Johan Cruyff Institute professor of innovation and entrepreneurship, Irsan Widarto, presents in the Sports Technology Symposium of FC Barcelona seven new tech jobs that sports will incorporate in the next 10 years
Irsan Widarto, an entrepreneur and professor of innovation and entrepreneurship at the Johan Cruyff Institute, is a regular at conferences around the world. His last appearance on stage was on the occasion of the ‘Sports Technology Symposium’, a discussion forum organized by FC Barcelona and FCB Universitas with the application of technology in the sport as its theme.
Irsan was one of the speakers in the section on Data-driven Strategies. From his experience and analysis of the latest trends in technology, he pointed out the new professional profiles that will appear in the sports industry in the coming years. In this interview, we ask him about the symposium and the results of his survey to find out where sport management is heading, as the sport sector continues to innovate and evolve with the emergence of new professionals.
Can you tell us what the FC Barcelona ‘Sports Technology Symposium’ was about and what your role there was?
This was the second edition of the FC Barcelona Sports Technology Symposium, a platform for research, development, training and innovation, organized in cooperation with the ESADE business school and T-systems. I was invited by FC Barcelona to do a presentation in the session on data-driven strategies.
What was FC Barcelona’s aim for organizing this symposium?
Dr. Jordi Monés, FCB board member and commissioner of the FCB Universitas initiative, said during the pre-conference dinner that FC Barcelona wants to be a winning team which means they always have to be on the cutting edge, both on and off the pitch. Innovation and knowledge sharing are key in this. He also asked us, the speakers, to be as provocative as possible. His words were: “We want you to amaze us, to make us feel uncomfortable, to challenge us.
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What did you learn at the symposium and what was the highlight?
First of all, FC Barcelona did an excellent job of bringing together sports technology experts from across the globe. There were speakers from Golden State Warriors, Chicago Bulls, Arsenal, Boca Juniors, Ajax and Juventus, but also from federations and organizations like FIFA, UEFA, the US Olympic Committee, Euroleague and INDESCAT. Last but not least, technology companies like Facebook and VenueNext presented their use cases. In total, there were 600 attendees from across the whole spectrum of sport, so I had many very interesting conversations before, in-between and after the presentation sessions. There were many highlights, but if I have to pick one, then it has to be the presentation of Juan Hinestroza, associate professor and director at the Textile Nanotechnology Laboratory of Cornell University. He showed us some examples of how nano-fiber textile applied in sport could change the game. For example, if an opponent grabs Messi by his shirt, the shirt could change its color, making it more visible to the referee that a foul has been committed.
What was your own presentation about?
My presentation was part of the session on data-driven strategies and I talked about the seven best new jobs in sport made possible by technology, in 2025 or earlier. The new jobs are: crowd coach, bio scientist, artificial intelligence expert, AR/VR director, smart stadium architect, customization engineer and robotics trainer. My choices were based on the technological trends that I see, as well as on supporting data like projected revenue and projected investment in certain areas. Finally, I looked at how similar trends have developed outside of sport, for example in the online retail business.
Did you get feedback from the audience?
Yes, I asked the audience to rate the likelihood of these seven jobs from 1 (“in your wildest dreams/will not happen”) to 5 (“100% sure”). A fair share of the attendees took the survey. You can see the results in the graph below.
Did you expect these results?
Well, I was hoping that one or two of the jobs would get lower scores, because that would mean that I had stretched the limits of the audience’s imagination. That said, this audience is very tech-savvy, and was probably already aware of many of the trends that I described. In that sense, I see the scores as a good validation of my thoughts.