At a recent Australian Sports Technologies Network conference for National Sporting Organisations (hosted by PricewaterhouseCoopers), I was asked by a representative of an Olympic sport why it was so difficult to effect technological change at both a board and organisational level.

The answer is an uncomfortable one. The answer is that we have an endemic problem in Australian sport where the board level has little to no capacity to understand technology.

Almost one year ago to the day, coming out of another ASTN event in Brisbane (“Building the capacity of State and National Sporting Organisations”), our online sports management business revolutioniseSPORT ran a “Digital Health Check” which allowed sports to self-assess their digital proficiency. The results were striking – over 100 governing bodies (state and national) had taken the health check – and only six had a board director who was recognised for having a dedicated skillset in information technology.

We wondered if our methods were selection-biased (i.e. sports undertaking the health check were probably more likely to be lacking in capability and wanting to improve), but similar research from the Australian Sports Commission backed us up. Their own 2014 analysis confirmed the following from a sample of 47 NSOs:

  • 74% of NSOs had technology in their strategic plan
  • 30% had a separate IT strategy
  • 32% had a board member with digital skills
  • 6% had a board sub-committee tasked with digital oversight

Those figures are embarrassing for sport in our country. We only have to look outside the window to see that every second person has a fitness tracker, smart watch, or some other gadget tracking their every movement – but at the organisational level we turn a blind eye.