Sport England commits further funding to data drive

01 May 2019

By: Sport Industry Group

Sport England has called on sport and physical activity providers to commit to opening up their data after committing a further £1.5m of National Lottery funding to the Open Data Institute (ODI).

The Lottery funding is designed to help the sector innovate by using open data to develop their digital offering in the wake of results from a ComRes survey commissioned by Sport England.

The survey, of 1,815 adults living in England, showed that activities such as booking a holiday, a taxi, a concert ticket or ordering a takeaway, are considered easier to access online than sport.

It added that almost a quarter of adults find it easy to book a holiday online and a majority say the same for ordering a takeaway (68%), while just 34% say it is easy to book sport or fitness classes online.

The survey found that consumers consider price, location, time, difficulty level and a description of the session are the top five things they want to know.

Sport England Chief Executive Tim Hollingsworth has called on sport and physical activity providers to commit to opening their data – in the same way transport providers have done, leading to apps such as CityMapper – by the end of the year.

“There is a significant prize to be won here if the sport and physical activity sector seizes the opportunity to embrace digital innovation and open up their data,” he said.

“Our survey shows that at the moment there are too many barriers to entry. So, this is about giving the public the choice to find sport and physical activity in a way that meets the expectations they have in all other aspects of their lives.

“But it is also about creating the conditions for brilliant, creative start-ups and innovators across England to come up with big digital ideas and solutions that are as diverse as the needs of the public.”

The ODI, an independent, non-profit organisation founded in 2012 by Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Nigel Shadbolt, offers training, research and strategic advice for organisations looking to explore the possibilities of data.

OpenActive, which launched in November 2017, has now seen 27 organisations – including Greenwich Leisure Limited, British Cycling and Our Parks – publish their data, resulting in more than 170,000 physical activity sessions a month being made available online.

“This is a real tipping point moment,” added Hollingsworth. “Now is the time for the whole sector to collaborate to reach millions more people, remove the barriers they face and supercharge the number of people getting active in England for the health of our nation.”

The £1.5m will help the ODI to continue their work in the sport and physical activity sector, which has seen OpenActive data used by 10 start-ups that Sport England has mentored.

Minister for Sport and Civil Society, Mims Davies, who in February said that OpenActive would be a "big focus" in the coming months, said: “Not being able to easily plan and book online potentially puts many people off doing more physical activity. By opening up data we can remove barriers to taking part, make it much easier for people to get active and promote much needed digital innovation.”