Football integrity and the prevention of match fraud was a core topic at the 2015 Betting on Football Conference (#BOFCON) on 10 September. Team SBC spoke to Sportradar’s Director of Security Services Tom Mace, as the European football season gets fully underway, on how progress is developing in the fight to secure football’s integrity.
Mace is responsible for leading the global operations of Sportradar’s Security Services across London, Hong Kong and Sydney. The Security Services include the Fraud Detection System (FDS), a unique service that has been detecting betting-related manipulation in sport since 2005 and which monitors over 250 competitions around the world across 10 different sports
Current FDS football clients include UEFA, AFC, CONCACAF, plus the FA’s of Germany, Hong Kong and Australia.
SBC: Entering the start of the European football season what has been learnt from football integrity match-fixing cases in 2014/15? Are any stakeholders progressing on the matter?
Tom Mace: 2014 and 2015 have been key years for match-fixing and of course Sportradar’s Security Services. We have seen and participated in some encouraging progress in the area of match-fixing investigations and prosecutions across a range of countries and jurisdictions. What this underlines is a growing conviction amongst both sport rights holders and law enforcement agencies that match manipulation and betting fraud must climb the list of priorities.
For example, working closely with our partner UEFA, we have launched or supported investigations in countries such as Latvia, Bulgaria, Moldova and Montenegro to name a few We have also finalised an MoU with Europol recently so are already in discussions as to how we can bring that partnership to bear.
The most encouraging development has been the Macolin Convention, which crystallises the appetite across stakeholders for information-sharing, collaboration and national level initiative. Once the Convention is ratified in Europe and beyond, and once countries push through specific legislation and embolden their sanctions, then we will really see the positive inroads that have been made in the last year or so multiply.
SBC: Many commentators have stated that within football there are too many actors both at regional and international level. How do you develop effective integrity mechanisms, practices and key learnings within these complicated conditions?
TM : There are a good number of stakeholders involved in football but the advantage is that they bring resources, people as well as passion and perspectives. So when all those stakeholders pool their intelligence and resources, they are able to construct a comprehensive and effective alliance that protects the integrity of football.
One example of this working in practice was the Integrity Hub that was set up in advance of the AFC Asian Cup, which was played in Australia at the beginning of this year. All the relevant stakeholders, including the AFC, the FFA, the Australian Federal Police and Sportradar all came together to plan, execute and evaluate a proactive and long term integrity strategy for the competition. The preparation lead-in time and the constant openness and communication amongst the stakeholders underpinned the Hub’s success and we see it as a best practice model for future competitions. Indeed, we hope that other competitions and rights holders will follow that lead and we are of course on hand to support those initiatives in any way we can.
SBC: A series of Italian match fixing cases dominated summer headlines. With regards to match-fixing, can trust and reputation be recovered by Italian football?
TM: The Italian leagues have in many ways shown themselves to be leaders in light of recent developments. They have invested heavily in education tours, workshops and e-learning modules in a quest to inform and warn their relevant participants. Unfortunately, these kinds of tours are no guarantee, but the leagues have left no stone unturned: so that as well as providing those preventative services, Sportradar also monitor the top three football divisions in the country for betting related fraud and match manipulation.
When matches are spotted, the Italians have acted decisively to ensure that clubs are punished and punished strongly, sending a powerful deterrent message to the rest of the clubs up and down the sport.
In the end, trust and reputation is founded on openness, transparency and conviction. The Italian leagues have shown those qualities time and time again and there is no reason to believe that they will not win out in the end.
SBC: In terms of betting, football integrity’s greatest threat is technology. As an industry how does sports betting stay ahead of the curve?
TM: The modern sports betting industry relies on two things: speed and accuracy of data. They rely on these not only for commercial advantage, but also to protect integrity. So one thing operators must look to do is secure fast and reliable data, often via partners such as Sportradar.
The other way to stay ahead of the curve is to work closely with the National Platforms and with fraud detection specialists such as our Security Services. While fixers are constantly evolving their methods and devising increasingly elaborate ways of securing ill-gotten profits, our Fraud Detection System is being constantly invested into and updated to ensure that opportunities are closed as soon as they begin being exploited.
SBC: Working with multiple parties in football’s value chain, what long term goals should be established in the fight for football integrity and how should these be measured efficiently by stakeholders?
TM: If we are looking long term, the objective has to be to secure the best prevention services and monitoring systems across football (and of course other sports). Prevention, in the guise of education and awareness raising is important to grow understanding across all sports participants and making sure they all recognise approaches, report suspicions and know the sanctions in play. Monitoring is the other piece of the puzzle: once matches are detected, it is then that all other processes can begin.
Regulation is also vitally important, providing greater transparency across operators and markets. This must of course not be confused with prohibition, which we know only drives betting behaviours further underground, where it is harder to shine a light on them.
Finally, the legal infrastructure around match fixing must be improved in each country. Only when there are clear, fit for purpose laws in place that enable rather than hinder prosecutions and that support strong sanctions that genuinely deter; only then will we get fixers to abandon what they currently still consider to be an attractive money-making scheme.
Tom Mace -Sportradar – Director of Security Services