more than 24 different sports, including tennis, ice hockey, horse racing, rugby, and soccer.
Dr. Hawkins created a system based on the principle of ‘triangulation’ through a set of cameras positioned at different angles inside a stadium.
The system uses mathematical equations and timing mechanisms to create a representation model for a body in movement (say a ball) known as the ‘flight path,’ shown as a moving animation.
Hawk-Eye technology impacts the sport at so many levels:
It helps players and coaches analyze games and train accurately.
It provides broadcasters with a tool to improve the fan experience.
It adds transparency to the game.
Most importantly, the tool helps referees and umpires make the correct decisions– eliminating human mistakes and subjectivity.
Check out how it works from it being used at this Djokovic match:
The Evolution of Sports
Professional sports use incentive structures to set game rules, the competitive format, and design the game flow. Hawk-Eye technology enhances the implementation of these structures, rules, and limitations.
Think about all the energy, time, and effort wasted on the subjectivity of wrong calls before Hawk-Eye technology.
Think of all the athletes who were victims of ‘bad calls’ during crucial career moments: all the emotional drain, the anger.
Don’t believe me?
Here’s a clip of how John McEnroe used to get mad at officials for a disputed call.
Or this OBVIOUS Frank Lampard equalizer in 2010’s World Cup:
It might feel like ages ago, but wrong in-game calls were happening all the time just two decades ago. And even some soccer tournaments are only a few years old using it - the first FIFA World Cup to have it was in 2014.
Could you imagine sports today still being victims of subjectivity, human mistakes, and bad calls?
I don’t – and we owe it to Dr. Paul Hawkins – a protagonist in the evolution of sports.
🎙 Halftime Snacks Podcast
Scaling Companies in Savage Sports
Zac Litwack is a partner at Savage Ventures and helps grow their portfolio companies, primarily as their CMO. Savage Ventures is a venture operator that invests, acquires, and operates high-growth businesses within different industries, including sports.
Zac is also the CEO at Savage Sports, which is the top sports betting and online gambling marketing affiliate in North America.
In the episode, you’ll learn from Zac's story and current work as head of Savage Sports, CMO, and growth hacker. We also discussed Zac's rationale behind scaling companies, the outlook for the sports betting market, and the Savage Sports affiliate business.
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Good piece Ronen and in my opinion a welcome addition to most sports, still needs some adjusting in football/soccer to reach the decision.