Starlizard report finds betting-related match-fixing in football increased by 16% in 2023

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March 19 – Starlizard Integrity Services, the betting-related match-fixing monitoring specialists, are reporting a 16% increase in suspicious matches in 2023 against 2022.

Starlizard analysed a total of 65,441 football matches in the 2023 calendar year across 835 competitions in 128 different countries. A total of 167 matches showed signs of potential manipulation – 0.26% of the total number of matches analysed.

“Match-fixing remains an ever-present danger to football and is a plague on the game – damaging it as a spectacle and compromising the essential elements of skill, chance and fair play. It tarnishes the reputation of the game and all associated with it – including sponsoring brands – and ruins the trust and enjoyment of the fans. It destroys careers and costs people their liberty,” said Affy Sheikh, head of Starlizard Integrity Services.

Analysis published in the Starlizard Football Integrity Report 2023 show that 69 of the 167 games (41.3% of all suspicious matches identified in 2023) were played in the UEFA (European) region, though this is caveated by the far higher number of matches played in the UEFA region (37,951) compared with any other confederation region.

These matches represent only 0.18% of the total UEFA region matches analysed – below the overall global percentage of 0.26%. The AFC region saw the highest percentage of suspicious matches at 0.47%, although 0.52% of all international matches analysed have also been assessed as suspicious.

83 matches (49.7% of all suspicious matches identified in 2023) were played in domestic leagues below the top tier. However, top-level leagues were not immune from match-fixing, with nearly a quarter of all suspicious matches identified being in this category, said Starlizard.

“The manipulation of matches is not a new phenomenon in football, yet the perpetrators are enterprising and have become increasingly sophisticated in their methods and widespread in their activities. These criminals seek to exploit the betting markets – particularly in relation to lower-tier football matches – attempting to corrupt clubs, players and match officials to manipulate matches, thereby enabling the fraudsters to gain sizable financial profits from their betting activities,” said Sheikh.

“At the high end of the complexity scale, this activity is carried out by established organised crime groups who compromise players and officials and also engage in other forms of serious and organised crime. At the lower end of the scale, match-fixing can be much less sophisticated – sometimes instigated by the players themselves, passing information to friends and family and inviting them to bet on certain predetermined outcomes.”

What is new is what Starlizard says is a significant rise in First-Half Only suspicious betting market activity.

“Of the 167 matches identified as suspicious in 2023, 45 (27%) involved betting purely on the First-Half Only markets, suggesting that match-fixers are keen to manipulate the first-half of a football match as opposed to the whole result. When we include matches that show suspicious activity in both the First-Half Only and the Full-Time markets, the figure involving suspicious betting on First- Half markets increases to 35.3%,” says te report.

In 2022, only 4.2% of suspicious matches involved betting purely on the First-Half Only markets, suggesting match-fixers are adapting.

In March 2023, Starlizard launched Komodo, a free-to-use online anti-match-fixing alerting platform for use by sports governing bodies and enforcement agencies globally. Komodo notifies users when a suspected match manipulation has occurred and delivers match analysis reportsthat are designed to kickstart and support investigations. They are also accepted as expert evidence in courts and tribunals, including by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

“Match-fixing continues to pose a significant threat to the integrity of football, particularly in domestic league competitions. While our analysis of over 65,000 football matches in 2023 illustrates that suspected match-fixing affects only a very small percentage of games played across the world, it also demonstrates the increasing opportunities for criminals to abuse the betting markets and take advantage of the tough financial environments in which many clubs and players find themselves,” said Sheikh.

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