Sportradar Claim 21% Reduction in Asia Match-Fixing

The Asian Football Confederation and Sportradar have observed a 21% reduction in match-fixing since their partnership began in 2013. The global sports data and analytics company have become heavily embedded in the day-to-day management of global match-fixing policing and anti-corruption in sports. The Asian Football Confederation has at times been a hotbed of this illegal activity, so this significant reduction is a positive indicator of the valuable work both groups are undertaking together.

Sunderland stadium of light.

The majority of match-fixing in the AFC is conducted via criminal gangs and in many cases ‘lone wolfs’ are responsible. With football playing such a big part of match-fixing, technology firms such as Sportradar are working to develop tools that will assist authorities in combating the widespread issue. ©Pyxis-Web-Solution/Pixabay

Without the assistance of technology, the ability to spot match-fixing as it happens around the world is almost impossible. Match-fixing is enabled by an illegal gambling underworld, which Transparency International claims is worth over $400bn a year in Asia. There are a number of firms leading the way in this fight, across all sports, not just football. As they have already demonstrated, Sportradar and the Australian Open worked in tandem to combat match-fixing in Australian tennis. There are several cases for not allowing such a monopoly to evolve in sports analytics, but the benefits of fighting corruption are too beneficial to concern any regulators.

In fact, private companies who are able to divert huge resources to research & development of such innovative tools are being openly encouraged by the entire gambling sector to assist with the growing problem. Sportradar is amongst several firms that are working to develop artificial intelligence systems to detect irregularities in betting data, fraud detection software to trace money-laundering transactions and technical ethics to ensure data protection regulations are fully complied with by all operators in the sector.

Sportradar’s ‘Integrity Services’ Making Real Impact

The initial partnership agreement struck between the Asian Football Confederation was made under some very severe circumstances. Back then, widespread corruption and match-fixing were present in all levels of Asian football. The problem had become so serious that many western-based betting companies simply refused to offer markets on Asian football due to the risk of corruption in the game. Swiss-based Sportradar has led the fight against corruption in the AFC since 2013, and due to its successful work so far has seen the agreement extended through the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.

There was reason to suspect that organized criminals had completely taken over the integrity of the game in some countries. It was clear to see why. Match-fixing and making fraudulent bets from these games is a sure way to profit, and launder dirty money through seemingly legitimate sources. Moreover, the penalties for being caught engaging in these financial crimes are far softer than typical racketeering, drug smuggling and corruption scandals. For these reasons, sport integrity has had to contend against highly organized criminal groups or cartels that previously moved large amounts of drugs, people and weapons. This caliber of the criminal is proving difficult to hinder.

There has been a significant crackdown on the part of the technology firms fighting this problem. With firms such as Sportradar and Opta leading the charge with innovative artificial intelligence and data analytics software, the market in Asia is slowly becoming cleaner.

As Benoit Pasquier, the top-ranking legal counsel in Asian football told Reuters:

Sportradar has been pivotal in driving the decrease in overall figures for illicit activity. From 2016 we’ve witnessed a decline in match-fixing across Asia by 21 percent and with our efforts in tandem with Sportradar, the preventive measures we’ve introduced have produced positive results.Spokesperson, Triton Poker

Sportradar and the technology they have developed has proved to be pivotal in the reduction of illegal gambling activities. Match-fixing across the board is down 21% due to the efforts and innovation of these private companies and they are continuing to persevere to reduce the illicit activities.

From Global Syndicates to Lone Wolfs

Prior to 2013, the match-fixing being carried out across Asia was primarily at the hands of several large global syndicates. These groups were able to thrive due to the lack of resistance in the betting industry, and the undetectable methods they employed. Fast forward to the scenario today and the situation has become much more fragmented. Due to several high-profile busts, intense media coverage, and increased pressure from law enforcement, the match-fixing game has become much more fragmented. More common now are local gangs, or even ‘lone wolf’ conducting the business of match-fixing and illegal gambling.

The financing aspect of match-fixing and illegal gambling strategies has evolved too. Long gone are the days were traditional payment institutions and wire transfers were used to pump money through w well-engineered shadow-financial network. This costly method has been replaced by the use of cryptocurrency and payment in-kind. There has been a massive increase in the adoption of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Zcash to move illicit capital, due to their near-anonymity.

Sportradar has been leading the efforts to stop the spread of match-fixing. The firm employs over 110 staff in their anti-corruption division; which includes members of law-enforcement, intelligence agencies, military and many technical areas. By analyzing millions of matches, both clean and fixed, Sportradar employees are able to develop and train machine learning systems that are impeccable in their detection of suspicious activity. The extent of support for Sportradar is widespread, and over 600 bookmakers willingly provide odds data through an API, which is processed and used to detect suspicious betting activity, unnatural odds fluctuations, and areas of further investigation.

In union with the AFC, they are making it easier for fans, officials and players to report match-fixing; with an AFC mobile app that will also be updated to include ways to report cases of doping, bullying, and harassment in sport.

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