Olaniyan, Olatunbosun Tirimisiyu (2020) An Investigation into the Evolution and Future of Digitalisation in Elite Sports: It’s Influence within On-Pitch Decision-making. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The sports industry has seen exponential growth in a number of areas (Heitner, 2015), the most
evident of which is its capability to use data and technology to inform performance and decisionmaking
(Agrawal, 2015; Hill, 2018). This trend has increased as a result of improved technological
innovations and Horrocks et al. (2016) postulated that the sports industry is reaching a plateau in
terms of physical fitness (measuring performance). There is therefore a need to better understand
the acquisition of decision-making abilities and a need for players to make swift appropriate
decisions in time constrained and high-pressured environments. However, a challenge present in
sports is better informed individual and team decision-making skills. Although literature is
published in this area, and has contributed to the understanding of the phenomenon (Williams,
2007; Horrocks et al., 2016), it has only really been explored with little reporting on how
digitalisation influences the decision-making of coaches and players in a team setting (James,
2006: Richards et al., 2012, 2017). Consequently, the central purpose of this research is to
investigate the utilisation of data and technology in sports, with a focus on how it influences
decision-making of players and coaches. This research takes an evolutionary perspective by way
of investigating the evolution and possible future of digitalisation in the sports sector.

The research employed a qualitative approach using the learning organisation theory as a lens. 33
semi-structured interviews were conducted with various stakeholders from elite football (Premier
League, Championship), cricket (First-Class County Clubs) and rugby (Rugby League). These
included: Sport Directors, Managers, Head Coaches, Players, Performance Analysts, Medical Staff
and also some Sport Data Companies. The findings of this study produced an account of the ways
in which data and technology is being utilised in sports from training, performance management,
injury prevention to on-pitch decision making and implications for team and opposition strategy.
This research demonstrates that digitalisation influences the decision-making processes of players
and coaches and goes further to show how and to what extent this occurs. Furthermore, this
research demonstrates how sports teams are learning entities and how effective use of digitalisation
enables the development of learning capabilities. The actual level of utilisation of data within
sports is very varied, with football appearing to have higher utilisations and more initiatives.
Challenges such as lack of resources and expert personnel have been underlined as issues still
being experienced by sports teams.

The findings are used to develop recommendations on how to best utilise data analytics and
technology for on-pitch improvement of decision-making and how current methods can be
improved. A conceptual framework is presented regarding the successful implementation and
utilisation of data and technological tools. It is recommended that sports teams implement the
framework and use it around their current team philosophy and strategies. However, it is equally
important for sports teams to keep working and adjusting the framework. Moreover, the theoretical
and practical contributions to the literature and the sports industry are highlighted. Finally, the
limitations of the study are discussed, while also emphasising recommendations for future

FINAL THESIS - Olaniyan.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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