Football is the most targeted sport for match-fixing, according to global sports technology company Sportradar

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Johannesburg – Match-fixing in sports events around the world continues to increase during the Covid-19 pandemic, with Africa largely affected.

Sportradar Integrity Services, one of the world’s leading providers of sports integrity solutions and a partner of more than 100 sports federations and leagues, has detected more than 1,100 suspicious sports matches since the start of the global pandemic in April 2020 in the using their Universal Fraud Detection System (UFDS), with 655 of those matches detected in the first nine months of 2021.

According to Sportradar, football is the sport most at risk of betting-related corruption with more than 500 suspicious matches detected in 2021 to date.

About 40% of suspicious activity reported in domestic football competitions comes from third-tier leagues and below, including the youth level, as the fixers turn their attention to lower-level matches.

Globally, the UFDS has detected 382 suspicious matches in Europe so far this year, with Latin America registering 115 suspicious matches during the same period. Next come the Asia-Pacific region with 74, Africa with 43, 10 in the Middle East and nine in North America since early January 2021.

While Sportradar could not reveal whether South Africa is one of the affected countries in Africa, the organization says the problem is rife in Africa.

“Across all sports, we detected 43 suspicious matches in nine African countries in 2021,” said Andreas Krannich, managing director of integrity services for Sportradar AG.

“In recent years, there have been a number of documented problems in Africa, including investigations into match-fixing in Ghanaian and Tunisian football and sanctions involving Kenyan and Ugandan football players have been banned. “

Krannich says the number could be much higher as they don’t monitor all sporting events in Africa.

“We can only report what we detect, and we can only detect suspicious activity if a sports body asks us to do so.”

Andreas Krannich, Managing Director of Integrity Services for Sportradar AG. Image provided.

He said they are, however, working closely with a number of sports federations in South Africa.

“In South Africa, we are already working with large organizations such as FIFA and CAF in football, ITF in tennis and World Rugby to provide betting oversight for sporting events held in South Africa.”

Krannich said football remains the most targeted sport for match-fixing.

“Football is the most popular sport in the world, it attracts more attention and interest than any other sport, and this popularity translates into global betting markets, where football is by far the number one sport for betting, and where there is a solid betting infrastructure in place.

“This is particularly the case in the Asian betting market, where hundreds of billions of euros are wagered each year. Among team sports, there are many more football matches offered for betting than other sports, so there are many more opportunities for match organizers to identify the teams and competitions that can be played. sensitive to their approaches, perhaps because of financial problems for example.

“These factors combine to increase the risk of many football competitions. Historically, at the global level, match fixing has mainly affected the highest levels of domestic football competitions, and more particularly the second levels. As there are very liquid betting markets for second tier matches in Asia, the bribes that riggers can afford to offer – compared to second tier salaries – can be appealing to players, the staff and match officials.

He added that as the global betting market continues to grow, football’s third tier and lower levels have now become relevant enough that match-setters see it as an attractive target for exactly the same reasons, and this is reflected in the suspect match. figures over the last 18 months.

While football is the most targeted sport for match fixing, several other sports are also targeted.

Pakistani fast pitcher Mohammad Asif, 28, arrives at Southwark Court in London on Monday, October 31, 2011. Jurors resumed their deliberations on Monday in the trial of Asif and former test captain Salman Butt, both Pakistani cricketers charged with match-fixing. They are both charged with Conspiracy to Cheat and Conspiracy to Accept Corrupt Payments. (AP Photo / Lefteris Pitarakis)

This includes esports, which has grown in popularity in recent years and made it a target for fixers. This has led to a rapid increase in the number of suspicious matches reported.

More than 70 suspicious esports matches have been detected by the UFDS since April last year across five different game titles, with more than 40 of those suspicious matches identified since January of this year.

Other sports include tennis, basketball, table tennis, ice hockey, cricket as well as volleyball, handball and beach volleyball.

Krannich said the increase in match fixing in the sport is alarming.

“We’ve seen a growth in match-fixing during that time, and it’s now a truly global problem. The impact of the pandemic was always likely to exacerbate the problem. The data clearly shows us that match-fixing is one of the biggest threats to global sport, and will remain so for years to come.

“It is the scale and global nature of the match-fixing problem that is alarming. We should appreciate how organized sport is currently taking place across the world. Every year, we see several hundred thousand matches offered by betting operators, and detected cases of match-fixing represent only less than 0.5% of sporting events. “

He said this background shows that the overwhelming majority of sporting events fans sit down for are free from betting-related corruption.

“Of the more than 1,100 suspicious games we have detected over the past 18 months, each individual case represents a serious blow to clean sport and poses a serious threat to the competition it entails.

Krannich added that match-fixing has also evolved over the years, with match-fixing now using technology to their advantage.

“Over the past few years, we have seen that technology is used more and more by match-setters.

“Part of this is a growth in digital approaches to athletes, coaches and even match officials, often through social media, with users messaging athletes directly to try and involve them in betting fraud.

“The ease of access to athletes is greater than it has ever been; and these platforms break down the barriers once in place between athletes and fans, but also those with bad or even criminal intentions.

“Fortunately, many of these approaches are brought to the attention of athletes by these governing bodies, but some approaches have ultimately been successful.”

Hansie Cronje at the King Commission of Inquiry investigating cricket match-fixing. Photo by Roger Sedres.

Krannich added that there are a number of steps sports federations can take to tackle match-fixing.

“First, betting monitoring is essential. By monitoring betting activity using a proven system such as UFDS, suspicious bets can be brought to light and credible judgments can be made as to whether a match has been manipulated or not.

“Second, it’s recognizing the need for education: to recognize, deny and signal approaches to players and staff.

“Third, it is important that sports organizations invest resources in due diligence – This means proactively monitoring or carrying out basic checks on companies or individuals (investors, players, coaches) in their jurisdiction, and identifying the red flags before they can develop into a full-blown match-fixing disease.

“There are many other steps that can be taken to strengthen integrity protections, but the three proactive steps listed above can ensure a very strong integrity foundation is in place that can detect, combat and help repel. the risks of match-fixing. “

The Saturday Star

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