Australian Open and Sportradar Anti Match-Fixing Deal

Tennis Australia has extended its partnership with data supplier Sportradar as the two organizations work towards anti-match-fixing targets. The multi-year extension with Tennis Australia will see the integration of its audio-visual, data content and Integrity Services technology. Leveraging this cutting-edge technology has been a key concern of Tennis Australia following public outcry to boost oversight on the nation’s tennis and mitigate the risk of match-fixing. The technology firm aims to scale-up its presence across global sports, and will seek to further improve its information solutions to bolster the integrity of professional tennis in Australia.

Rafael Nadal at the Australian Open.

Players at the Australian Open are often approached by criminals looking to corrupt the outcome of a match. Although Nadal is too well paid to be at risk, lots of younger players in the preliminary matches regularly report approaches from criminal match-fixing syndicates. ©moerschy/Pixabay

The deal, which was first agreed in 2016 has been drastically extended. The new agreement will have Sportradar render services far beyond data provisions and on-court metrics. Integrity Fraud Detection Services are at the heart of the new partnership. As public concern over the levels of corruption within elite Australian tennis has been growing, Sportradar is able to offer a powerful and unique protection system. The technology that has been developed will allow vast amounts of betting data to be analyzed, whilst identifying anomalies or unusual activity on a specific market. These red flags raised by Sportradar software can be fed directly to Tennis Australia where the further inspection can be taken to realize any potential criminal aspect to the betting pattern.

Protecting the Integrity of Australian Tennis

Whilst the original partnership was less concerned with preventing crime, and rather offering Australian betting firms more accurate and detailed match data. This deal has taken on a completely new scale, and is charged with the protection of the overall integrity of tennis in Australia, as well as identifying any match-fixing and betting offenses; a very tall order indeed. But if anyone is capable of achieving such a target, it is Sportradar. The technology firm has been praised with their “innovative and progressive approach to nurturing & advancing the interests of the game”, and were chosen as the best firm to further the ambitions of all stakeholders in Tennis Australia.

The technology firm is not limited to simply providing the fraud detection systems necessary to mitigate betting crimes. Sportradar technology includes programmatic advertising, which can deploy targeted and dynamic advertising allowing Tennis Australia and its broadcasters to commercialize their streams more efficiently. The firm also provides high-quality streaming technology, delivering ultra-high-definition audio and visual streams to all licensed broadcasters of Australian tennis. The technology is also capable of delivering accurate and real-time data and statistics from the games to boost the engagement of its clients using the software on their own platforms. Some of the biggest bookmakers in the world rely on Sportradar to power their in-play platforms, and now tennis Australia will receive this benefit for their own purposes.

The levels of detail that Sportradar is capable of achieving is staggering to say the least. Long gone are the days where betting companies would have to manually pass big bets to traders for approval, or check that a bet on a particular market doesn’t exceed a certain limitation that has been set. Sportradar, and many other data firms around the world are harnessing the power of machine learning to automatically recognize suspicious transactions, amongst a sea of tens of millions of micro-transactions across a network of sports betting companies.

As the Managing Director of Sportradar today said about the new deal struck between his firm and Tennis Australia:

 Our combination of cutting-edge technology together with our expertise across data, AV and Integrity Services will continue to support those aims. Our own mission in partnering with rights holders like Tennis Australia is clear – we have an ongoing and long-term commitment to safeguarding tennis, whilst delivering investment into premium content enabling the continued growth of the game across the world.David Lampitt Managing Director, Sportradar

The sports data firm has set itself the target of completely eradicating all forms of betting corruption in the next three years. The extent to which this will be achieved largely depends on their success in sports markets such as tennis. The company knows that they will be judged on their results, stopping players accepting bribes from criminal betting syndicates may not be what this deal is being advertised as, but we can be certain this will be the primary operating objective of both Sportradar and Tennis Australia going forward.

Tennis Match-Fixing and Corruption Still Prevalent

Match-fixing and tennis have long been two sides of the same coin. One of the most popular sports for criminal betting syndicates, there are many ways tennis has been exploited over the past decades. Since the efficiency of in-play betting has improved, there have been many unique ways for match-fixers and other forms of betting crimes to flourish.

The new partnership between Sportradar and Tennis Australia comes at a crucial time, in the last 12-months some 26 tennis matches have been identified for potential match-fixing offenses  and have been sent to the Tennis Integrity Unit for further inspection. In January 2019, Spanish police raided and arrested multiple persons involved in a sophisticated scheme to fix matches, with one of the players being a competitor in the US Open, this case truly exemplified the dangers of corruption even at the highest levels of the sport. In Australia, the problem also exists, and in 2016 police arrested two players Nick Lindahl and Brandon Walking who were found guilty of fixing tennis matches at the Australian Open dating back to 2013.

Despite the many counter-measures to match-fixing in tennis, it is still possible for gamblers to gain unfair advantages. Betting professionals often use tennis as their primary source of income. One known exploit that is beginning to gain notoriety involves beating the umpire to the point recognition, the strategy is known as courtsiding. Working in a pair, with one sitting courtside and another behind a computer, using Bluetooth headsets to communicate, it is possible to place in-play bets on the next point scored quickly before the umpire registers the point electronically. With authorities becoming wiser to this scheme, it is becoming harder and harder for punters deploying this shady technique to find “slow umpires” and bag a quick profit. Also, any spectator spotted using a mobile phone or Bluetooth device at live tennis these days is likely to be swiftly removed from the venue.

With the effort of companies like Sportradar and its affiliates, corruption and match-fixing in tennis is becoming much more difficult. Sportradar has shown they are ready and poised to integrate their technology into other sports, as they have already done in Esports catching match-fixers in a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive pro game which led to high-profile arrests. Soon we will see this rolled out across a multitude of sports, fully eradicating the problem of match-fixing.

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