Uncertain future for controversial sports app

Infant sports app ProTeam has been on campus for six months, but to what extent has it been successful?

Image: Dean Garlick

CONTROVERSIAL SPORTS APP ProTeam has largely failed to make an impact upon college sport at the University of York and other launched universities, an investigation by Nouse Sport has discovered.

Arriving on campus in October 2017, ProTeam promised to revolutionise college sport at York by providing a centralised location for organisation and information, whilst increasing coverage and hype surrounding the high-quality sporting displays to be found at college level. Those that had doubted the existence of college league tables were silenced as the new free-to-use platform provided easy access to college league tables, fixtures and results.

So, 6 months on, how much of an impact has the platform had at the University of York and the other 9 universities granting it official backing? Has there been a movement away from lengthy email chains and multiple Facebook groups towards one streamlined organisational platform?

An investigation by Nouse Sport suggests that, despite early optimism and clear praise of the app, ProTeam has largely failed to have the impact it promised in most of its launched universities, including the University of York.

Meanwhile, ProTeam Technologies Ltd. has expressed a desire to change its business model and suspend development of the app after experiencing setbacks which have left the app – initially costing ProTeam around £70,000 to develop – with a lack of funding.

The results of a survey sent out by Nouse Sport to York college captains are fairly damning for the app. While 93 per cent of respondents have or had downloaded the app, 60 per cent admitted to being infrequent monthly users, and all respondents expressed a preference for using Facebook to conduct club affairs.

While there was overwhelming popularity for the app’s provision of easy access to league tables, fixtures, and results, the other features received little salience, with one respondent saying they dislike “everything else”.

A common pitfall highlighted by surveyed captains was the app’s lack of updates and mass usage, thereby nullifying any positive effect ProTeam could have within college sport. A quick browse of the app confirms this: There is varied usage across launched universities, with some leagues naturally being more up-to-date and attracting more attention while others resemble a room without furniture. Though in the former case, a lack of usage prevails when compared to the number of students within college sport.

Image: ProTeam Technologies Ltd.

This is perhaps not surprising since the success of the app was always going to be contingent on sports captains registering their team on ProTeam, providing regular updates to scores and team sheets, and encouraging their teammates to download the app.

The survey also revealed a lack of motivation on the part of captains to update the app, with just 13.3 per cent of respondents claiming they update scores and 60 per cent expressing little or no motivation to update the app. This can be attributed, at least in part, to the lack of usage of ProTeam and suggests that better promotion of the app on campus and more incentives to use the app could trigger a usage boom.

One respondent confessed: “The app seems unused so any updates I provide will probably not reach a large audience and therefore be worth my time.” Certainly the biggest obstacle seems to be convincing captains and players to move away from Facebook to ProTeam, with one respondent questioning: “Facebook works, so why change it?”

“The app is not suited to the climate of university sport and investment”

Several Freedom of Information requests submitted by Nouse Sport found that York is not a unique case and that ProTeam has experienced similar struggles at other launched universities. Just 52 students at Northumbria University have downloaded ProTeam since its launch in December 2017; while Leeds Beckett University reports a download figure of 27, or put another way, 0.15 per cent of current students. More dramatically, ProTeam failed to launch at Durham University after Team Durham issued an email to all sports captains stating that the platform was not to be used in a Durham-wide capacity due to legal concerns with the app’s terms and conditions.

The FoI responses also revealed an anomalous case. In contrast to the varied and limited usage at most launched universities, Loughborough University, which launched ProTeam in the same month as York, is a rare case of teams embracing ProTeam, keeping it up-to- date, and receiving large amounts of followers in return. 4000 students have downloaded the app, which contributes the majority of the monthly users on the app across all launched universities. If anything, Loughborough is an example of the great potential of the app when it is embraced successfully.

Going forward, ProTeam Technologies Ltd. has stated it will be taking a change of direction and freezing development of the app for the time being. Priding itself on making an app which is completely free to its users, ProTeam is unlike its American counterpart, TeamSnap, which charges users up to $17.99 per month. This, coupled with investors withdrawing their confidence in the app, has meant that further developments are not economically viable. Development of the app stopped at Christmas with usage and investment stagnating, following what had been a promising initial few months for the app.

A ProTeam spokesperson admitted that the app currently was “not suited to the climate of university sport and investment”, and the company instead will be focusing on the automation of sport live stream production through the use of AI and extending its target market beyond university sport. However, ProTeam does plan to resume development of the app later this year.

Spearheading the launch of ProTeam back in October 2017, York Sport Union President Laura Carruthers expressed delight and optimism at the unveiling of the University’s first ever sports app. Six months on, however, some of that optimism has been replaced with criticism: “Whilst there is no doubt that ProTeam has immensely improved the logistics of organising College Sport here at York, clearly there is definitely scope to improve.”

York Sport Union President-elect Zac Sheppard echoed these sentiments: “One of the first things I want to address as sports President is to look at ProTeam. I think there are really good elements but ProTeam is definitely not perfect.”

Only time will tell whether the app will flourish beyond Loughborough, but the desire for centralised access to college league tables, fixtures, and results is clear.