Sports tech in France and Spain: high performance potential offer scope to Irish businesses


  • France and Spain are Europe’s leading sports tech markets, and offer substantial opportunities to Irish tech innovators
  • Both countries are striving to ensure sports teams and athletes excel, while also seeking to encourage widespread participation in sport
  • The Enterprise Ireland teams in France and Spain can help you find the right sports sector projects to target


Both Spain and France have passionate sporting cultures. With over 320,000 sports facilities in France alone, it’s little wonder they produce elite sports stars and teams, and attract global sporting events. France and Paris will host the Rugby World Cup 2023 and 2024 Olympics respectively.


Sports tech too is booming, as clubs and federations seek to improve athlete experience and performance, accessibility, sustainability and fan engagement, while also optimising internal processes.


Investment in the sector in France shows 360% growth in the past six years. Spain, too, is seeing soaring investment, with a record €4.3 billion boost driven by acceleration programmes for sports tech start-ups.


Many clubs and organisations in France and Spain are looking to tech, both for in-house solutions to improve sporting outcomes and business efficiency, and to help develop new and lucrative revenue streams. Irish companies already meeting the needs of clients in these markets include Kitman Labs and Access Earth.


A vibrant tech ecosystem

Feeding the appetite for sports-related solutions has become an industry in itself. Four years ago, for example, 50 French start-ups formed the SportsTech collective to tap into the potential of a sector that generates sales of over €71 billion.


At the same time, multiple Spanish cities have established sports innovation hubs to serve as collaborative platforms between sports organisations, tech companies and start-ups. Global Sports Innovation Centre (GSIC) in Madrid is renowned for fostering collaboration between these stakeholders.


Enterprise Ireland has been leading the way for Irish start-ups to compete in this ecosystem. At the Viva Technology 2023 innovator conference in Paris, for example, we invited six Irish start-ups to participate in a pitch contest – Irish Innovation in SportsTech – to promote innovative Irish offerings.


Likewise, Enterprise Ireland Madrid has supported Irish firm Access Earth to deliver a keynote on creating inclusive environments for better fan experience at the GSIC Summit in Madrid and to operate a pilot run of its services in the home ground of football team SD Ponferradina.


How digital tools are transforming sports

Across European sport, digital solutions are making the industry more attractive to fans and consumers and improving athletes’ performance. Innovative sports businesses are also transforming sports facility management, human performance measurement, sports marketing, fan engagement, and more. Analytical tools that were once the domain of elite organisations are now filtering down to organisations and athletes at all levels.


Areas of particular focus for those active in the European sports tech ecosystem include using artificial intelligence, data analytics, augmented reality, virtual reality and other technology across areas such as:

  • performance enhancement
    • health and nutrition
    • sports performance analytics and augmented athlete performance AR and VR technologies
  • stadiums
    • connected stadiums and immersive fan experiences
  • e-sport
  • e-commerce
  • sponsorship assets
  • media
    • streaming
    • audio-visual content for clubs and organisations
    • online betting
  • fan engagement
    • virtual/fantasy sports
    • NFTs



A dynamic and tech-savvy market with a strong, well-funded sporting culture, France offers Irish companies with a distinctive offering an opportunity to win business.


Rated second in the world on the Greatest Sporting Nation Index, France is a sports powerhouse. Famous for annual events such as the Tour de France, Roland Garros (tennis), the Vendee Globe, the European football championships and the French Open, it’s also renowned for hosting huge global events such as the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Paris Olympics and Paralympics. One of the most emblematic French sports shops, Decathlon, is also a world-famous brand.

Not only that, but the French sports economy is also accelerating as the local ecosystem benefits from thriving entrepreneurship and booming investment.

Sport accounts for 5.6% of French GDP and the public sector spends €20 billion on sport a year. Local and regional authorities are the main backers of amateur and community sport, spending €12.5 billion a year on sports facilities.

About 128,000 private companies are active in the sector, with as many as 15,000 being set up each year. These diverse companies employ around 333,000 people, or 2.2% of the total workforce, and generate about €71 billion in annual turnover.

  • Government departments such as the Ministry of National Education and Youth and the Ministry of Sport
  • National authorities such as the National Federation and National Sports Council, along with numerous regional and local organisations,
  • The Agence du Numérique en Santé (ANS), which supports the digital transformation of the health system
  • The national network of sports performance centres (CREPS)
  • French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF), the governing body for Olympic and general sport in France
  • The 33 national sport federations, which coordinate training, competition and development
  • French teams are world champions in many team sports, including football, rugby, basketball, volleyball and handball, which boosts investment in these sports. Leading French sports clubs and organisations include:
    • Paris Saint-Germain FC and Olympique de Marseille (soccer)
    • Stade Toulousain, Stade Français and Racing 92 (rugby union)
    • Basket Tony Parker Adéquat Academy (basketball training)
  • La French Tech, which offers an accreditation to French cities recognised for their start-up ecosystem and is used by innovative French businesses worldwide
  • Large corporations, usually headquartered in Paris, Hauts de Seine or Hauts de France, that account for 20% of total employment in French sport.
  • Multinationals with a presence in France
  • Leading sports retailer Decathlon
  • Universities and research centres such as INSEP, which contribute to the sports tech ecosystem through academic research, technological expertise and entrepreneurship programmes such as Le Tremplin/Paris&Co.

France is home to 10% of European sports tech businesses. Related start-ups have raised over €250 million in the last five years, making France’s sports tech ecosystem the most attractive in mainland Europe. Overall, the sector saw investment increase by 360% to €27.3 billion from 2017 to 2021.

Not only will the Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held in Paris in 2024 bolster physical, psychological, emotional, and social well-being and development across France, but they’re also injecting dynamism into the world of French sport more generally. The lift from the Games is expected to power significant future development of the sports sector.

A study carried out for the SporTech collective identified three key drivers:

  • Connected fitness: the use of smart devices for wellness and fitness activities
  • Sport at work: leads to reduced absenteeism and stress, with corresponding productivity increases
  • NFT and fantasy sports – digital activities to engage fans to own unique digital sports assets or to virtually manage a squad of players in a chosen sport

Of the 30 sports tech clusters and incubators in France, half have been created since 2015, which points to the sector’s dynamism.

Private sector funding sources include Linksport, a managed venture capital fund from 123 French investment managers, and the Sport & Performance Capital fund from Seventure Partners.

Government initiatives to encourage sport, especially in the workplace, are also driving growth. Local start-ups such as Spacefoot, Sport Heroes and Gymlib are tapping into this market segment by focusing on:

  • developing motivation and commitment tools for individuals
  • improving sporting performance
  • optimising the management and appeal of clubs.

It’s vital to approach France with an innovative proposition – interesting technologies that stand out from local offerings will get attention. Make sure to clearly define a route to market before jumping head-first into selling in France.

Irish companies will find opportunities in:

  • Augmented reality, data analytics and wearables – enabling athletes to maximise performance through data analytics and innovative sportswear
  • Immersive fan experiences – a priority mission for clubs, stadium and event management companies
  • Sustainability – tools to help clubs, organisations and event organisers reduce their carbon footprint. The new Coach Climat Evénements assessment tool for low-carbon sport aims to contribute to the ecological transformation of sporting eventsin France.

Have a local hire and/or a local partner on board as French language skills greatly help a company’s chances of success. Having a local presence shows a strong dedication to the market and helps with local buy-in.

Focus on commitment and relationship-building. That means attending events and meeting contacts face-to-face.



A strong sporting culture backed by tech-focused accelerator programmes and start-ups makes Spain an exciting emerging market for Irish companies.


The Spanish sports industry contributes to about 3.3% of Spain’s GDP and generated 414,000 jobs in 2018. Before the pandemic, its aggregate turnover amounted to €16.639 billion, according to the Spanish Ministry of Culture and Sport.

Together with world-famous football clubs such as FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, Spain is also home to prestigious annual events such as the Vuelta a España cycling tour, the Madrid Open (tennis) and the Spanish Grand Prix. This vibrant sports landscape helps drive demand for innovative technologies.

Indeed, the Spanish sports industry is benefitting from a boom in tech investment. Bankinter’s Startup Observatory shows a record €4.3 billion was invested across the emerging sports tech market in 2021.

The industry is in full expansion mode. Major football clubs in Spain, such as RC Celta de Vigo and FC Barcelona have their own in-house hub or incubators. The sport’s governing body – La Liga – has also followed suit. Footballing giants Real Madrid has invested €4.5 million to launch its acceleration project.

In fact, across the board, the sector’s front-runners are Spain’s sports clubs and leagues, mainly through acceleration programmes. The boom is driven in part by these organisations looking to find in-house solutions and AI-based systems for:

  • audio-visual content creation
  • fan engagement
  • sports performance
  • data analytics.

Universities and research centres contribute to the sports tech ecosystem through academic research, technological expertise and entrepreneurship programmes. Some also have dedicated sports science or engineering departments to help develop innovative solutions.

  • Sports industry clusters such as INDESCAT, which brings together over 50 companies and research centres
  • Private initiatives such as accelerator and co-investment platform Sportboost, created by Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas
  • Fundación España Activa, which encourages sporting activity
  • Multinationals with a base in Spain:
  • Decathlon – sportswear distributor
  • FirstV1sion – wearables
  • Catapult Sports – performance analytics and wearables
  • Pixellot – AI-powered sports broadcast systems
  • NevTrace – analytics and player tracking
  • Technogym – fitness equipment and connected smart tech
  • Centres and alliances, such as Sport Innovation Alliance (Madrid) and Euroleague FanXP Challenge (Barcelona).
  • Government administrations, such as Barcelona City Council
  • Football clubs such as Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Valencia and RC Celta de Vigo, especially through their innovation platforms
  • Football League governing body, La Liga

Easier access to funding has given more strength to accelerator businesses and sports tech start-ups. Moreover, many Spanish sports institutions and federations have programmes or initiatives to support innovation. They often offer funding, and access to facilities for testing and development.


The sector is highly networked and companies will find opportunity by connecting with:

  • Technology hubs such as Barcelona Tech City, Madrid International Lab, and Andalusia Open Future, which bring together start-ups, established companies, researchers and investors to build an ecosystem conducive to collaboration and innovation
  • Sports innovation hubs, like the renowned Global Sports Innovation Centre (GSIC) hub in Madrid – these serve as collaboration platforms for sports organisations, tech companies, and start-ups
  • Sports industry clusters, which aim to help members identify and tackle new business opportunities through innovation, internationalisation, training or funding.


If appropriate, consider participating in incubator and accelerator programmes, such as Barcelona Activa, Demium Startups, and SeedRocket. These often offer mentorship, funding and other resources. and access to industry networks.

Spain is a relationship-based market and it’s crucial to get on the ground to build these networks. Seek to join industry associations and communities, such as the European Association for Digital Transition (EADT). These can provide valuable resources, networking opportunities, and industry-specific insights.

Build strategic alliances by identifying potential partners within the industry – such as teams, leagues or facilities – that may be interested in adopting or collaborating with your sports tech solution.

Engage in networking opportunities, conferences, trade shows and seminars. Research and networking are essential to identify key companies, start-ups, accelerators and industry events.

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