GPS devices embedded inside smart footballs could impact score reviews in AFL, NRL and ARU

Herald Sun

Sporting codes across the nation could be revolutionised by a small GPS tracking device embedded inside “smart” footballs and have the potential to influence score reviews.

And the Melbourne-based company behind it, Catapult — the world’s largest providers of the GPS devices in sporting codes — suggest the footballs could be rolled out as early as next year.

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The AFL and NRL are considering introducing the battery-operated computer chip, which is the size of a 10-cent coin and has the capacity to influence score decisions and analytics.

Catapult’s business development manager and Hawthorn’s 1991 Norm Smith Medallist and premiership player Paul Dear said the device will track the ball’s speed, time held in possession by a player and help provide deeper analysis of the game.

“It can be adapted to be used in score review processes across all codes,’’ he said.

“The technology will allow us to track the ball and also track the ball in relation to players.

“It will give the spectators an inside of what is happening off the ball, there will be more detail of the game ... if we are producing that every second of the game it will give great insight.”

The company already manufactures and sells GPS devices worn by players in various codes including the AFL and also makes indoor stadium tracking systems for athletes and elite sports teams.

AFL spokesman Patrick Keane said the smart footballs would need to be trialled first before there was likelihood they would be used in home and away games.

“The AFL is keen to explore all new technology that can help coaching of our game and athlete performance, as well as enhance the broadcast of our matches to viewers,’’ he said.

“The objective from the AFL point of view first and foremost is that technology can assist team performance and player health and safety.’’

North Melbourne captain Andrew Swallow said using GPS devices in footballs could be a “good thing” for the game.

“It gives the coaching and the fitness staff a bit more of an idea of what it is going on and it could help improve performance,’’ he said.

An NRL spokesman said they were aware of the technology but had not yet decided to implement it into the code.

Catapult has more than 70 employees and will list for $66 million on the Australian Securities Exchange next Friday (Dec. 19).

It’s looking to raise $12 million from investors at 55 cents per share.

IG Markets research analyst Chris Weston said the company had great potential ahead of it’s listing on the ASX because of Australians’ obsession with sports.

“It’s different to banks, energy and mining stocks, Australians are into sports and sports technology and it’s got good revenue growth,’’ he said.

“The question is can that be sustained.”