World Rugby Partners With Capgemini To Digitize The 2023 Rugby World Cup
In two years, the 2023 Rugby World Cup will kick-off at the Stade de France in Paris’s northern suburbs. It will mark the first staging of the world’s third-largest sporting event in France since 2007 and technology will play an unprecedented, critical role in the delivery of the tournament.
Fourteen years ago, the tech world was a very different place. The first iPhone had only just hit the shelves, Windows Vista was struggling to find its feet in the market, and two BBC journalists documented their World Cup experience in a campervan on an experimental microblogging site called ‘Twitter’.
The way partners work with events has also shifted significantly since then. Relationships are no longer just marketing and service arrangements – they are considered genuinely collaborative partnerships.
French firm Capgemini will be involved at France 2023, just as it was at France 2007. But back then, it was ‘Official Technology and Consultancy sponsor’, and its focus was on the delivery of the official website, IT systems, and statistic platforms.
This time round its role will be elevated significantly and is tasked with the digital transformation of both the World Cup and the sport’s global governing body, World Rugby.
The company has signed a three-year deal wand will use data analytics, cloud and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to drive fan engagement, create new insights for players, coaches, and administrators, and to make operations more efficient.
“This partnership is much deeper than a brand association, this is a purpose-driven relationship between our two organizations that share many common values,” declared World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin.
“It reflects our ambition to keep innovating and deepen our relationship with fans, enriching their experience by embracing new technology and digital platforms. Capgemini is the perfect partner to help us deliver this shared vision.”
Capgemini tells me the deal to become ‘Digital Transformation Partner’ was a natural next step in its long involvement with rugby which started with its founder Serge Kampf, who was a lifelong fan of the sport. In addition to being involved at France 2007, Capgemini is a major partner for the Rugby Sevens World Series.
CEO Aiman Ezzat admits the lure of being involved with another home tournament was a factor in the partnership. But he also stresses that rugby’s increasingly global profile was also attractive – as was the opportunity to showcase the technological advances since the last World Cup in France.
“We’re basically the main sponsor of the transformation element of rugby’s global events,” he tells me. “Rugby represents our values in terms of teamwork and innovation, and we are in most of the markets where rugby is a major sport.
“We are a global company but also French. [Rugby World Cup] 2007 was significant for us and technology can deliver a lot more than 14 years ago and it’s important for us to show that.”
The Rugby World Cup will provide a major global showcase for Capgemini’s wares, which in turn will look to drive engagement for the organizers. Many of the products deployed in the Rugby Sevens series will be redeployed for the 15-a-side version of the sport.
“We are just at the start,” Rory Burghes, VP, Accelerated Solutions Environment at Capgemini tells me. “Japan showed we could grow the fanbase in a non-traditional region. Our challenge is to provide existing fans with additional insight and explain concepts to new fans.”
Burghes cites the example of the ‘momentum tracker’ as one such example of how a digital service can help achieve these goals. Rather than focus on points, wins and losses to explain the action, the momentum tracker crunches various data points to identify other ways the team is making improvements.
This means that a fan of a country that isn’t winning can gain an idea of how the team is progressing and can become more invested in its fortunes.
An example of the tracker at work is the Ireland national Rugby Sevens side. The country is a powerhouse in the 15-a-side game bit is a relative newcomer to Sevens.
The momentum tracker was able to identify how the team’s improved performance at the restart was translating into narrower losses and, eventually, victories. Ireland improved to the point that it actually qualified for the recent Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Other potential areas of focus are data visualization, as well as services that make it easier to manage the grassroots game – both from an administration and coaching perspective.
“You have to improve the back end of the sport, not just the front end,” says Burghes. “We know coaches have to be able to submit team sheets or combine coaching data.”
“There are lots of ways you can leverage AI and data in sport,” adds Ezzat. “It can professionalize sports and make them better.”