ESSA keeping tabs on integrity matters

essareportSBC News’ Joe Plewes takes a look at the recent ESSA integrity report to see what the industry is doing to clamp down on incidences of match fixing.

The recent ESSA integrity report for the first quarter of 2015 couldn’t have been more timely. It was released within a week of two former Football League players being jailed for a match fixing conspiracy while three Norwegian footballers also received prison sentences for their part in rigged matches during 2012.

In a continuation of ESSA’s 2014 findings, football was the sport with the second most unusual betting activity behind tennis across the first three months of 2015.  Thirteen suspicious betting patterns were identified in relation to football, three of which were reported to the relevant federations for further investigation.

What was particularly interesting is that tennis far leads the way in terms of suspicious betting patterns, with over half of all the alerts related to the sport and a huge 70% of all suspicious alerts being around tennis. Whether it is down to the volatile nature of the sport and the way matches can swing one way then the other that lends itself to a jumpy betting market isn’t clear, but it is advisable to take extra care when offering tennis bets.

okaneIt is perhaps a mark of increasing concerns about match fixing, particularly in football, that ESSA has chosen to publish its reports quarterly rather than its previous annual offerings. ESSA chairman Mike O’Kane commented: “We have long promoted an open, transparent and evidence-based approach and we hope that this report, and the information it contains, will positively enhance that discussion. Effective policymaking requires informed debate and proper stakeholder engagement.

“The European Commission and the Asser Institute have led the way in this area, publishing important studies demonstrating the flaws in the way sports betting rights were introduced and assessing the integrity risks of new types of sports bets on the basis of genuine empirical evidence.

“The Asser report, for instance, found no correlation between live betting or side bets (e.g. on corners, number of red/yellow cards etc.) and possible instances of betting-related match fixing in football that would justify any prohibition of these bet types. The findings confirmed: we need more informed and evidence-based analysis to help formulate policies in this and other areas.”

The International Olympic Committee has set up a system to collate alerts and information on potential betting-related match-fixing, the ‘Integrity Betting Intelligence System’ (IBIS). Friedrich Martens, head of IBIS, once again highlighted the importance of education in upholding morality in sport, noting:

“There can be no doubt that education and awareness raising are key preventative actions in the fight for clean competitions. Education and awareness raising is often seen solely as programmes aiming at sports persons. However, education has to be defined broader and it also needs to aim at all other stakeholders associated with the fight for clean competitions.”

Meanwhile Professor Ben Van Rompuy of the Asser Institute was keen to point out the need for sporting bodies to conduct their own investigations into ESSA’s findings:

“The crucial next step is a credible follow-up investigation. Unfortunately, in various sports and regions in Europe, the responsible governing bodies still fail to understand that an over-enthusiastic reliance on criminal prosecution is unproductive.”

With further research to be conducted and three more reports to come across the year, it will be interesting to see ESSA’s subsequent findings on match fixing as it seeks to help formulate policies to preserve integrity in sport.

ESSA was founded in 2005 by a number of leading sportsbooks. The EWS (Early Warning System) is designed to inform sports bodies including FIFA and the IOC about suspicious betting patterns and help protect the integrity of betting and sport itself.


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