Sportradar has announced it detected no suspicious betting activity at the recent UEFA Euro 2020 soccer championships, despite the tournament generating an estimated $73 billion in bets, a suspected record.
The sports data giant provides integrity services to tournament organizer, UEFA, via its Betting Fraud Detection System (BFDS). The system monitors the global betting market and for suspicious betting patterns and other anomalies that could indicate fraud or match-fixing.
Sportradar said all BFDS alerts were reviewed and “assessed to be explainable through logical sporting reasons.”
Crucially, Sportradar and other integrity solution providers use crawler software to analyze data from unregulated online sports books, as well as the regulated markets. These include the illegal or quasi-legal sports betting operators based in Asia, which are the source of most of the cash that funds and inspires match-fixing, according to Interpol.
Match Fixing ‘Sweet Spot’
Unlike some domestic leagues, international tournament soccer has been largely free from the specter of match-fixing in recent years, although there have been questions raised about a small number of World Cup qualifying matches.
It’s not always the case that criminals prefer to target lower-profile games to stay under the radar. In fact, the sheer volume of bets on a tournament like Euro 2020 makes criminal activity harder to detect.
The Asian soccer leagues have always been a hotbed of match fixing because they generate a large volume of betting activity while their players earn low salaries, making them theoretically more susceptible to bribery. These two factors of low wages and high coverage combine to create a match fixer’s “sweet spot.”
But according to the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the tide is beginning to turn against match-fixing in Asian soccer. Last year, the sporting body said incidents had declined by 21 percent since 2016.
Betting Rings Broken
That’s largely thanks to detection becoming more sophisticated but also because of the disruption of betting rings by Chinese authorities and law enforcement agencies like Interpol.
AFC General Counsel Benoit Pasquier told Reuters last year that match-fixing used to be controlled by a small number of big international betting syndicates, but many of these had been broken since 2013.
“With key figures being imprisoned or disrupted and very high-profile cases being discussed in the media, match-fixing over the last five years has become much more fragmented,” explained Pasquier. “There are now more ‘lone wolves’, with local gangs and syndicates more common.”
Unfortunately, tennis remains a target for match fixers, especially at the lower echelons of the game, such as the Futures circuits where prize money is poor.
According to the International Tennis Federation, half of the 14,000 players trying to make a living from tennis barely break even.
In July, German newspaper WELT reported that two matches at Wimbledon had been referred to the International Tennis Integrity Agency due to the detection of suspicious betting patterns.
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