Data Science

Here Is How Ai Is Changing the World of Sports Forever!

Published: 12th April, 2023

Harshini Bhat

Data Science Consultant at almaBetter

Explore the ways in which artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the world of sports from player performance analysis to fan engagement

Imagine it is the final match of the football tournament and both teams are tied at one goal each. Both teams are in a battle for control of the ball. Then, suddenly, a striker through and races towards the opponent's goal. He takes a shot within seconds and the ball sails toward the net. But even, before it even crosses the goal line, an AI-based system recognizes that the shot was offside, and the goal was disallowed.

This scenario might seem like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it is becoming increasingly common in sports today. AI, or artificial intelligence, is revolutionizing how we play and watch sports, from automated match highlights to AI referees. It is no longer just about the players' skills and athleticism; now, technology is playing a vital role in enhancing the sports experience for players, coaches, and fans alike.

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In this article, we will explore how AI is changing sports from auto-generated match highlights to AI-based sports reporting and commentary. We will also have a look at the current practices and the future of sports, where AI will boost player performance, scout, recruit future athletes, and even predict match results.

AI's Influence on Sports Today

Auto-generated Match Highlights

Auto-generated match highlights are made possible by applying AI algorithms that can analyze game video feeds and identify the most exciting moments. These algorithms are designed to detect specific patterns and events in the video data, such as:

  • Replay detection: Identifying key moments in the game, such as goals or near misses, and then analyzing the footage to find the best angle or replay. AI algorithms use computer vision techniques such as object detection and tracking to identify specific objects in the video, such as the ball or players and then track their movements across the field. They can also use motion analysis to detect sudden changes in speed or direction, which may indicate a significant event such as a goal or a save.
  • Scoreboard detection: By analyzing the scoreboard in real-time, AI algorithms can identify critical moments in the game, such as when a team takes the lead or ties the game. This helps prioritize certain events in the highlights reel, creating a more dynamic and engaging viewing experience. Scoreboard detection algorithms can use OCR (optical character recognition) to read the numbers on the scoreboard and then use computer vision techniques to locate the scoreboard within the video frame and track changes over time.
  • Playfield scenario detection: AI algorithms can also use computer vision and machine learning techniques to identify exciting scenarios, such as a fast break or a counter-attack, and include them in the highlights reel. This involves analyzing movement patterns across the field, player positioning, and ball trajectory to identify moments of high intensity or drama.
  • Audio cues and analysis: By analyzing the audio feed of the game, AI algorithms can detect exciting moments, such as the sound of the ball hitting the back of the net or the roar of the crowd, and use them to enhance the highlights reel. This can involve audio analysis techniques such as sound event detection, which can identify specific sounds within the audio stream, as well as speech recognition and sentiment analysis, which can detect emotional cues and reactions from players, coaches, and fans.
  • Player celebration detection: Perhaps the most exciting aspect of auto-generated match highlights is the ability to detect player celebrations. AI algorithms can analyze the footage for moments of excitement, such as a goal celebration or a player's reaction to a close call, and create highlights that capture the emotions and drama of the game. This involves analyzing patterns of movement and body language, as well as facial expressions and other visual cues.

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The whole system is implemented in steps of identifying the key events and then combining them together, creating auto-generated highlights. The algorithms are only as good as the data they're trained on, and there will always be some degree of subjectivity in what constitutes a "highlight." For this reason, many systems incorporate human editors to review and curate the generated highlights, ensuring that they accurately reflect the game's most exciting moments.

AI Referees: Ensuring Fair Play in Sports

As technology advances, the world of sports is not left behind. For example, one of the most promising applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in sports is using AI referees. With AI referees, the fairness and accuracy of officiating could be taken to a whole new level.

Imagine watching a football match where goals and offenses leading up to a goal are closely monitored by an AI system that can make instant, unbiased decisions. Or imagine a scenario where a penalty decision and the offenses leading up to it are analyzed and determined without any human bias. This is the kind of future that AI referees could bring to the world of sports.

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But it's not just about goals and penalties. AI referees could also detect and analyze direct red card incidents only, eliminating the possibility of mistaken identity. This would ensure that players are punished for their actions and not for any mistakes made by the referees. One advantage of AI referees is that they do not get fatigued or biased as human referees can. They can also make decisions much faster, reducing the time it takes for a game to be completed.

AI referees are already being used in some sports. For example, FIFA, the international governing body of football, has been experimenting with video assistant referees (VAR) technology to assist human referees in making decisions related to penalties, goals, and offside positions. Similarly, the National Basketball Association (NBA) has introduced a review center that uses video replay to help referees make accurate calls.

Also, there are still some hurdles to overcome before AI referees can become a reality. For example, there are questions about how to train the AI system to recognize different types of offenses and ensure that it doesn't become biased toward certain players or teams. But as technology continues to advance, these hurdles can be overcome. In the end, AI referees could bring a new level of fairness and accuracy to the world of sports. By taking human error out of the equation, we can ensure that the game is played on a level playing field. The future of sports is exciting, and AI referees could be just the beginning of what's to come.

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Boosting Player Performance by Using AI to Maximize Athletic Training

AI is not just helping to enhance the spectator experience in sports but also revolutionizing how athletes train and improve their performance. By leveraging the power of AI, coaches can now track and analyze their players' movements on the field to identify areas of strength and weakness. This is achieved through player tracking, which creates bounding boxes for object detection. Methods for automated player tracking include motion detection, color tracking, and a combination of color and template tracking. With the global player tracking market expected to grow at a CAGR of 24.9% over the next five years, it is clear that this technology will play a significant role in shaping the future of athletic training.

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Scouting and Recruiting: AI's Help in Discovering Future Athletes

AI is changing the way athletes are scouted and recruited. With the help of machine learning algorithms, teams and coaches can analyze vast amounts of data to identify the most promising athletes.

For example, the NBA has been using AI-powered cameras to capture data on player movements and analyze their performance. This data is then used to identify players who have the potential to become great basketball players, even if they may not have been noticed by scouts or coaches initially.

Similarly, soccer teams are using AI to analyze video footage of players' performances, identifying key attributes like speed, strength, and ball control. Again, this allows teams to identify talent from all around the world, not just from their local region. But AI is not just limited to analyzing video footage. Wearable devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers are also being used to capture data on athletes' performance, allowing coaches to track their progress and identify areas for improvement.

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The use of AI in scouting and recruiting is revolutionizing how sports teams operate, allowing them to identify and develop talent more efficiently and effectively than ever before. As technology advances, we can expect to see even more sophisticated AI systems being developed to help sports teams discover the future stars of their respective sports.

Match Predictions: How AI is Assisting Fans and Teams to Foresee Results

Sports teams are using AI to find potential athletes and predict match outcomes. Through machine learning algorithms and predictive analytics, AI technology can analyze large amounts of data and identify patterns that human scouts may overlook.

For example, the Seattle Seahawks partnered with Microsoft to develop an AI-powered platform that analyzed college player data and predicted their future success in the NFL. The platform evaluated players' performance, health records, and social media activity to determine their potential. Additionally, AI is being used to predict match outcomes. For instance, FIFA's World Cup 2018 used an AI system developed by StatsBomb to predict scores and expected goals. This system utilized machine learning algorithms trained on vast amounts of match data to generate accurate predictions.

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One of the most common techniques used in AI-powered match prediction systems is called regression analysis, which involves analyzing the relationships between different variables to identify factors most strongly correlated with a team's success. Other techniques used in these systems include decision trees, neural networks, and Bayesian networks.

To improve the accuracy of match predictions, some AI-powered systems also incorporate real-time data feeds during a game. This data can include information such as the current score, possession rates, and other key statistics, which can be used to update the prediction model in real-time. AI technology is revolutionizing the sports industry by providing teams with valuable insights and predictions that can lead to more informed decisions. Whether scouting potential athletes or predicting match outcomes, AI is becoming integral to the sports world.

Automated Sports Journalism

Automated Sports Journalism or AI-based sports reporting and commentary is also another arena where artificial intelligence is used in the sports industry. With the advancements in natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning algorithms, sports media companies and broadcasters can generate news articles, match reports, and even live commentary without human intervention.

NLP algorithms extract insights and data from various sources, such as match statistics, player performance metrics, and social media reactions, and convert them into readable and coherent content. Machine learning models are then trained to generate unique and personalized reports based on the collected data and past trends.

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One example of automated sports journalism is the AI-powered content platform Stats Perform. Major sports leagues and media companies use their platform worldwide to generate real-time match reports, news articles, and even personalized content for fans. The platform utilizes advanced algorithms to analyze data from various sources and generate unique and insightful stories for fans. Automated sports journalism not only helps media companies and broadcasters generate content more efficiently but also provides fans with faster and more personalized news and analysis.


AI is increasingly playing a vital role in the future of sports. From discovering future athletes through scouting and recruiting to assisting fans and teams in predicting match outcomes, AI is revolutionizing the way we approach and engage with sports. Moreover, AI-based sports reporting and commentary is transforming the way we consume sports content. As AI continues to evolve and become more sophisticated, we can expect to see even more innovative applications in sports, such as personalized training programs for athletes and real-time performance analysis during games. The future of sports is exciting, and AI is a driving force behind it

Key Takeaways

  1. AI is transforming the sports experience by revolutionizing how players, coaches, and fans interact with the game. This includes auto-generated match highlights, AI-based sports reporting, and commentary.
  2. Auto-generated match highlights rely on algorithms like object detection that analyze game video feeds to identify the most exciting moments. These algorithms detect patterns and events in the video data, such as replay detection, scoreboard detection, playfield scenario detection, audio cues, and player celebration detection.
  3. AI referees could improve the fairness and accuracy of sports officiating. They make instant, unbiased decisions, detect and analyze only direct red card incidents, and reduce game completion time.

Interview Questions

1. Can you explain what is object detection and how it's used in sports technology?

Answer: Object detection is a computer vision technique used to locate and classify objects within an image or video. In sports technology, object detection is used to identify and track players, balls, and other relevant objects in real-time footage. This information can be used to generate player performance metrics, monitor player movement and behavior, and make game predictions.

2. Can you explain some of the popular object detection algorithms used in sports technology?

Answer: Some popular object detection algorithms used in sports technology:

  1. YOLO (You Only Look Once): YOLO is a real-time object detection algorithm that can detect multiple objects in an image. It has been used in various sports applications, such as tracking players and the ball during a game.
  2. Faster R-CNN (Region-based Convolutional Neural Network): Faster R-CNN is an object detection algorithm that uses region proposal networks to generate regions of interest for detection. It has been used in sports for player tracking, ball detection, and object detection in general.
  3. SSD (Single Shot Detector): SSD is a real-time object detection algorithm that uses a single convolutional network to predict the location and class of objects in an image. It has been used in various sports applications, such as real-time tracking of players and objects.
  4. Mask R-CNN: Mask R-CNN is an extension of Faster R-CNN that also predicts pixel-level masks for objects. It has been used in sports applications for human pose estimation and tracking.

The choice of algorithm depends on the specific application and the performance requirements of the system.

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