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Suspicious betting report raises lower level football concerns

Lower level matches and friendlies are more susceptible to suspicious betting. That’s according to Perform Group, who teamed up with integrity partners Starlizard and TXODDS to produce an “unbiased” and “non-sensational” snapshot of suspicious betting patterns in football.

Jake Marsh, Head of Integrity at Perform Group, said the joint report was designed to provide intelligence and analysis to football’s governing bodies, but also to fill an “information gap for all sporting stakeholders, and not just those limited to sports betting”.

While suggesting that lower level matches and friendlies were at the higher end of the integrity risk, Marsh stressed that the data, collected throughout 2017, is only showing irregular betting patterns that shouldn’t be misinterpreted as match fixing.

The report itself analysed 54,757 football matches, across 500 competitions and 90 countries spanning six continents. While only 397 (0.73%) of the matches were seen as suspicious, this figure does contain 32 of just 2,666 friendlies (1.2%) and 62 youth games.

This includes one domestic youth league in Europe where 22 of 244 matches (9%) were found to bring about suspicious activity. Significantly, 62 cases equates to almost 16% of the 397 total, despite youth games accounting for less than 8% of the data.

The biggest positive finding was that no tier 1 matches analysed were deemed to be suspicious, as well as only 0.17% for tier 2 and 0.36% of tier 3 matches. 241 of the 397 cases emanated from Europe, but given that the data was weighted in Europe’s favour, this only equates to 0.75% of its matches.

Marsh added: “We deliberately made no fanfare over this report being released because its intention is not to point fingers or create sensationalist stories. It is simply an unbiased analysis of suspicious betting patterns across the world of football.

“Working with Starlizard and TXODDS, two key players in the integrity ecosystem, it was not a case of proving a hypothesis; we just set out to provide information that is useful for all stakeholders.

“There will be some concerns from readers over the high percentage of suspicious activity around friendlies and youth matches, but it must be stressed that these are just suspicious patterns, and shouldn’t be construed as conclusive evidence of match fixing. However, it does show that the football authorities need to focus on these areas as well to protect the game.”

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