How Sportradar is working with FIFA to fight betting corruption during the 2022 tournament.
BBetting sites are expected to wager more than $160 billion during the 2022 World Cup. With so much money flowing in the betting markets, FIFA hired Sportradar, a Switzerland-based sports data and technology company, to monitor every bet and look out for anomalies.
The world of football is no stranger to match-fixing scandals and Sportradar says it has identified more than 700 matches so far this year that were fixed by players or officials. Andreas Krannich, executive director of Sportradar’s integrity services division, compares players and officials who fix a game to Wall Street executives who make well-timed stock trades.
“Match-fixing is like insider trading,” says Krannich. “Someone has inside information and is betting on it.”
But Sportradar does not only monitor all 64 games of the World Cup. This year, FIFA created an integrity task force made up of Sportradar, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA), ESPN first reported.
Match-fixing may seem strange and far-fetched, but it is not. At least one player currently at the World Cup has been accused of rigging a regular-season game.
The most notorious example of modern match-fixing occurred on November 12, 2016 during a qualifying match between South Africa and Senegal for the 2018 World Cup. Joseph Lamptey, a Ghanaian soccer referee, awarded South Africa a mock penalty. (The penalty was for a handball, but the ball hit Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly clearly in the leg.) South Africa won 2-1. A few days later, Sportradar, Global Lottery Monitoring System, Starlizard Sports Betting Consultancy and Genius Sports filed reports that the sports betting market was showing “erratic” movements and evidence that players knew in advance what the score would be. The FIFA judiciary has banned Lamptey for life and the Court of Arbitration for Sport found him guilty of “unlawfully influencing match results” in order to “make relevant bets successful”.
In 2005, a German court sentenced football referee Robert Hoyzer to two and a half years in prison for involvement in a match-fixing scandal. In one game, a DFB-Pokal game, Hoyzer Paderborn missed two penalties which helped the team beat Hamburger SV. A professional player and pub owner, Ante Sapina from Croatia, organized the scheme and paid Hoyzer €67,000 to fix nine games.
This year, 15 people, including football players, officials and bettors, have been arrested in Austria for allegedly rigging at least 19 regional league games between 2019 and 2021.
Football is the sport most targeted by match-fixing because it is the most popular sport in the world and the most wagered on. The numbers vary widely: according to a report by the IBIA, the global regulated betting market loses $25 million every year to match-fixing. That’s a paltry sum considering that sports betting companies generated nearly $70 billion in revenue in 2020. According to a report released by Europol, organized crime groups use sports match-fixing to launder proceeds from drugs and prostitution, and each year gangs make an estimated 120 million euros from match-fixing and betting.
“Football is the most prominent and most attractive sport for match-fixing,” says Krannich. “Where is the greatest liquidity? It’s not in esports. On average, for the World Cup in Qatar, we expect more than €1 billion to bet on each game.”
While match-fixing is a relatively small problem for the sport, it’s only getting worse. Last year Sportradar identified 500 suspicious football matches, this year the company had already identified 700 by mid-November. Across all sports, the company found 1,100 games to be fixed, up from 903 last year.
“We’ve never had such a high number,” says Krannich. “This cancer is spreading.”
Match fixing is not about a player or umpire throwing an entire game. It’s more nuanced. Today, most match-fixing scandals revolve around the fixing of a quarter or point spread.
“Match-fixing nowadays doesn’t mean losing a game on purpose,” says Krannich. “It’s boring and also stupid.”
Team captains, goalkeepers and defenders are the most targeted players thanks to their integral role on the pitch. “A simple mistake can easily result in a goal being conceded without arousing suspicion,” says the Europol report.
“As an underdog, you know you’re going to lose the game anyway,” Krannich says, “so what’s the difference between a two-goal loss and a five-goal loss?”
With a team of 60 employees spread across the US, South America, Europe and Australia, Krannich’s team and artificial intelligence software process 35 billion odds changes per year on 890,000 sports games across 90 sports. The integrity team’s algorithm flags up irregularities in betting patterns, such as: B. a surge in new betting account registrations and large cash movements – both indicators that match-fixing is afoot. If his system detects an unusual pattern, Krannich says he can tell you which team will win simply by observing which team bettors are betting the most money on.
“Either I’m Jesus or we know what to do with the metrics,” he jokes. “We’re just looking at the facts, and the facts are the flow of money. Money never lies.”
Monitoring sports betting is just a small part of what the company, with a market cap of $3.2 billion, does. Founded by entrepreneur Carsten Koerl, Sportradar helps sports leagues compile and distribute data such as in-game statistics to media companies and bookmakers.
Koerl, who serves as CEO, became a billionaire after Sportradar went public on the Nasdaq in September 2021. Sportradar has more than 1,700 customers, including 900 sports bettors such as DraftKings, FanDuel and Flutter, and more than 150 sports league partners including FIFA, NBA, MLB, NASCAR, ITF and the NHL. Other billionaires like basketball greats Michael Jordan, Mark Cuban, and Ted Leonsis all own minority stakes in the company. The company achieved an EBITA of 186 million euros from sales of 561 million euros last year.