Flexing Our Muscles in Sports Data. Can the North be the Best?

ODI Door

Using street light data for a running game; encouraging a whole city to whistle; and ordinary folk defining art for Leeds City Council – there was plenty of inspiration for how we might establish our sporting prowess at an open data event recently.


With next year’s Rugby World Cup, the Tour de Yorkshire and my being a sporty so and so, the event, Sport in Numbers: Exploring What Makes A Great Sporting City, caught my eye.


Organised by the Leeds Data Mill, it was hosted by some of the most creative innovators in the city. This time, even more had made it from across the Pennines. The third in a series following similar around culture and health, this was the first with the Greater Manchester Data Synchronisation Programme. Woo.

Set in the home of the ODI Leeds, the beautiful top floor of the fantastic Munro House (smack bank in Leeds City Centre and opposite the BBC), I was looking forward to the day. The top floor is light and airy, overlooks the city and is bursting with creative new businesses. With a great café and bookshop on the ground floor, what was not to like?

The ODI Leeds were new to me but we received a welcome from Paul Connell from Actuated Futures who runs it. The fifty or so delegates heard it is a place to collaborate, host training, events and accommodate new open data businesses. We heard how Leeds is leading the way working on projects with Leeds City Council, Bradford Metropolitan Council, West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Bloom Agency, Arup and Leeds Innovation Health Hub. We heard how the place is opening for co-working on Thursdays. Get in.


The council’s Data Mill reiterated the consensus that using open data can help us make better decisions and create new services. We just needed to work out how to do so. Ouch!


A series of lightning talks followed. As well as our Manchester brethren we had folk from London, the BBC, Derby, York and Brussels.

Tom Rowlands from FutureEverything discussed the Greater Manchester Data Synchronisation Programme. Imran Younis, Creator of Light Raider explained about using street light data for a sports app to help people get fit. Paul Lemon, from the BBC talked about the delivery of sports data feeds and content. Thomas Laureyssens, LUCA arts – KU Leuven, showed us his urban game with sparrows which light up when you whistle.

Jamie Whyte, Data Innovation Officer from Trafford City Council and home to several not inconsequential cricket and football clubs, explained what he has done so far. Mischief maker and pioneer Phil Campbell sold us the virtues of living with a gigabyte bandwith, reshaping the high street, and the need to be 24/7. Leeds Arts Crawl wowed us with their open data game using us folk to define public art, space and audiences for the council. In the afternoon, things took a more interactive and philosophical turn with Alastair Somerville from Acuity Design. How safe did we feel using the data? Could we work out an activity from the data provided? Did we need more data journalists?


Some things were clear, some less so. A definite was there were great people in the room, even better projects and it was the best buffet lunch in Leeds.

Thomas Laureyssens summed it up when he said: “Games can do amazing things. People can look each other in the eye and collaborate without any fear.”

Food for thought indeed. Can’t wait to see what’s next.