Call for sport and physical activity sector to embrace digital revolution

We commit another £1.5 million of National Lottery funding to helping providers innovate using open data

30 April 2019 Funding

Leaders in the sport and physical activity sector have called upon colleagues to embrace technology to make it easier for people to get active.

A ComRes survey commissioned by us found that people find it twice as easy to order takeaway food online than to book a sport or fitness class.

To help the sector innovate, open their data and develop their digital offering, we're awarding a further £1.5 million of National Lottery funding to the Open Data Institute (ODI).

And our 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.

The power of Open Data

Since November 2016, 27 organisations have opened their data, resulting in more than 170,000 sport and physical activity sessions a month being made available online.

“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.”

Our survey, of 1,815 adults living in England, showed:

  • Activities such as booking a holiday, a taxi, a concert ticket or ordering a takeaway, are considered easier to access online than sport
  • 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's easy to book sport or fitness classes online
  • Consumers consider price, location, time, difficulty level and a description of the session are the top five things they want to know.

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.

Now is the time for the whole sector to collaborate to reach millions more people

Tim Hollingsworth, our Chief Executive

In November 2016 they launched OpenActive, which 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.

With consumers increasingly using online services as a regular part of their life, opening data will give consumers greater access to sport online in a way that best fits their lives.

“This is a real tipping point moment,” added Tim. “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 £1.5 million will help the ODI to continue their work in the sport and physical activity sector, which has seen OpenActive data used by 10 startups that we mentored and are working on innovative tech solutions to help people get active.

And Minister for Sport and Civil Society, Mims Davies, is keen to see this type of work continued.

"Not being able to easily plan and book online potentially puts many people off doing more physical activity,” she said.

“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.”