When a new client asked me to make some predictions about the future of sport, I started from five basic principles.
Sometimes my work is very serious. I work with big companies who have had major shocks. They come to me because they want to see the next shock coming. And because they want to be ready for it and able to adapt.
Sometimes my work is just great fun. Such as when Grosvenor Casinos approached me to think about the future of five different sports: football, tennis, running, e-sports, and Formula 1. The results can be found at this brilliant page they put together: https://www.grosvenorcasinos.com/future-of-sports.
I started this project on the future of sport from four basic principles about sport, and sportspeople.
We just keep getting better. And when I say ‘we’, I mean human beings. As the health of the general population improves, we keep pushing the boundaries for what a human body can do. And as we understand the human body and mind better, our ability to extract the best possible performance from each athlete. There’s also the simple fact that there are more of us now. Though the route to elite sport is still easier for some than others, we are now selecting from a greater pool than at any point in history.
In short, it’s fair to assume that the limits of human performance will continue to grow. The future human will perform even better than today’s elite athletes.
Another given is that the technology of sport will continue to improve. That might mean the introduction of new materials, such as graphene into running shoes or racing bikes. It might mean that we have access to better training technologies. And it might mean that there are new ways to extend our performance beyond natural human limits. Sometimes this might mean cheating. But sometimes in the future, we may decide to make this part of the rules.
We have already seen blurred lines on some performance enhancing technologies, such as the introduction of drag-reducing swimsuits. In the future of sport, regulators will have a hard time decided what is, and what isn’t, unfair enhancement.
Regulation is critical to keep sport both fair and exciting. As technology and human performance continue to improve, the role of the regulator is only going to get harder. This is particularly true in technology-reliant sports like F1, where the next few years are likely to see incredibly increases in capability. The regulators are going to have a challenge to balance what is possible with what is safe, and also what produces a good spectacle…
The Spectacle Imperative
Sport is big business. And it will only remain such if it continues to present a spectacle worth watching. The future of sport will see growing challenges to sport’s role in popular culture, with more and more entertainment choices available. The imperative to keep presenting a spectacle worth watching will drive the decisions of teams and regulators, and force them to push the boundaries of technology, performance and sometimes even safety.
The future of sport? Bigger, better, faster, more
You can find out more about what I think about the future of sport on the dedicated Grosvenor Casinos page. But the summary is this: bigger, better, faster, more. Sport remains one of the biggest cultural connectors in the world, drawing together global audiences around teams and competitions. Interest is not waning, even if it is perhaps being distributed across a greater diversity of forms of sporting entertainment. This will drive the continued improvement in the performance of athletes and vehicles, which only regulatory tension focused on safety and fair competition will restrain.