Match-fixing game changer: Sportradar makes fraud detection system free to leagues

By Paul Nicholson

February 16 – In what could be a game-changing move in the battle against match-fixing, Sportradar is to make its Universal Fraud Detection System (UFDS) available free of charge to sport organisations.

Sportradar said it will fund the free UFDS service which will be made available to sports federations and leagues worldwide from October this year.

Sports integrity groups and match-fixing investigators have frequently called for more available information and help for sports on tackling match-fixing. Sportradar’s move is a major step in that direction enabling sports to track their clubs and leagues for manipulated matches where previously they have been prohibited from doing so by cost.

Carsten Koerl, Sportradar Group CEO, said: “We believe that integrity is fundamental to public confidence in sport, and that wrongdoing at any tier of competition affects all levels of sports and its fans… By making this significant investment in integrity via the UFDS initiative, we are demonstrating our commitment to support the sustainability of sport around the globe.”

The decision to offer the UFDS free came out of a covid-interrupted sports calendar that saw when sport started to return, so did the match-fixers and across a broad range of sports and leagues that were generally unmonitored but which, with a dearth of available live betting markets, had attracted bookmakers, followed by the match-fixers.

“A lot of sports that don’t monitor match-fixing were attacked,” said Andreas Krannich, managing director integrity services at Sportradar. Sports and leagues that previously had not attracted the interest of match-fixers and organised crime were finding themselves with major integrity issues.

“We looked at what we could do. A lot of leagues have turned a blind eye to match-fixing as they are too small to be able to afford a full monitoring and protection service.”

With Sportradar having invested heavily in AI and machine learning within its data gathering and as a result increased its capacity at a lower cost, the bold decision was taken to offer its core UFDS free to the sports world. The cost to Sportradar is likely to be in excess of €1 million, but the investment in clean sport could prove to be invaluable.

The next eight months will see Sportradar speaking to existing partners as well as adding new leagues who want to take advantage of the free service.

The free service will see Sportradar flag suspicious matches to federations who will then have the decision to make on whether to investigate themselves, inform local police or take advantage of Sportradar’s already extensive investigation capabilities, though investigations will not be free.

For many leagues it could prove to be a very sobering experience with the cases of suspicious betting patterns around matches having spiked after the first global covid lockdown and leagues tentatively returned to play.

The scale of match-fixing is generally masked by the relatively low number of cases that become public and result in a criminal conviction, or even a sporting sanction. Over the past 15 years, Sportradars’ FDS has classified more than 5,300 matches as suspicious, with Sportradar Integrity Services having supported more than 400 successful sporting disciplinary sanctions, and over 30 successful criminal convictions.

Even so, this is still likely to prove only the tip of the match-fixing iceberg when it comes to effective action against match-fixers. The challenge for leagues once suspicious betting patterns have been identified, will be to actually do something about it.

In covid-affected 2020 alone, more than 600,000 matches were monitored by the FDS across 1,000+ leagues and competitions, in 26 different sports.

“We are continuing to upscale our technology and operation to handle this considerable undertaking, and as well as providing it to new partners we have already set about discussing and implementing the UFDS with our 70+ existing FDS partners,” said Koerl.

“We are very excited to launch this exciting initiative and add to the proven track record of our integrity team, by ensuring the UFDS plays a major role in protecting the integrity of the sports we all love in the decades to come.”

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has been a leader in rolling out integrity services, in tandem with Sportradar, across it national associations.

Ahmed Alosaymi, AFC’s Head of Integrity, said: “We have worked with Sportradar since 2013, and their data-driven approach to utilising the latest technology, matched with the professional experience of their analysts, has allowed us to be at the forefront of ensuring integrity for football in Asia… The AFC has worked very closely with Sportradar to bring several cases to justice. We believe that this move of the offering of UFDS will help protect the integrity of sports globally, giving leagues and federations at all levels the opportunity to safeguard their sport and competitions for all their stakeholders.”

The initiative was also welcomed from within the wider sports integrity world. Fred Lord, Director Sport Integrity & Protection (ICSS) said: “The decision made today by Sportradar to provide access to its Universal Fraud Detection System (UFDS), to all sporting federations and leagues globally, is a much-welcomed resource to enable lower tiered clubs, that were unable to afford to pay for monitoring services, to examine betting being conducted on their particular sport. It will also generate greater transparency and accountability for sporting organisations, that are made aware of suspect competitions, free from closed confidential monitoring contracts.”

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