The Sport Information Resource Centre
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The Sport Information Resource Centre

In June, the Canadian men’s national soccer team defeated Haiti to reach the final stage of World Cup qualifying for the first time since 1997. Over the next year, Canada will play qualifying matches against seven other countries, including the U.S. and Mexico. The top three teams will play in the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Professional sports teams play an important role in bringing local communities together. For example, by participating in vaccination initiatives and building relationships with local youth soccer clubs, the Halifax Wanderers Football Club became an integral part of the Halifax community during the pandemic. Read the SIRCuit to find out more about how professional sport organizations are building their communities.

Referees and sports officials, in both professional and amateur sports, experience high levels of abuse. Researchers in Europe have found that a culture of abuse towards referees is a principal reason for referee discontinuation and that this harms all levels of sport, highlighting the importance of mental health support for officials.

In a first of its kind report on the status of elite women’s soccer, FIFA has found that the success of a national team is correlated with the proportion of domestic clubs that offer youth programs for girls. For leagues in which 80% of clubs have girls’ programs, the average national team ranking is 13th—compared to an average ranking of 28th for all other countries.

A new study shows fans prefer sport teams that built success over time more than teams that bought wins with purchased superstars. Potential fans valued the effort and hard work behind a gradually built team, and felt that gradually built teams would show more teamwork.

Can standardized drills designed to measure strength, speed and explosiveness predict success in complex sports such as football? Analysis from sport scientists at the University of Rhode Island found the NFL Scouting Combine can predict only 20-25 percent of a player’s future success, and fails to capture intangible traits such as leadership, drive and “mental makeup.” The researchers suggest past performance on the field is the best predictor of future performance.

Judges’ decisions are an integral part of combat sports, from boxing and wrestling to mixed martial arts (MMA). However, data collected from more than 500 men’s and women’s mixed martial arts contests found the rate at which competitors fight (the number of strikes attempted per second) is more likely to result in judges awarding victory than the skill with which they attack their opponents (the percentage of significant strikes that land firmly on the target).

In addition to helping protect players from COVID-19, the NBA playoff “bubble” in Orlando may be an example of a competitive equalizer by eliminating team travel. Researchers analyzing the results of nearly 500 NBA playoff games over six seasons found that a team’s direction of travel and the number of time zones crossed were associated with its predicted win probability and actual game performance.

With mass gatherings prohibited, sport leagues are getting creative to engage their fans. The Canadian Premier League unveiled Canada’s first virtual stadium for a professional sporting competition at the 2020 CPL Island Games in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, which kicked off mid-August. The technology uses augmented reality to create a mix of virtual and real fan integration, giving fans the feeling of being in a seat at the stadium.

Increased hooliganism and soccer-related violence are legitimate international concerns. Previous research has linked sports-related hooliganism to ‘social maladjustment’ (e.g. previous episodes of violence or dysfunctional behavior at home, work or school), however new research suggests incidents are linked to social bonding and a desire to protect and defend other fans.