AI in the Arena: Will Sports Become Too Predictable?


Remember the 2017 Superbowl when the Patriots made the most improbable comeback in the history of American football? With just around 17 minutes left, the Patriots trailed 28-3, and the win predictor showed Atlanta’s chances of winning at 99.8 percent. What followed was sheer brilliance from Brady and the Patriots to overcome the 25-point different and clinch the Superbowl win.  

And how can any cricket fan forget the 2016 T20 World Cup Final?

West Indies required 19 runs to win in just 6 balls. In cricket, that’s tough; the game was all England’s, and any cricket fan would tell you that England should have won that match. However, in came Carlos Brathwaite hitting 4 sixes in 4 balls to take the title for his team. His performance has been dubbed the greatest ever T20 performance in the game’s history.  

What do both these spectacular feats have in common? They were highly unpredictable, and nobody could have imagined the turn around that ensued in both the matches. And sure, miracles like this happen in sports from time to time but what about the rest of the matches?  

Among the many reasons viewers enjoy sports, the thrill that comes from watching your favorite team’s match with a group of friends and the sheer unpredictable nature of all kinds of sports, is a major one. Even if your team is at the bottom, and up against the top ones, you watch the match because in the world of sports, anything is possible.  

But for how long?

There is no denying that the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) is bound to permanently affect the world of sports as well. However, this can be construed in two ways.  

The first is positive: teams become more efficient in terms of preparing for matches, from analytics tools to injury predictions to personalised plans for each player. The second is not so positive: matches become more and more predictable in terms of results, taking away the excitement experienced by fans.  

Let’s take a deeper look into how AI is impacting outcomes in the field of sports.  

Technology and Data

Artificial Intelligence plays a major role in the world of sports by making the jobs of coaches and front office personnel easier. By leveraging improved data processing capabilities, coaches can identify areas that need improvement, and recognize the strengths and weaknesses of individual athletes. Studying sport film and analysing improvement areas also becomes easier with AI, as it recognizes patterns not visible to the naked eye. All of this gives a competitive edge to the team. However, this edge is only available to the team that is utilising AI tools and has the financial muscle to leverage these capabilities.

This raises a pertinent concern, especially for avid and traditional sports fans across the world. This use of AI has the potential to transform sports into an arena where the goal is not to scout and nurture the most talented, but rather which team can obtain the most effective AI technology. The true essence of sports which is its competitive nature, gets lost in this pursuit. However, AI's impact extends beyond the professional level, democratizing access to elite sports analytics for amateurs and local teams. This technology is not just creating a new playbook for sports but is also leveling the playing field, allowing smaller teams to compete with the giants by utilizing data effectively.

It all boils down to how one views sports. If you are someone that values intuition over a more systematic approach to sports, you might be against the incorporation of AI in sports. If you are all for incorporating AI in sports and the aftermath excites you, then rest assured, your wish is coming true.  


When it comes to coaching, artificial intelligence is proving to be a gamechanger. It is transforming the art of coaching from intuition, experience, and skill towards a more data-driven approach reliant on external tools.

Using sensors and high-speed cameras, AI platforms can now measure the speed, spin, and placement of a tennis serve, a curveball, a forward pass, a penalty kick, LBW in cricket and dozens of other similar actions, in addition to the motions and positioning in the space of the players who perform them. All this data makes coaches better able to prepare players for competition. Not only this, but AI can predict the chances of success for various game tactics and provide valuable information for coaches. (Source: Medium)

On the same note, athletes are harnessing the capabilities of AI to optimize their performance. The technology can be utilised and worn by athletes to measure training performance and provide live updates of athletes’ vitals and exertion levels. Data can then be fed into systems which assess whether an athlete is injury prone. Coaches can further leverage this to create specialized training regimes and nutrition programs to mitigate an athlete’s risk of injury and to ensure maximum efficiency and optimal performance.  

This kind of predictability can be good for the sport, and for the fans. No fan wants to see their favorite player get injured on live television and subsequently get sidelined for months. All sports fans can and agree that it is one of the saddest things to witness.  

Sporting Equipment

Sporting goods companies are also harnessing the abilities of AI to create performance maximising equipment. Adidas, for example, has innovated an AI-powered soccer ball that adjusts its flight path for optimal accuracy. Wilson has crafted a tennis racket that utilizes AI to enable players to strike the ball with unprecedented power and precision. Not only is AI capable of making highly sophisticated and efficient equipment, but it can also help in the creation of personalised equipment tailored accordingly to the user’s needs.  

In Formula 1, teams are employing AI simulations powered by partners such as AWS, Dell, and Oracle to optimize race strategies by analysing key variables like weather, competitors, pit stops, collisions and mechanical issues. These simulations also identify car weaknesses and potential failures, helping teams stay within budget constraints.  

In golf, Altair’s AI-powered solutions combine simulation, machine learning and data analytics to optimize club design and performance. AI-driven adjustments focus on factors such as center of gravity, durability and spin, enabling the creation of clubs tailored to a broader range of player needs.  

In football, Google’s Jacquard tag is embedded in shoe insoles and uses machine learning to monitor movements like kicking and running, which can then be charted into the virtual world for both better fan engagement and player insights. (Source: Forbes )

AI is slowly and steadily paving its way into every sport, and no one can stop it, but this again brings us back to our topic of discussion. Using AI powered equipment will not be cheap or for everyone. Certainly, considerable financial backing would be needed for procuring this equipment. Does that not automatically put one side over the other, and in turn make sports more predictable?  

Data Pilot’s Take

There is no doubt that, to some degree and in some respects, AI will continue to play a major role in sports, in terms of predicting outcomes and making the jobs of coaches and players easier.

Whether that is for better or for worse, we can’t say with certainty yet. Like any technology, artificial intelligence has a cost, and in this case, it is making sports more predictable. For instance, machine learning can be used to predict the results of matches. In soccer, where massive sets of data are available, a model outcome can be created to predict future results. An application named Kick-off claims it can predict the odd of winning for both sides.  

Similarly, Swarm AI Technology uses a hybrid AI where networks of humans think together with machines to forecasts match results. Another tennis-oriented solution WinnerOdds helps in betting by calculating the real probabilities of all the tennis matches. (Source: Medium)

Technologies like Kick-Off and WinnerOdds are just a few of many - this is just the beginning of the influence of AI in sports. New and better technologies will spring up, as they are evolving every day, and will continue to revolutionize the world of sports. However, the extent of the control AI has in making sports more predictable lies in the hands of the viewers.


In conclusion, the influence of AI in sports is profound and transformative, reshaping how games are played, analyzed, and experienced. AI technologies offer significant enhancements in player performance, strategic planning, and injury prevention. Through advanced analytics and machine learning, teams and coaches can make data-driven decisions that were once based on intuition alone.

The integration of AI in sports also promises a more engaging and personalized fan experience. From tailored viewing recommendations to interactive platforms that allow fans to predict game outcomes, AI is making sports more accessible and enjoyable for fans around the world.

As we move forward, the potential of AI in sports is limitless. With ongoing advancements and increased adoption, AI is set to revolutionize the sports industry. But we hope that the very nature of sports, its unpredictability, will remain intact and the thrill will not end.  

By Mohaimin Rana.

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