Organisations which provide sport and physical activity are being urged to make it easier for consumers to get active by seizing the opportunity of digital transformation. The call comes as a new Sport England survey exposes the difficulty consumers face when trying to book sports activities online and the impact of this on their participation.
The study of 1,815 people, conducted by ComRes, found that it is twice as easy to order a takeaway than it is to book a sport or fitness class online.
One fifth of adults have been put off doing a sport or physical activity because it was too difficult to find or book online.
In fact, of the activities tested, including booking a holiday, taxi, concerts, takeaways and barbers or hairdressers, most are considered easier to access online than sport with the exception of booking a haircut.
Meanwhile, price, location, a description of what happens, the time it is taking place and the difficulty level of the session are the top five things consumers want to know when searching for an activity online and deciding if it is for them – with price ranking as the most important.
Minister for Sport & Civil Society Mims Davies and Sport England chief executive Tim Hollingsworth are due to address sport industry leaders, tech investors and leisure operators at an event at the Wellcome Collection in London April 30.
Together they will urge sport and physical activity providers to commit to opening up their data by the end of 2019.
To support this, the Minister will announce an additional £1.5m of National Lottery funding from Sport England to the Open Data Institute (ODI) to continue OpenActive, a sector-wide initiative which gives activity providers of all sizes, from large leisure groups to local sports clubs, the tools and training they need to open their data.
It is hoped that increased availability of open data in sport - data about where and when sport and physical activity happens that anyone can access, use or share - will mean activity providers publishing information on the hundreds and thousands of sporting activities, fitness sessions and classes that they have available.
Once more data is available it will also pave the way for innovators and entrepreneurs to create products and services that make it as easy for people to book a football pitch as it is to book a takeaway or holiday, the Government hopes.
Sport England’s Hollingsworth said: "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. 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."
Since OpenActive launched in November 2016, 27 organisations including GLL, British Cycling and Our Parks have published their data, resulting in over 170,000 physical activity sessions a month being made available online.
Alongside this, Sport England has mentored 10 start-ups who are working on innovative tech solutions to get people active, to use this data. However, this represents a small fraction of the data held in the sector – highlighting significant untapped potential.
Sport England’s latest Active Lives research shows that although activity levels are rising, there are still 16.8 million people who are not reaching the threshold of 150 minutes of sport and physical activity a week to benefit their health. Within these figures there are stubborn inequalities. People on low incomes, women, black and South Asian people are less active than the general population.
Hollingsworth added: "Twenty-seven pioneering organisations have joined the OpenActive movement and opened their data - we thank and commend them for their leadership in what is still a relatively new area in our sector. This is a real tipping point moment. 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."