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Premiership Rugby’s Sportable ‘smart ball’ to provide new data points for BT Sport

Live data and insights solution to be trialled during remaining Premiership Rugby Cup matches.

18 March 2022 Rory Jones

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  • Ball will offer data on hang time, kick territory gain and post-ruck pace of play
  • Sportable technology has previously been used in RugbyX and Women’s Six Nations

Premiership Rugby, English rugby union’s top flight, is testing a new ‘smart’ rugby ball from Sportable in a move designed to provide more data for fans and other stakeholders.

The league body will debut the technology in the Premiership Rugby Cup matchup between the Newcastle Falcons and Leicester Tigers on 18th March, marking the first time the Sportable technology will be used in an elite men’s rugby union match in the northern hemisphere.

Usage in the sport, however, dates back to 2019 in the new format RugbyX competition. The technology was also deployed in the 2021 Women’s Six Nations.

The smart rugby balls are each fitted with an internal radio frequency identification (RFID) chip which communicates with up to 20 different sensors within the stadium to generate live data and insights.

Through Sportable’s partnerships with rugby ball manufacturer Gilbert and UK pay-TV network BT Sport, artificial intelligence-powered (AI) metrics will be made available to the broadcaster. These include ball hang time, territorial gain after a kick, and a ‘ground reload’ data point to indicate the speed at which play is recycled from a ruck.

Premiership Rugby has confirmed that the 15 remaining cup matches this season will all use the smart ball.

“We are thrilled to be working with such a forward-thinking organisation like Premiership Rugby. Their team has embraced all features of our technology and together we have a fantastic opportunity to enhance the game even further both on and off the field,” said Sportable chief executive Dugland Macdonald.

Phil Winstanley, rugby director at Premiership Rugby, added: “We are constantly looking at innovations and ways to grow the game, and we are delighted to have chosen to trial this new smart ball.

“This season we have brought live Premiership rugby back to terrestrial TV, launched PRTV Live – so all Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches are now available to watch live – and now we hope this new rugby ball will help provide a greater insight for a new audience while deepening our relationship with our current fans.”

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