AFL explores centralisation of GPS contracts for AFL clubs

Herald Sun

The AFL is investigating a universal GPS system which could deliver clubs, broadcasters and rule-makers an unprecedented level of data on players.

The league yesterday confirmed it held talks with high performance managers last week about striking a league-wide deal that would help provide next generation analysis for every club.

Clubs currently have individual contracts with GPS tracking companies such as Catapult, costing upwards of $40,000 a year.

But an AFL takeover of the 18 club contracts would help centralise the data, increase cost efficiency and finally crack a data dead-zone at Etihad Stadium.

In an ongoing disadvantage for Etihad Stadium’s frustrated tenant clubs such as Essendon and St Kilda, they are unable to generate GPS data when the roof is shut.

AFL football operations manager Mark Evans yesterday said talks about the GPS overhaul, including a switch to a local positioning system (LPS) such as ‘Clear Sky’ at Etihad, were in their infancy.

He said there were potential benefits of the new setup for broadcast partners.

“If we amalgamated it (GPS deals) across all clubs that would get a better arrangement for everybody,” Evans told the Herald Sun.

“So there were preliminary discussions just to see whether there was interest (from clubs) in that.

“If we did strike a deal there are more applications for the data that might be of interest to broadcasters or even other coaching applications.“

In addition to cutting-edge distance and speed measurements, there is potential for the new system to register the force of collisions and measure the intensity of players’ movements compared to their direct opponents.

That information could also help rule makers assess trends in the game and impacts of rules changes by measuring congestion, distances covered by players and fatigue.

There were also potentially major benefits for broadcasters who, if granted access to the data, could televise the previously top secret information about players’ movements on field.

It would inform footy fans how many kilometres players have covered, track their running patterns and top speeds.

Team totals could also be tallied and measured against rivals.

However some club officials remain cautious about the confidentiality of that information and the manner in which it would be portrayed to viewers.

One senior football official yesterday said clubs would welcome the extra funding and fan engagement it would generate in the game, with the new data likely to help bolster the value of future broadcast deals.

The next broadcast deal, which could be worth $1.5bn, will run from 2017.