Measuring the minutiae of player performance in this way has become increasingly important because the strength and fitness of elite sportsmen is now so evenly matched, and their tactical knowledge and defensive awareness so well drilled, that new innovations need to be found to break the deadlock. Grappling with (and better understanding) this emerging realm of player performance stats may produce only marginal gains, but these marginal gains may, in turn, be enough for a team to attain a competitive edge.
What does this mean for The Gain Line?
These themes are further elaborated in a new video installation by artist Ravi Deepres, commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and Rugby Art Gallery and Museum in partnership with Phoenix, Leicester and ICIA, University of Bath. Called The Gain Line, the piece takes its title from that invisible, ever-changing frontline on the field of play at which opposing teams attack and defend, and win or lose territory.
Deeply engaged with the history and traditions of the game, and, with the aid of miniature player-cams and other wearable devices, equally immersing itself in the thick of the action, Deepres’ work also speculates about the present and future application of digital technology within sport, and the gains, and potential hazards and uncertainties, it might bring. Are some coaches so in thrall to a definitive analysis of the post-match data that they are less inclined to trust their eyes and instincts anymore? Is rigid adherence to a particular game-plan dictated by the available statistics stifling the qualities of improvisation and daring that have always been part of the spirit and the joy of sport? Or is the message coming over the wires from the world of Big Data simply too big to ignore?
Deepres doesn’t come down on one side or the other of the line. But as The Gain Line shows, to vivid effect, advances at the leading edge of technical innovation are leaving an indelible mark on contemporary sport and their impact is certain to continue to reverberate over the years ahead. The match-up between these two distinct forces is beautifully poised, and will be far too interesting to miss.
— Steven Bode, Director of Film and Video Umbrella