Recently I played (for the first time) in a couple of tournaments. For both tournaments, the tournament organization (deciding which team plays which team, on which piste, for each round of the tournament — and then deciding who the winners were) was done using printed paper forms.
My impression was that using paper forms to organize a tournament can be quite easy, or quite difficult, depending on what kind of tournament system is being used, and how many teams and pistes are in play. And as a computer programmer I could see that such tournament organization tasks are ideal candidates for automation. The rules are clearly defined. The calculations can sometimes be challenging for a human, but a computer can do them quickly and without mistake. And in our Web-connected age, electronic data exchange would be possible and easy, if that might be something that one wanted.
So I began wondering what kinds of software might be available for organizing petanque tournaments. I went to Google and started looking.
The bottom line is that there is only one really high-quality commercial product. It is called SPORT and is available from a German firm. Their URL (web page) is www.sport-software.de. SPORT is designed to handle tournaments in different formats (round robin, single elimination, double elimination, Swiss system, etc.) and in several different sports. It supports several different languages, including French and English.
As of July 2014, the list price is 80€. The interesting thing is that the FIPJP itself uses SPORT for the World Championships, and has negotiated an arrangement with the vendor for a 50% price discount. 40€ is quite a reasonable price. According to the FIPJP web site, the way to get the discount is to place the order for SPORT through a national federation, which for American clubs of course means ordering it through the FPUSA. I think that means ordering it through the FPUSA National Sport Director — currently Ernesto Santos.
The software is written in Microsoft Visual C++ and runs on Windows. That means that SPORT should be able to run on any laptop running Windows. So it should be easy to bring a laptop running SPORT down to the tournament location.
Updated July 19, 2014
After my original post, I began thinking. The more I thought, the more it seemed to me that there must be other good tournament organization packages available, besides SPORT. So I Googled “tournament organization software” and got a lot of hits. Here are the ones that I thought looked most interesting.
Of the three, TioPro most impressed me. It seems to be genuinely free, not just a free trial. It has a good, clean, easy-to-use user interface. It has a LOT of features — I think it probably has all of the features that anyone would want for a petanque tournament. It seems to be actively maintained and developed, with good support via an online Linux-style forum. And there is a very impressive list of video tutorials that are hosted on YouTube — I watched THIS and THIS.
One thing that impressed me was that TioPro correctly handles the organization of the consolante in a double-elimination tournament. Here is a screenshot from one of the YouTube tutorials. I’ve added a red arrow to the screenshot to show how TioPro automatically (and correctly) moves losers from the concours to the consolante. (Click on the image to see a larger version.)
In a very helpful comment (see below) Uzero Metreize pointed out that, if you’re going to be running a tournament from a laptop, you really need an AC electrical outlet. That’s true.
Uzero also suggested that even with a laptop, you still need a printer, so all of the players can follow the progress of the tournament. “Imagine,” he says, “running a tournament like the Amelia Island Open, with 128 teams gathered around the computer.” Clearly, that wouldn’t work.
But still, there might be a non-paper alternative.
The last time I was at Amelia, people gathered around a big paper chart pinned to a bulletin board. The paper chart wasn’t much bigger than a medium-sized flat-screen TV. So…
Suppose we connected a large flat-screen TV to the laptop (easy to do). All you would need would be the TV (not that expensive, really) and an HDMI cable. And suppose we took the paper chart down from the bulletin board, and replaced it with the TV screen displaying the chart.
Even better would be to completely bypass the bulletin board and the TV. If the laptop running the tournament software had internet connectivity, updated tournament information could be constantly uploaded to the tournament web site in real time. On the tournament web site, intermediate results could be viewed by anybody with a smartphone. TioPro in fact already does this. It has built-in Twitter support, making it easy to tweet tournament results as they come in.
Imagine. You don’t even need to go anywhere near the bulletin board. You can go back to your hotel after your last game of the day, have a nice dinner, and then before going to bed check the web site to see who you’ll be playing the next day!
I’ve never been to Marseilles or to the World Championships. But they surely must have some kind of set-up like this. With such big tournaments, there is no way that they’re going to be constantly distributing paper copies of updated results and standings throughout the tournament.