Catapult Sports uses AFL to show off indoor tracking tool

Financial Review

Fast-growing technology firm Catapult Sports hopes to roll out its cutting-edge indoor tracking system around the world following its permanent installation at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium.

Catapult recently installed its ClearSky system at Etihad Stadium, and conducted successful trials of the technology during the last three rounds of the AFL season and the grand final of the under-18 TAC Cup.

Shaun Holthouse, the chief executive of Catapult, said ClearSky would ultimately prove to be more effective than the company’s existing GPS tracking system.

“What it is doing is bringing the satellites down from the sky and into the stadium,” he said. “Its positional accuracy is very good, to within 10 centimetres.”

Catapult already sells its GPS tracking system to 500 elite sports teams around the world, who use it to track player movements during matches and at training.

The information gleaned, collected from a small device worn by athletes underneath their clothing, is used to monitor player movement, training loads and fatigue.

While the GPS system relies on downloads from satellites and therefore can only be used outdoors, the ClearSky system uses anchor nodes installed around stadiums.

“We have put in 14 nodes around Etihad Stadium, and it will give those [AFL] tenant clubs there as much information as others around the league,” Mr Holthouse said. “Being here in Melbourne too means we can really use the AFL as a showcase for our technology to potential clients around the world, installing our newest stuff here first.”

Many AFL games played at Etihad Stadium are often held with the roof closed.

The ClearSky technology could potentially be sold to sports that are predominantly played in indoor arenas, such as basketball and ice hockey, as well as teams in various football codes that have indoor stadiums.

Mr Holthouse said the information collected could also be used in media broadcasts, a topic that company has already discussed with the AFL, and on websites.

“It could be used to track defenders when they peel off their players and run with the ball, for example,” he said. “Where there is a hole in a team’s zone defence. People watching the game want to know this sort of information. So those second screen applications really come into it.”

Etihad Stadium itself has signed a deal with Telstra and Cisco to upgrade of its Wi-Fi and IPTV service and develop an app.

Though it has already signed about 500 teams around the world, Holthouse said Catapult has plenty of room for further growth.

“We think we’ve only captured around 3.5 per cent of the elite sport market that is out there,” Mr Holthouse said. “And our competitors combined have less, so there is still a lot of the market to be captured.”

Catapult could list on the Australian Securities Exchange later this year.

It raised $6 million from private investors in July to buy its Canberra-based rival GPS Sports, while US billionaire Mark Cuban took a small stake in Catapult earlier in the year.