A total 903 instances of ‘suspicious betting activity’ in professional sport was reported in 2021 by Sportradar’s Universal Fraud Detection System (UFDS) – the highest level in its 17-year history.
The data and sports betting provider highlighted, in its Betting Corruption and Match-fixing in 2021 report, that such activity spanned across 10 sports, in 76 different countries. This comes at a 2.4% increase on the previous high of 882 suspicious matches recorded in 2019.
Andreas Krannich, Managing Director of Sportradar Integrity Services, commented: “There is no easy short-term solution to the match-fixing issue, and we’re likely to see similar numbers of suspicious matches in 2022, if not more. As the market has developed, the threat of match fixing has evolved.
“Now, would-be corruptors take an increasingly direct approach to match-fixing and betting corruption, with athletes messaged directly via social-media platforms.”
Football generated the highest number of suspicious alerts, with one in every 201 fixtures causing concern. Of note, September and October yielded the highest number of suspicious matches with 105 and 104, respectively. This corresponds with the start of the traditional football season.
Lower-league football competitions were said to be significantly affected by match-fixing. It emerged that 50% of suspicious cases in domestic leagues came from the third tier or lower, including regional and youth soccer.
One in every 384 esports fixtures was flagged by Sportradar’s UFDS, with basketball following close behind with one in every 498 games.
Krannich continued: “We can take what we observed in 2021 and ask ourselves as fans of sport, what lessons can we learn? At Sportradar, we believe in adopting a progressive approach to integrity protection, through bet monitoring and intelligence gathering.
“This has been proven to deliver sanctions against those involved in match-fixing. Preventative measures, such as educating athletes and stakeholders, are also crucially important in the long-term fight against match-fixing.”
The record number of betting alerts, Sportradar explained, coincided with a rising betting turnover and “exposes the serious, ongoing threat match-fixing presents to the integrity of global sport at all levels”.
In the report, the company estimates that global betting turnover has reached €1.45 trillion – with approximately €165 million generated in match-fixing betting profit.
Despite the rise in suspicious matches detected last year, Sportradar reaffirmed its commitment to global sports integrity. To do this, the provider has been working alongside its partners to support 65 sanctions: 46 sporting sanctions, 15 criminal sanctions and four sanctions that were both sporting and criminal.
These measures, it said, were delivered in 11 countries across football and tennis, with lifetime bans handed down to eight athletes.
Assessing the year ahead, the report forecasts a further increase in the number of suspicious matches set to be detected in 2022.