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IPTC's Sports Working Party prepared for challenges in larger arena

Sports specialists at the IPTC are expanding their responsibilities to keep pace with fast-moving changes in sports vocabularies and data.

By IPTC Editor Jonathan Engel

London (England) - December 2011 -- The demand from fans for detailed sports information is transforming the way news providers collect, classify and display sports data, while the upcoming Summer Olympics in London is adding pressure for consistent and efficient production of sports news.

Recognising these developments at its recent Autumn Meeting in Vienna, the IPTC broadened the mandate for its Sports Content Working Party, encouraging it to respond to news industry trends with specific recommendations on cooperation and standards.

"This just broadens the category describing our concerns," said Paul Kelly, director of software development at XML Team Solutions and head of the Sports Working Group. "Previously the focus was on the SportsML data format. But the model and nomenclature defined in SportsML can be applied to vocabularies, ontologies, and other emerging semantic technologies. So it's better to have a mandate and title which reflect that."

The change also put the working group on a similar footing to other IPTC working groups focusing on media sectors, like Photo Metadata, or on wider issues of standards convergence, like the Semantic Web working group.

Previously, the working party focused on SportsML, the industry group's mark-up language for sports content. While the working group succeeded in getting its latest version 2.2 approved at the Autumn Meeting, the discussions revealed a wider set of issues that needed action.
One of the hot topics was the need for a sports ontology to define key relationships. IPTC members cited the BBC's new sports ontology as a useful example of how to record significant connections, like those between players and teams, or participants and events.

Kelly said a major issue for the working group will be how to reflect such specific relationships in SportsML.

Another issue in the sports arena was how the industry group should work with new semantic web formats like There are plans  to extend  the sports vocabulary and Kelly said he wanted the IPTC to contribute to these discussions. This could lead to further adoption of IPTC-endorsed formats. 

On a related matter, Kelly noted that three Scandinavian news agencies - TT of Sweden, Ritzau of Denmark and NTB of Norway - were considering cooperating on an exchange of sports data using SportsML.  

The updates agreed in Vienna to SportsML 2.2 were largely designed to bring it in line with the IPTC's other G2 news standards.

Among the changes were more detailed terms of ways that soccer players score goals (e.g. lob or chip), and new descriptions of the rare occasions when sports outcomes are decided, or scores adjusted, by officials after the event.

The accompanying documentation was also improved, Kelly said, and includes more sample mark-ups for specific events like tournaments.

In future, aside from developing, maintaining and promoting SportsML, the working group will:  

  • Support the development and implementation of other IPTC standards that relate to sport, for example the News Codes, where more detailed topics are required for sports like Alpine skiing.
  • Incorporate or suggest connections to other appropriate standards .
  • Identify and suggest links to relevant, reputable and accessible sports content, as part of the development of Linked Data.
  • Identify common problems and areas of cooperation in the management of sport content.
  • Act as a standing group of experts to respond to issues raised by external parties.  "The working party has been very active of late, particularly with European participation," Kelly noted. He said sports experts at TT, NTB, the German news agency DPA, IT specialist ATOS, the UK Press Association and the BBC have all made contributions in the past year. "If you are doing this work it's best to have as many sharp minds as possible involved. You get the best solutions with a lot less individual work."


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