Detecting match manipulation with data

Nov 25, 2022
Global betting data has become the “most important and largest source of information” to detect and prevent match manipulation.

Sport thrives on healthy competition.

When competitive integrity is eroded, fans lose interest, and without this revenue source, sport cannot grow, develop, or thrive.

As spectators, the way we enjoy sport has transformed in a connected world. For those of us who enjoy a flutter, that includes access to a vast global betting market. Spanning thousands of sports and leagues, almost endless betting opportunities are available from a smartphone.

With lucrative returns at stake, however, this vast market is open to manipulation by criminals; between 2020 and 2021, Sportradar detected suspected match manipulation in more than 1,100 sports matches. For the most at-risk sport, football, almost 40% of suspicious matches are found in third-tier leagues and below.

Betting operators are the obvious financial victims of match manipulation, but with shattered reputations, sanctions, fines and imprisonment the cost of collusion, athletes suffer most.

We have already discussed the power of partnerships for shared intelligence and joint operations in protecting sports integrity. In the following article, we explore how betting data can be used against the criminals seeking to exploit the market.

Ukrainian team warming-up before Ukraine

The power of bet monitoring

Global bet monitoring is now the most effective way of identifying potential match manipulation.

When analysed, this rich, combined source of live information can reveal anomalous or unusual betting patterns which, if reported to sports organisations before or during an event, provides an opportunity for wrongdoing to be stopped. It can also catalyse investigations into related acts of corruption.

The Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) is one of many sports organisations that relies on betting data to identify suspicious activity. Criminals have been quick to exploit the fast-growing esports market for match manipulation.

ESIC’s Commissioner, Ian Smith, calls betting data the organisation’s “most important and largest source of information” to combat corruption.

Built with Clue, and comprising a data-sharing network of betting operators, regulators, law enforcement, monitoring services, and specialist sports data companies such as Genius Sports, ESIC’s detection system is much the same as those used across traditional sports.

“Basically, anyone involved in the betting side of the industry collaborates on the provision of suspicious or unusual betting data…,” Ian explained. “Primarily, it informs us as an organisation about what matches, tournaments and leagues we ought to be looking at to detect match fixing, to look at the match action itself, and to link the players to the people placing the bid.”

Learn more about how Clue is enabling sports governing bodies, teams, and technology companies to streamline intelligence and investigations and connect to the wider sports integrity ecosystem.

In-house technology

During our recent webinar Protecting sports with proactive counter corruption strategy, Hong Kong Jockey Club’s (HKJC) Executive Manager, Racing Integrity & Betting Analysis, Tom Chignell explained how HKJC invested in its own in-house bet monitoring technology so that it can react to suspicious activity faster.

“Outsourcing is a big thing, but that can mean that sports wait for that call to say that something suspicious has taken place on the event – and often, these calls happen a few days after the event…,” said Tom.

During live events, Tom’s team can monitor more than one million betting data points in real-time and communicate instantly with stewards on the ground.

“There are real benefits for sports to actively monitor betting markets within their own integrity units … technological advancements mean it’s now very possible if the sport has a determination focused on tackling betting corruption.”

Reacting to trends

It’s worth noting that while betting data can indicate suspicious activity, it cannot be used as definitive source of evidence of corruption. Convictions are only possible alongside other supporting evidence. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) states: “In order to come to the conclusion that a match is fixed, the analytical information needs to be supported by other, different and external elements pointing in the same direction.”

But live betting data is not the only source of information that can indicate corruption, either. Recently, there have been advances in predictive and in-game statistical analytics regarding “expected performance” which – used alongside betting data – can help to better assess the likelihood that a sports event has been or is in the process of being fixed.

At Clue’s User Conference 2022, Affy Sheikh, head of sports integrity and anti-match fixing services provider Starlizard Integrity Services, explained the role of predictive analytics in detecting and preventing sports corruption.

“The most interesting question in sport is ‘who’s going to win?’,” said Affy. “That’s a prediction we make … using data to ascertain what should be happening based on millions or billions of data points that might influence that. Through prediction you can use that to assist in the risk assessment process.”

While monitoring betting and player performance data can provide insights into immediate activity, looking back at historical data also provides an opportunity to identify wider trends that can organisations to focus their prevention strategy.

“We can use data and intel to make certain determinations,” explained Affy. “For example, if we looked at hundreds of thousands of football matches played over a number of years, we can determine that there are certain times of the years that are high risk … May, October and November times are the most prevalent times for match fixing because it’s at the end of the summer and winter seasons where there are more points up for grabs, and people trying to avoid relegations.”

By identifying trends such as these, sports organisations can focus their prevention efforts, such as ramping up education and awareness programmes at certain times of the year.

Proactive data-driven methods can disrupt and prevent match manipulation from taking place. At its heart, however, protecting sports integrity lies in educating athletes and officials driving the course of events as to the nature of match manipulation approaches, the severity of its consequences and, most importantly, how to report it confidently and safely.

Learn more about how Clue is enabling sports governing bodies, teams, and technology companies to streamline intelligence and investigations and connect to the wider sports integrity ecosystem – book a demo today.

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