The Event Rider Masters series set record levels of prize money when it launched in 2016 and succeeded in showcasing the sport of eventing to new global audiences. The six legs of the inaugural event incorporated iconic British events, and riders competed for the coveted Event Rider Masters title and an impressive prize pot of £350,000.
In 2017, Germany and France are being added to the host countries, and the prize pot will again be substantial. Paul Tapner, Event Rider Masters digital and technical manager, says that at the heart of the series is the amazing technology, powered by SAP Equestrian Analytics.
“SAP became the Official Technology Sponsor of Event Rider Masters partly as a result of its connection with SAP ambassador Ingrid Klimke, and also through its use of the technology at Aachen, where it was trialled and developed,” Paul says.
“We all had mutual contacts at the top end of eventing, and it was a natural progression for SAP when they were looking to expand their equestrian involvement. With our global intentions, it really suited their global business status.”
Arguably the most exciting aspect of the SAP technology is its benefits to audiences within the dressage sector. “There’s an audience judging app that people download to their phones, which offers the ability for the audience to interact and engage with the event, rather than just be passive,” Paul explains.
“Eventing and dressage enthusiasts already love to sit and play dressage score bingo when they are at an event with the live score boards, comparing their marks with the judges’ marks. The live boards aren’t a new innovation, but we can incorporate them into the TV production and also utilise the back-end data to create a really interactive experience.
“With the SAP technology, you see live scoring per dressage movement. There’s lots of maths involved in transferring that figure into an actual penalty score, a trending penalty score and also a trending placing throughout a test. Dressage orders are seeded, so scores could in theory get better with every competitor, but that’s not always the case, as we know with horses.
“When utilising this technology, whether at an event or at home with the SAP app, the audience can see the movement score and also see the trending penalty score. So, if your rider is on 42 but the leader is on 45, you can quickly see that the one you’re watching is about to go into the lead. We are making sense of the data for the spectator and making dressage more engaging to watch.”
Users can also input into the SAP app their own score per movement, or just a final score that they feel each test was worth, allowing spectators to compare their opinion of each test to the judges’ scoring.
“By the marvels of modern internet technology, people ring-side and also those watching the live stream worldwide can both input scores. We add them all together and see an average of all of the worldwide spectators’ scores, which flashes on the screen for comparison with the actual competition score,” Paul said.
“They may not tally up. It’s like the audience on TV programmes like ‘Idol’ or ‘X-Factor’ booing the judges. We can instantly see whether the spectators have a different opinion to the judges! You get audience interaction at other sporting events, whether it’s cheering or booing the decision makers at rugby, tennis or soccer matches, so why not in eventing dressage too? It’s great to hear the ‘oohs’, ‘aahs’, ‘boos’ and ‘yays’. It’s what sport is.
“The more we make eventing dressage like a sport, rather than random, weirdly dressed posh people on horses doing random things in an arena, the more we engage with spectators and gain an understanding of why the riders are winning and losing. It will also highlight dressage judging discrepancies and increase the transparency of horse sport.”
An important part of the live TV streaming success is the people commenting on the maths and number-crunching that’s going on behind the scenes. “If I have done my job right and selected the right commentators, it will work. We’re creating a cheat sheet for the main anchor commentator with words they can’t use or have to immediately translate if another commentator uses the specific jargon — it’s got to be jargon-free for the audience,” Paul adds.
“So we will have three commentators — a data geek, a discipline expert and then a broadcast anchor, and it is this anchor person who will need to translate the eventing-specific terminology for the masses. This technology is evolving the whole time, as no one’s ever done it before, and everyone involved at the ERM has been a pro competitor and understands the need of the sport to evolve.”
In 2018, the Event Rider Masters series will hopefully go to America, with legs in Asia and the Middle East planned for 2019, making it a behemoth sporting masterpiece. Paul and the team will join EN again soon with more news on the series — and in the meantime, Go Eventing!