Sports integrity and match fixing are a key concern to regulatory bodies, as online sports betting looks for government approval and a coherent legislative framework in multiple jurisdictions. For a number of year’s sports data and insight specialist Sportradar has been helping numerous stakeholders fight against sports corruption using data and technology.
Team SBC spoke with Andreas Krannich Managing Director of Strategy & Integrity at Sportradar to discuss integrity and match fixing issues in 2015. Krannic gives SBC readers detailed insight into how integrity can progress within a changing technology landscape.
SBC: Hi Andreas, good to catch up with you. Sports integrity and the fight against corruption are again major issues for sports and betting industries in 2015. How do you feel that both industries are progressing on these issues?
Andreas: Having set up the Security Services arm of Sportradar back in 2004, we have developed and continually upgraded the best tool possible to flag anomalous betting patterns before and during sporting fixtures. Our analysis and support for the sports industry sits on a foundation of fast and accurate data received direct from 450 of the most important operators in the betting industry. So to do our job well, Sportradar needs the best relationships across betting operators. We have found that industry as a whole to be hugely supportive of the insight that we provide to the sports world. After all, the victim list of any fix will invariably include the operators on which the bets were placed. On a micro scale, they are sponsoring and supporting Sportradar’s own various integrity tours in places such as Italy and Malta. But on a macro scale, we often see them at key gatherings and debates, looking to engage and understand how they can best support developments in legislation, initiatives and collaborations.
As for the sport industry, the vast majority of our clients are drawn from that pool and we have found the industry as a whole to be increasingly proactive, collaborative open. Not too long ago, there was still too much ignorance and fear around the issue of match-fixing and how it could affect or taint a sport’s brand. Now sport is putting itself firmly on the front foot. Again, they are learning, debating, engaging and activating. The Fraud Detection System and Fraud Prevention Services we provide are powerful tools and 2014 saw a real jump in the number of approaches we received from within football and further afield.
Both industries have done a lot and moved matters forward in 2014, but the danger is still present.
SBC: With regards to sports integrity, Sportrader has been approached to work with sporting bodies, governments, betting operators and other multiple stakeholders. How does sportrader maintain these relationships with so many stakeholders in order to ensure progress is undertaken on the matter?
Andreas: The betting operators on the whole welcome Sportradar’s Security Services. They are happy to allow us to use their data to monitor the global betting marketplace on any one event, in the knowledge that as a result, they are fundamental to the successful inroads we have been making and the fixes we have brought to prosecution. It is the relationship with our Betradar brand, which has been in existence since 2001, that allows the Security Services this access.
While we have worked with sport for ten years now, our profile has grown the most recently, as rights holders have decided to be more open about their proactivity and the steps they are putting place. The deterrent effect of our Fraud Detection System is clear and is now really being harnessed. But match-fixers have struggled most when sport and law enforcement agencies have worked in tandem and 2014 was the year that Sportradar really began facilitating and supporting that pair of stakeholders. Sport cannot address or sanction those who sit outside sport’s jurisdiction. But in Australia, Latvia, Austria and Hong Kong, we have seen unparalleled, and ultimately effective, collaboration.
The bottom line is that all the stakeholders want match-fixing eradicated. None of the betting industry, the sports industry, or indeed society as a whole, benefit from match-fixing. So when a system such as our FDS starts racking up investigations, arrests, prosecutions and arrests, everyone recognises the effectiveness and wants to help. That effectiveness generates the collaboration that helps all us to remain focused on the enemy.
SBC: How does Sportradar help smaller sports bodies that may not have the resources capabilities to develop their integrity capacities?
Andreas: In our minds there is no doubt that the FDS is the most effective tool to uncover match-fixing and focus in on guilty parties. But we understand that certain rights holders have resource challenges. So we have various ways that we can support them.
Our Fraud Prevention Services offer a range of products, whether Risk Assessments that can help them refocus their resources, or education workshops that can be used to try to get ahead of the issue. Match-fixing thrives when there is ignorance around how the fixers work, recruit and trap individuals. Our FPS tours and workshops have constantly been called “eye-opening” and we hope that rights holders can see the value in just that.
What we also try to do is to reach out to law enforcement agencies. Many countries are now realising that match-fixing is not a sport issue. It is a societal problem often driven by organised crime. By connecting us with police, sports bodies can end up facilitating an effective collaboration that can dent or even unravel fixes in their sport or country.
SBC: 2014 saw various cases of sports corruption and match fixing. As an industry what should we have learnt from these cases, in order to help maintain integrity and fight against corruption?
Andreas: Match-fixing is an evolving and increasingly sophisticated act that is or should be criminal. But there are weak links in the chain that hinder the ability to hit and hurt those criminal operations. Legislation in a whole range of countries is not up to date and means that any prosecutions that are brought must be done on a remodelling of an existing but outdated crime such as conspiracy to defraud. Also, sanctions for successful prosecutions in various countries have been deflating. If sanctions are to serve a deterrent effect on match-fixers, then the legislation and those passing judgement must be more robust to make sure that fixers think twice before starting an operation in a certain jurisdiction. So sports stakeholders and all others invested in the success and the longevity of clean sport must look to raise these issues and make sure that the relevant decision makers hear those needs.
SBC: How will more sophisticated user technology effect corruption and its influences on sporting events. How do we stay ahead of the curve on this important matter?
Andreas: Technology, as in most cases, can be the problem and/or the solution. When Sportradar became the Official Data Partner for the ITF, we provided umpires with the scoring system that allowed all data from ITF matches to reach bookmakers first. This limited the ability of court-siders or others to take advantage of delayed data or audiovisual transmission. So what we hope for the future is that rights holders see the benefit in facilitating access for the fastest and most trusted systems or players in the market. Once score transmission systems or competition between data transmitters are in place, not only will those who want to game the system struggle, but ghost games, which have caused problems for certain companies in the industry, will be incredibly difficult to generate.
But technology continues to offer opportunities, for Sportradar and for fixers alike and our Developers, working hand in hand with our Analysts, are looking to stay ahead of developments to make sure that our solutions continue to offer the best defences against match-fixing and manipulation possible.
SBC: Coming into 2015, what key agenda with regards to sports integrity and betting do you feel that all stakeholders need to look to resolve?
Andreas: Throughout 2014, the buzzwords have been “communication” and “collaboration”. To be honest, that has characterised our working practices anyway, but there is a definite need for greater information sharing in 2015. The Council of Europe Convention on the Manipulation of Sports Competitions, which was finalised last year, calls out for “national and international co-operation”. This will be the biggest issue for the year: getting the Convention ratified and acting upon its spirit and Articles.
At Sportradar, we have already developed CENTRO – our latest development that meets the needs of the Convention. This System will incorporate our FDS, the account-level detail of domestic operators provided by regulators, a communication platform and other intuitive bolt-ons to offer national authorities with the most innovative tool, ready to take the fight against fixing to the next level.
Fixers thrive when those who try to prevent them aren’t as nimble as they are. The CENTRO System will be invaluable as fixers and their executors move and operate across sports and markets. The more countries bring CENTRO on board, the fewer places the fixers will have to hide and operate.
Andreas Krannich Managing Director of Strategy & Integrity at Sportradar