Supporting betting stakeholders and the global sports community, Sportradar has published a white-paper detailing key findings, insights and observations on ‘ghost games’.
The white paper titled ‘Ghost Games: An Explanation’ has been produced by Oscar Brodkin, Sportradar Director of Intelligence & Investigation Services.
The paper defines a ghost game as a match which simply does not take place as stated, and is falsely advertised to bookmakers, punters and the public, in order to achieve profit from the betting markets, with the perpetrators having advanced knowledge of the final score, which they have decided.
Writing the white paper, Brodkin makes a clear distinction between ghost game functions and objectives as compared to standard match-fixing.
“Matches fixed for betting profits happen every day and they are real in every way,” said the report. “The games do take place as advertised, the teams (or individuals) are full-strength, but intend to manipulate some or all of the match contrary to the betting markets’ expectations.”
Making further observations, Sportradar highlights the gang’s intent on targeting intelligence weak spots related to transmitting live sports data.
Unlike certain smaller data fraud aspects where perpetrators focus on data errors related to time delays to gain an advantage over betting markets, ghost games focus on relaying wholly fictitious data to bookmakers on advanced outcomes.
For criminal gangs, the authenticity of their fake simulations is the key factor in securing their intended results.
The paper added: “Fixers are not just 30 seconds or 30 minutes ahead of the action; they are aware of the final score because the events are inputted at their discretion. To pull off a ghost match, a scout or a syndicate must adhere to a number of principles, plan methodically, execute and ride their luck.”
In terms of resources and technical know-how, Sportradar explains that ghost games are more difficult for criminals to undertake than standard match-fixing.
Nevertheless, Sportradar states that consequences can be severe, as gangs can secure sizeable returns from their activities which will likely be reinvested in further corrupt activities targeting athletes, coaches and referees.
In addition, the report underlines the significant ‘reputational damage’ that ghost games can have on an individual club, federation, bookmaker and data provider deceived by the criminal activity.
In the case of football, gangs will likely target lower-profile leagues, developing their commercial and security capacities. The consequences of ghost game deceptions can be significant on funding, league confidence and stakeholder reputations.
Explaining the criminal consequences, Sportradar adds: “In the case of the Belarusian ghost match between SFC Slutsk and SFC Shakhter on February 3rd 2015, The Daily Telegraph featured the story. Through no fault of their own, the league might suffer financial losses such as sponsor withdrawal.”
Sportradar underlines ‘quality assurance’ monitoring live and pre-match events as the key element in combating ghost games.
To protect clients and football stakeholders, data providers must deploy effective scout systems monitoring leagues in which ghost games are likely to take place.
Data integrity is further noted as a key element, in which providers must check the source of information, with all fixtures and events verified by relevant governing bodies.
Of further note, Sportradar advises stakeholders to record key match variables related to audio and visual quality, such as whether ‘background noise’ can be recorded to verify the individual is present at the reported match.
In summary, Sportradar concludes that “ghost matches will continue to be a source of intrigue and a target for opportunists, but effective measures – spearheaded by legitimate forward-thinking data providers – are in place to combat such rare phenomena”.