Why open data should be central to Fifa reform

Gavin Starks in The Guardian: “Over the past two weeks, Fifa has faced mounting pressure to radically improve its transparency and governance in the wake of corruption allegations. David Cameron has called for reforms including expanding the use of open data.

Open data is information made available by governments, businesses and other groups for anyone to read, use and share. Data.gov.uk was launched as the home of UK open government data in January 2010 and now has almost 21,000 published datasets, including on government spending.

Allowing citizens to freely access data related to the institutions that govern them is essential to a well-functioning democratic society. It is the first step towards holding leaders to account for failures and wrongdoing.

Fifa has a responsibility for the shared interests of millions of fans around the world. Football’s popularity means that Fifa’s governance has wide-ranging implications for society, too. This is particularly true of decisions about hosting the World Cup, which is often tied to large-scale government investment in infrastructure and even extends to law-making. Brazil spent up to £10bn hosting the 2014 World Cup and had to legalise the sale of beer at matches.

Following Sepp Blatter’s resignation, Fifa will gather its executive committee in July to plan for a presidential election, expected to take place in mid-December. Open data should form the cornerstone of any prospective candidate’s manifesto. It can help Fifa make better spending decisions and ensure partners deliver value for money, restore the trust of the international football community.

Fifa’s lengthy annual financial report gives summaries of financial expenditure,budgeted at £184m for operations and governance alone in 2016, but individual transactions are not published. Publishing spending data incentivises better spending decisions. If all Fifa’s outgoings – which totalled around £3.5bn between 2011 and 2014 – were made open, it would encourage much more efficiency….(more)”