Making it Work

RugbySmarts aims to add soccer and hockey to GAA on its team sheet

The Irish tech start-up, which is backed by the IRFU, uses AI-based video analytics to prove the quality of players at amateur level to scouts and coaches

Yvonne Comer, chief executive of start-up RugbySmarts, said the company is keen to expand into other sports. Picture: Andrew Downes

RugbySmarts, an Irish tech start-up that offers AI-based video analytics, is looking to expand to other sports including soccer, hockey and GAA.

The company, backed by Enterprise Ireland and the IRFU, is running its first pre-seed funding round and claimed to have already raised more than half of its €500,000 target.

The company has established a partnership with the French company Move ’N See, which builds automated cameras that keep the ball in focus during a match without the need of a cameramen.

Yvonne Comer, a former national rugby player for Ireland and the company’s co-founder, said: “We hope to use our contact with Move ’N See to establish ourselves in France and from there on move into more European markets.”

Fact File

Company: RugbySmarts

Founded: by William Johnstone and Yvonne Comer in 2020

Staff: 8

Pre-Seed Founding target: €500,000

Comer founded the company with William Johnstone, a former rugby coach and the company’s chief technology officer, with aim of closing the gap between amateur and professional game analytics.

“Both of us also have a history of coaching rugby teams and we wanted to close the gap between the amateur training level and the professional level,” Comer said.

“It was one of my biggest drivers to give something back to rugby, after all, I come from a generation of players who did not have much, even on a national level,” she added.

RugbySmarts’ AI base was developed by Johnstone, who has worked in several software and consulting positions and also served as club and community rugby officer for Connacht Rugby.

The platform’s AI recognises movement patterns and can be used to prove the quality of amateur players to scouts or coaches from higher level rugby.

“Especially players who do not play flashy and stand out, but are the workhorses of the team and make others look good, [they] can be identified with RugbySmarts,” Comer said.

Old fashioned techniques

Comer said that coaches at grass roots level often have rudimentary analysis techniques.

“Professional teams have systems and resources, but for amateur coaches it is very different,” Comer said. “Some only rely on a notebook they write in, some just do not do it at all.”

Comer said the sport’s increased professionalism has increased the need for a platform like RugbySmarts.

“The good thing about RugbySmarts is that it is highly customisable to show the data that is needed and it also brings additional value because clips can be exported and used for social media footage,” Comer said. “This can potentially attract more viewers or sponsors.”

She said feedback had been good from its first customer base. “Teams have said that is highly effective and already improved results for some of them,” she said.


The potential of the start up has also been noticed by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU). In March 2023, the company was selected by Enterprise Ireland and the IRFU for their strategic innovation partnership. Enterprise Ireland also granted RugbySmarts €100,000 under its Pre-Seed Start Fund

“We hope that this will bring us to the level that professional teams need, so that we can expand our reach in to the professional rugby as well,” Comer said.

RugbySmarts hopes to gain more traction with international rugby academies, and wants to reach out to universities who could use the platform for their sports science programmes.

“The platform has been constructed from the start to be applicable to all kinds of different sports as well,” Comer said.

The platform is already working with the GAA, and Comer also plans to expand into the North American market to expand its customer base.

“We plan to do a feasibility study for a number of sports, for example soccer or hockey,” she said.

The current fundraiser will enable the company to finance this feasibility study and decide which sport can be included in the platform next.