We often discuss the ways that new technologies and techniques are being used to help improve sports performance or increase the effectiveness of training techniques. The use of new technology for this is well documented and the results are speaking for themselves.
From the ways in which athletes and equipment is tracked, to how effective the teams behind the scenes are at analysing this information, each has a part to play when it comes to future performances and achievements.
However, another thing that we have seen regarding changes to technology is that the sports teams who have the best technologies are also the ones who have the most money to spend across the board.
They may have the best technology and training facilities, but these are generally used to train the best players with the best coaches and equipment, before playing on the best pitches in the most expensive stadiums.
This begs the question of which causes success? Technology or money?
It is a curious question and one that cannot be looked at in isolation.
Formula one is a prime example of how technological innovations can come from teams who may not necessarily have the most money.
The 2009 season is testament to this, where Brawn GP won the constructors championship and drivers championship despite starting the season with no main sponsors, leaving them as one of the poorest teams on the grid. Their innovative use of rear diffuser technology meant that they had a significant advantage over their competitors though, which won them the championship that season despite having little money to begin with.
In the English Premier League, this is less clear cut. The 2015 season saw Chelsea as runaway champions, lifting the premier league trophy on May 3, being crowned as champions with three matches remaining in the season. We have had access to their training facilities in the past and they have invested a significant amount of time and money in their facilities and the training they can deliver to their players.
They are the third richest team in the premier league though, which means that although they have a huge amount of money to spend on other aspects aside from their technology, it must have had a better impact than the two teams above them, Manchester United and Manchester City. However, with the top four teams in the league also being the four richest in the league, it is clear that although technology has a part to play in performance at a certain level, the jump from a small team to the big cannot be done with technology alone.
The NFL is perhaps the best example of technology and training techniques playing a significant part over finances, simply because they implement a salary cap, meaning that no one team has the opportunity to excel based on finances alone.
It is the reason who the New England Patriots have been one of the dominant forces in the sport over the past 15 years, winning 4 Super Bowls. It cannot be down to finances because they technically do not have any advantage over any other team, at least in terms of their team roster. It means that the technology and techniques they use to train the players they have had this impact, combined with their coaching staff and training facilities.
Of course looking at these two aspects in isolation is not going to give the full picture behind success, but helps to answer the basic question of whether technology or finance has a bigger impact on sporting performance. There are other things to look at, such as how players are treated, chosen or even fed, but ultimately two of the most important aspects in preparation for any game or race is how they train.
What we have seen through this brief case study is that although finance certainly plays a considerable part in the success of a team or athlete, the truth is that when a certain level is achieved, technology plays a bigger part in this. Take the Spanish Liga BBVA where the two richest soccer teams in the world play. If finance was the only aspect that played a part then Real Madrid would win every season, but as it stands they have won 5 of the previous 15 seasons with Barcelona winning 7. It is clear that this difference has not come from better facilities, but from a better use of technology and techniques both on the pitch and training field.