Open data in sports

How to utilize open data in the sports community

A prestudy on open data in sports
As part of my assignment with the Digitization Council of the Swedish Sports Confederation I have taken upon myself to conduct a prestudy on the utilization of open data in the sports community. The main reason for this work is to understand how the Sports Confederation can centrally support the Swedish sports federations in becoming more innovative and by employing sports-related data to for instance improve athletic performance or to update audiences faster. To put it shortly there are generally three predominant grounds to open up our sports data sources:

  1. Transparency for democracy. At least in Sweden there is a long and strong tradition of openness. The principle of transparency is well rooted and indicates that transparent organizations have “nothing to hide” and that they allow the public to improve their quality of service.
  2. Political forces. There is also general pressure by governmental organizations and authorities to open up the information flow, “because we can”. Why hide data that can be open? There are stated political desires from both the Swedish government and the EU for Swedish organizations to open up data sources when plausible.
  3. Increased innovative capacity. By opening up internal data sources to external developers, one can manifest opportunities for innovation one would otherwise never have thought of.

One of the key issues the confederation needs to consider is the level of centralization. It is not fully clear how much the central organization should manage, support or direct its subfederations. This is a matter that concerns most other topics as well, not only open data. The Sports Confederation must clarify its administrative responsibility to the federations.

Then there is the matter of institutional availability and technical availability of open data. By institutional availability we refer to the categorization of data by deciding the specific value of data objects (usually through meta data) and their level of confidentiality. One must also make a general decision on openness – should all data be open except data that is confidential, or should all data be closed except data that is non-confidentional? A more restricted approach will be more secure, but will also give less room for innovation. By technical availability we refer to the technological aspects of making data sources available by adapting databases, constructing API:s, etc. For external developers to be able to develop new solutions there must be handles for their software to grab on to.

We also looked at a methodology for converting the current organization into one that manages open data in an organized and structured manner. We agreed that the proposed format would be a proper tactic for an organization such as the Sports Confederation.

So what we found in the Digitization Council was that some central support is absolutely required. The Sports Confederation should formulate a strategy for providing guidelines, frameworks and technical support from the central organization to help all sports get initiated and to get them coordinated. 

Next activity
Said and done, my next assignment is now to formulate a strategy proposal for open data for the Swedish Sports Confederation and thus the entire Swedish sports community and industry. It is my belief that open data can truly make a difference to sports in Sweden and we would very much like to make Sweden a pioneer in the use of open data in sports society as a foundation for increased innovation.