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When you’ve seen a glimpse of the future, it sticks with you. It can keep you up at night. We don’t claim to have a lock on precision forecasting, but it’s not tenable to ignore the new challenges we face or hope that things will stay the same. One of the best ways to prepare for the future is to engage in a lively and spirited dialogue about the changes to come. We trust that this new edition of The Future of Sports will continue to drive that conversation.

Think about this: Just a decade ago, owning a flip phone meant you were on the cutting edge of technology and smartphones were a distant innovation on the horizon. HD televisions were making their way into homes, but they cost $6,000. YouTube was in the testing stage and Facebook had only expanded to 21 colleges. Neither Tumblr, Snapchat nor Instagram existed yet, and the newest rage was the Nintendo Wii. We thought fantasy sports were huge, when in fact they were in their infancy. Only one out of 10 people in China were online.

The pace of change has been stunning, and it is not slowing down. It’s time that we take a hard look at the generation currently coming into adulthood, because they represent our future fanbases.

We know that they love sports, but they have an entirely different approach to engaging with games. For example, members of Generation Z are increas- ingly becoming fans of a sport or a franchise through playing video games or fantasy sports—attending a live game is no longer the default gateway to fandom. They will be the first gener- ation to fully embrace the new worlds of virtual and augmented reality. They are tech savvy, hyper-connected and easily bored. To stay relevant, legacy sports organizations must understand the tastes and motivations of this growing group of millennials.

New technology will change not only how we interact with our newest fans, but also nearly every aspect of running a professional sports franchise.

Advances in machine learning, where computers autonomously harvest mountains of data to find hidden patterns, are already helping predict and avoid season-ending injuries. These same advances will undoubtedly change the way owners and coaches make decisions, from recruitment to on-field strategy. Sports professionals have always been interested in data, and the amount of data we collect on teams and on the performance and health of individual athletes is growing exponentially. Machine learning will allow us to analyze all that information and act on it effectively.

It’s a lot to think about, we know.
And we’re certainly not suggesting that you try to find an answer for everything in these pages. That simply wouldn’t be possible. But we hope that this publication has piqued your curiosity just enough that you’ll continue the conversation. Let us know what you think.

Jerry Jacobs

JERRY JACOBS JR.

Co-Chief Executive Officer
Delaware North

Lou Jacobs

LOU JACOBS

Co-Chief Executive Officer
Delaware North

Charlie Jacobs

CHARLIE JACOBS

Chief Executive Officer
Delaware North’s
Boston Holdings

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