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Sport Innovation; time to throw away the rule book?

Recently there has been an announcement/launch if two innovative elite sports events. These sport innovations (…or Sportovation maybe?) in athletics and triathlon prove that these sports are keen to try something new, reach out to a new audiences (and partners) and throw away the rule book.

These concepts showcase creativity, innovation and are an acknowledgement of the need to appeal to new, potentially younger audiences. Increasingly younger audiences are attracted to the “new competition” of e-sports, MMA and anything else that is not traditional (possibly stuffy) sport. The battle for the future commercial partners also starts here. The response? Coles Nitro-Athletics and Super League Triathlon.

Coles Nitro Athletics:

New formats, a sell-out crowd and a potent mix of national teams and Usain Bolt’s AllStars contributed to an impressive Grand Final debut last weekend in Melbourne, Australia. The high-energy, mixed team-based competition delivered thrilling family entertainment and will no doubt ignite wider interest in the sport. Strategy and tactics came into play in the pursuit of points with Nitro Power Plays and Nitro Turbo Charges (in the long jump).

The event even redefines distances. Why run 1,500m when you can run 4 x laps and complete 1,600m? Why even have a set distance, let’s see who can run the furthest in 3 minutes. An Elimination Race also plays with traditional race tactics and the mixed relays are a breath of fresh air.

Super League Triathlon:

Super League Triathlon has dispensed with the traditional swim/bike/run format. The rules have been mixed up and shaken around to deliver something that is far from predictable.

The event introduces some exciting new elements to the sport such as the Triple Mix (a three round race with 10 minute breaks starting when the first athlete crosses the line), Equalizer (two part race, with initial cycling time trial to separate out the “drafters”), Eliminator (a three-round race with the slowest eliminated), Enduro (continuous swim, bike, run, swim, bike, run, swim, bike, run sequence) and the Sprint Pursuit (a swim/bike/run time trial, followed by a pursuit based on times).

The cocktail of stunning location (Hamilton Island, Australia), fresh formats and unpredictability has the potential to be highly tactical and engaging. This is all combined with an age-group programme featuring 626 format (600m swim, 20k bike and 6k run) along with other challenges and family events. The event will be broadcast across multiple platforms and give fans what they want to see: frenetic racing, unpredictable results and with sports entertainment at its heart.

Even the athlete’s bib number is an asset, each participant was given the choice of number which they retain throughout the series. Alistair Brownlee, two-time Olympic Champion naturally selected…. Number #23. A number steeped in meaning and significance in the professional sporting world. It was left to five-time ITU World Champion Javier Gomez Noya (probably the best triathlete in the world outside of Leeds) who chose #1.

Some things in sport are sacrosanct, and the rules are some of the most closely guarded assets of all. But it may be time for more sports to consider changes in formats and rules, even if it is just for a single/test event? It took football a long time to adopt technology onto the field of play. It was possibly the emergence and success of live off-field referees and technology in “traditional” sports such as tennis and rugby that proved it can be integrated without adversely affecting the flow of the game, and actually add to the entertainment value.

There is a place for innovation in most sports and even if we don’t see an Eliminator Triathlon, 3 Minute Run or mixed running relay in the Olympics anytime soon, there will no doubt be successful elements of these innovations that may be adapted and incorporated into the traditional operation of these sports in future.

So, which sports do you think should be next in line to throw away the rule book and innovate?

Image: Athletics Weekly

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