In response to match-fixing scandals that have rocked the world of sport recently – notably soccer and cricket – sports data provider Sportradar has published a detailed and comprehensive paper which looks at in-depth causes of – and solutions to – the problem.
The most common form of corruption in sport is known as “spot-fixing”, where a player will attempt to influence a certain part of a match by, for example, deliberately conceding a corner or getting a yellow card, rather than attempting to fix the final score – which is somewhat trickier and more detectable, requiring the complicity of far more, if not all, the players in the game. However, very occasionally an entire result will be fixed – and sometimes not so subtly – as was evidenced by the recent bizarre 14-3 defeat of Bagheria by Borgata Terrenove in the Italian lower leagues, in which the away team scored eight own goals.
The rise of in-play online betting, where you can bet on practically every component of a match, has made the exploitation of these seemingly innocuous moments in games increasingly possible in recent years, and shady gambling syndicates, often based in the Far East, are cashing in.
Spot-fixing often occurs in the lower leagues where it is more likely to pass unnoticed and where, due to lower wages, players may be more susceptible to bribery. Only last week, it emerged that six Preston North End players, currently in League One of the English Football League (the third tier in English soccer) had been arrested in connection with a spot-fixing investigation. However, occasionally, spot-fixing occurs on the global stage such as in the case of the Pakistan national cricket team; in 2010 the team’s fast bowler Mohammad Amir was handed a five-year ban for his part in a plot to bowl a series of “no-balls” during the Lord’s Test against England.
“The number of bookmakers has increased, as has the range of different sports available for betting and odds types,” explains the Sportradar paper. “Bookmakers and their agents around the world accept huge stakes – even on the phone from fixers at the very playing field on which the sport is taking place.”
The paper was compiled by the Sportradar’s security services division over the last eight months and showcases the company’s Fraud Detection System, which has been involved in analyzing and detecting spot-fixing throughout that period. FDS was developed with European football governing body, UEFA, in order to track odds and the movement of odds across the globe, and to detect suspicious betting patterns as quickly as possible. Sports governing bodies, says the paper, need to employ such systems if they are to keep up with the pace of technological change, adding that “a monitoring system is essential in the detection of match-fixing.”
“If sports federations want to keep up with this pace they have to react in a comprehensive way. No matter what the motivation for match-fixers might be, manipulation in sport is a criminal act that has to be tackled,” said Sportsradar.
The company is currently monitoring every UEFA member state – that’s over 31,000 games from 53 countries, as well as all international competitions – and while it doesn’t claim to have all the answers, it believes the new paper to be the most “informative and explanatory” discussion on match-fixing to date.
“The victims of manipulation are always the same: the sports federations that lose credibility, the fans which are deceived of a fair competition, the betting companies which have to pay out the money that is won by fraud and the betrayed bettors who lose money because they placed bets expecting an honest contest played according to the rules,” says Sportradar.
“Therefore, the problem of match-fixing can only be tackled successfully with the coordinated cooperation of sports federations, law enforcement and the betting industry. The FDS is the industry standard for monitoring and tracking this fraudulent behavior,” the company’s research paper continued.