On a broader level, Garber said that it's crucial for the MLS to embrace new technology, particularly as it grows its following in the U.S. and competes for mindshare against larger leagues like the NBA and NFL, where Garber worked for 16 years before ...and more »
MLS Commissioner Don Garber speaks with the media at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit Welcome Party on Tuesday evening in Seattle. Photos by GeekWire/Kevin Lisota.When Major League Soccer agreed upon its collective bargaining agreement in 2011, the number one issue discussed between the league and itsÂ players union revolved around drug testing rules.
TheÂ number one issue five years later in 2015? It was all about data.
MLS CommissionerÂ Don Garber met with the media on Tuesday evening at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit Welcome Party at The NINETY in downtown Seattle.
Garber,Â who will appear on stageÂ during a fireside chat Wednesday at the Sports Tech Summit, revealed that as players and league representatives hashed out the most recent CBA, the highest-priorityÂ issue centered around medical data collection and information sharing.
â€œIt was the first issue we dealt with,â€ said Garber, who became commissioner in 1999. â€œWe are trying to find ways we can help our players be better, faster, and stronger; recuperate and train better; and give coaches more information to be able to help them put a better product on the field.â€
Many MLS players wear devicesÂ both during games and practice thatÂ track a number of metrics. The Seattle Sounders, for example, use wearable GPS harnesses from Catapult SportsÂ to trackÂ precisely how fast and for how long an athlete is moving around on the field. That information is importantÂ for a variety of reasons â€” for example, the data can help the team determine how anÂ injured player can recover most effectively, or how hard heâ€™s working on the field.
As a result, each player now has a wealth of data to their name, some of which can be valuable in termsÂ assessing overall value and performance. Itâ€™s important for the league to manage how that information is used, particularly when a player changes teams. Garber calledÂ it a â€œhuge priority.â€
â€œIt could be our biggest,â€ he noted.
Added Garber, on data collection: â€œFrankly, since [soccer] isÂ a fairly simpleÂ game to play,Â the more data we canÂ collect, the more effectiveÂ we will be.â€
On a broader level, Garber said that itâ€™s crucial for the MLS to embrace new technology, particularly as it grows its following in the U.S. and competes for mindshare againstÂ larger leagues like the NBA and NFL, where Garber worked for 16 years before heading up the MLS.
He noted that becauseÂ theÂ MLSÂ has the youngest fan base of all the major leagues â€œfrom a consumer perspective,â€ it is focused on utilizing new technology to communicate with fans.
â€œTechnology allows us to be smarter and allows us to communicate more effectively with a very young and increasingly-digital fan base,â€ he said. â€œIt allows us to have a very large and expressive global communication mechanism.â€
Garber said that the MLS, whose employees have an average age of 27, has more people working on the digital editorial and technical teams than any other department.
â€œThose are people dealing with fan data collection and analysis,Â marketing communications, technical data collection, media and broadcastÂ technology,â€ he explained. â€œItâ€™s our DNA and itâ€™s going to become more and more part of the DNA of our industry.â€
Seattle Sounders FC owner Adrian Hanauer speaks at the GeekWire Sports Tech Welcome Party.Garber also addressed a number of other soccer-related topics, including the debate over using turf fields, an expanded playoff system, and more.Â Check out The Seattle Timesâ€™ coverage for his additional comments.
Stay tuned to GeekWire for coverage ofÂ Garberâ€™s fireside chat with GeekWire co-founder John Cook at Wednesdayâ€™sÂ Sports Tech Summit.
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