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Sportradar: 2023 will see ‘likely increase’ in suspicious betting

Sportradar has published its annual integrity report for 2022, observing trends throughout the year whilst also making predictions for the future of sports monitoring and overall levels of match-fixing for 2023.

Based on the activities of its Sportradar Integrity Services (SIS) division and the Universal Fraud Detection System (UFDS), the Swiss-based sportstech firm detected 1,212 suspicious matches across the whole of last year.

Sports safe as a whole, but soccer sticks out

These took place across 12 sports in 92 countries, with the results gained from the 850,000 matches monitored by SIS using the UDFS, marking a 34% increase on 2021 as well as the first time the figure has surpassed 1,000 in a year.

However, while this may seem alarming to sports and betting stakeholders, Sportradar did stress that match-fixing occurs ‘at a low percentage within global sport’, with 99.5% of sports events free from illicit activity and no single sport having a ratio greater than 1%.

From a sports perspective, football (soccer) continued to register the highest number of suspicious matches at 775, followed by basketball at 220 – Sportradar observed that this latter trend demonstrated a ‘sharp rise’ of 250% on the previous year.

Football and basketball were followed by tennis (75), table tennis (62), esports (36), cricket (13), ice hockey (11), handball (7), volleyball (5), archery (4) and golf (1), although as the firm previously stated, none of these had a suspicious match ratio above 1%.

A continuing trend saw lower tier matches face higher integrity risks, a reverse of a ‘historic trend’ which saw the top two leagues largely affected by match fixing and manipulation, particularly second tiers.

Sportradar found that the second tier of football remained the most affected in 2022 at 30.58%, followed by the third tier (29.03%), the first tier (17.53%), regional or state leagues (15.01%) and finally youth football (7.85%). This meant that 52% of all suspicious matches occurred in the third tier or lower throughout the year.

Meanwhile, whilst football continued to lead the table from a sports point of view, geographically Europe also remained the continent most affected by betting integrity issues.

A total of 630 suspicious matches were detected by Sportradar in Europe over the 12-month period, accounting for 52% of all flagged fixtures. 

Next up was Asia at 240 across all sports, whilst globally the total number of suspicious matches rose in all continents – South America at 225 and Africa at 93 – with the exception of North America and Oceania, where 24 and zero suspicious matches were flagged respectively.

Changing goalposts and shifting scorelines

Reflecting on its integrity operations in 2022, Sportradar noted that it had enhanced its position in a number of ways, having signed deals with a range of operators and sports organisations. 

Additionally, the firm launched its Integrity Exchange in April of last year, functioning as a network for operators to engage with the sports safeguarding process, and enhanced UFDS with Artificial Intelligence (AI), attributing detection of 438 suspicious matches to these advancements. Andreas Krannich, Sportradar

Andreas Krannich, SIS Managing Director, said: “We’ve taken an even more proactive approach to uncovering match-fixing in 2022, from implementing a new AI model to developing more formal working relationships with bookmakers through the launch of our Integrity Exchange, which resulted in more than 300 alerts.  

“Our technology enables us to monitor more matches on a deeper level, providing more precise and accurate insights to help aid partners, clients and the wider sports industry in efforts to safeguard sporting events from corruption. We look forward to supporting even more sports federations and law enforcement partners in 2023.” 

Sportradar also utilised its insights into global sports monitoring to make predictions for 2022 global betting turnover, projecting €730bn for football, €182bn for tennis, €180bn for basketball, €67bn for cricket, €56bn for American football, €47bn for esports, €39bn for pool/snooker, €39bn for table tennis and €32bn for ice hockey.

European football tournaments are also expected to be the biggest generators of betting turnover, with six out of nine being either UEFA or domestic football leagues. 

The tournaments by turnover are the UEFA Champions League (€225m), English Premier League (€202m), NFL (€138m), Indian Premier League (€135m), Spanish La Liga (€95m), UEFA Europa League (€91m), Italian Serie A (€89m), German Bundesliga (€85m) and NBA (€70m).

Given the high turnover expected for football, which will likely continue into 2023, Sportradar predicts that the sport will remain the most at risk for betting integrity threats over the rest of the year.

“2023 will almost certainly see a continuation in the level of suspicious match numbers witnessed in 2022, and likely an overall increase,” the firm explained.

“Economic uncertainties around the globe and the financial ramifications of it will continue to affect sports teams and athletes. 

“Furthermore, the still lacking integrity protections across large swathes of global sport organisations, as well as a lack of investigative appetite and resources where match-fixing is known to be occurring will ensure that these trends unfortunately continue.”

Sportradar projects that football will continue to see the highest levels of suspicious betting, followed by basketball, but match-fixing across the lower leagues of other major sports will rise. 

Geographically, Europe will keep its place as the continent most affected by match-fixing, but Sportradar does project some changes regarding other regions. The company notably expects South America to surpass Asia in terms of suspicious matches detected, and numbers in Africa to also increase.

“Athletes, players and match officials nearing the twilight of their career will continue to face the temptation to engage in match-fixing, as their main income stream from sport nears its natural conclusion,” the report concluded.

“For those who chose to follow this path, it can include organising fixes themselves, or working with match-fixing syndicates as a facilitator who approaches athletes they already have relationships with. This will present one of the biggest risks in terms of the spread of match fixing in the years ahead.”

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