Global Integrity Firm Sportsradar’s Head of Esports Fired for Betting on Matches

Posted on: April 4, 2018, 05:30h. 

Last updated on: April 4, 2018, 04:46h.

Sportsradar Head of Esports, James Watson, was fired this week following a Twitter storm over his use of multiple accounts to bet “aggressively” on esports matches.

Sportsradar Head of Esports James Watson fired
James Watson was fired by Sportsradar after he was found to have been betting on esports games, although the sports integrity giant said there was no suggestion he was betting using privileged information. (Image: YouTube)

Sportsradar is a sports data monitoring and intelligence company, supplying some of the world’s biggest sports federations, leagues, clubs and state authorities with solutions to fight betting-related match-fixing and corruption.

All Sportsradar employees are prohibited from betting on sports of any kind.

But on March 14, Rahul Sood, CEO of Nevada-based, Maltese-licensed esports betting platform Unikrn took to Twitter to accuse Watson of multi-accounting on his site.

Head of #Esports at @Sportradar visits our Discord [a gamers’ communication platform], was busted for using multiple accounts, manipulating others while betting aggressively on our site, & he often publicly bashes us,” tweeted Sood.

“Then he blocks me after I call him out. Sportradar is this the integrity you want to portray? … Because if someone worked for us and did sh*t like this he or she would be looking for a job in another industry.”

No Evidence of Cheating

Sportsradar’s high-level data analysis can provide employees with highly privileged information – for example, alerting them to suspicious betting patterns that could indicate a certain match has been fixed prior to kick off.

Its reputation as a high-profile integrity company necessitates its staff must be beyond reproach.

Sportsradar responded to Sood’s tweet to say it was taking his allegations seriously and would be launching an internal inquiry “to understand what took place and what the appropriate next steps are.”

This week Sportsradar acknowledged Watson had been betting on matches, although it said no evidence had been found that he had been using insider information, or that he had bet on any matches where integrity concerns had been raised.

Neither was there any evidence he had attempted to manipulate betting market prices by his multi-accounting.

Match-Fixing Rife in Esports

Nevertheless, said the company, “Sportradar has a strict policy in relation to employees betting and takes the integrity of its operations very seriously. As a result, it has been mutually agreed that James will leave Sportradar.”

Esports has had its fair share of match-fixing scandals, and the rise of esports betting has facilitated the need for monitoring services, such as those provided by Sportsradar.

In 2016, the 2014 Starcraft world champion and 2015 runner-up, Lee “Life” Seung Hyun, was arrested in South Korea on charges of throwing matches and imprisoned for 18 months.

The relatively low prize money on offer to top players, particularly in smaller tournaments, makes esports particularly vulnerable, while the “top heavy” prize structure in the past has encouraged players to cheat to mitigate financial risk.