The importance of monitoring of sports betting data via regulated markets was never more clear than in the case involving a banned referee from Ghana and a World Cup qualifying match.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport on Monday confirmed the lifetime ban the international soccer body FIFA imposed on Ghanaian match official Joseph Odartei Lamptey. That finding was helped immensely by the involvement of Sportradar, a sports data company that works with sporting leagues and regulated bookmakers on integrity matters.
More on the CAS decision on Lamptey
The case in question against Lamptey stemmed from a 2016 World Cup qualifying match between South Africa and Senegal.
Here’s what the CAS found regarding the match, according to FIFA:
In its ruling, CAS concluded that Mr Lamptey had intentionally taken two wrong decisions with the sole purpose of enabling a specific number of goals to be scored that would make pertinent bets successful. CAS concluded that there was an obvious link between these intentionally wrong decisions and a deviation from an expected betting pattern, and consequently found Mr Lamptey guilty of having unlawfully influenced the result of the match.
This CAS decision underlines FIFA’s commitment to protecting the integrity of football and its zero-tolerance policy on match manipulation, while also highlighting the effectiveness of its current agreement with Sportradar that uses their Fraud Detection System, which played an important role in this case.
You can see the CAS finding here.
Andreas Krannich, Sportradar’s Managing Director of Integrity, spoke with Legal Sports Report about the case. He noted that CAS put a lot of stock in Sportradar’s Fraud Detection System (FDS), saying that CAS equates the quantitative and qualitative data it provided as being on par with biological passport data used in a doping case.
“CAS found that our FDS report was a reliable means of evidence,” Krannich said. It’s the fourth time that Sportradar data has been used in a case in the CAS, but the most high-profile to date.
Sportradar also notes that it has played a role in 213 sporting disciplinary sanctions and 24 criminal convictions.
How Sportradar flagged the problem
Testimony from Sportradar in the CAS case broke down how Sportradar’s FDS flagged in-game wagering that was out of line with what bookmakers expected:
Mr Mace, Director of Global Operations Integrity Services at Sportradar, described the procedures followed in the analysis of the betting activities in any match controlled by his organization. Mr. Mace confirmed that with respect to the Match no market abnormalities were detected prior to kick-off, but that evidence of suspicious betting appeared from the 12th minute of the first half (0:0), as odds for at least three goals being scored in total failed to increase as logically expected until the first goal in the 43rd minute, after which the suspicious betting ceased.
Mr. Mace underlined that in normal market conditions, it would have been expected that odds for this outcome increased steadily during this timeframe, because, as the time remaining in a match diminishes, so does the time available for either team to create the opportunities necessary for the required three goals to be scored. In other words, the odds movements for the Match were very irrational, because they implied the same probability of 3 goals materialising after 40 minutes as at the start of the Match: with no goals being scored, this was very suspicious. Mr Mace, then, declared that bookmakers take into account the scoring history of the clubs playing the match: however, information available before the match cannot affect the odds in the live betting markets.
Without that data from Sportradar, it may have been nearly impossible to make a solid case that Lamptey had been trying to manipulate the match for betting purposes.
What it means for sports betting integrity
Obviously, groups like FIFA would rather not have to deal with cases of match and betting manipulation. But a regulated market and the data collected by Sportradar shines a light on issues that might go unnoticed 1. in an unregulated market (ie offshore betting) and 2. without the presence of a company like Sportradar connecting the dots.
Krannich offered this analogy.
“If you compare our FDS system to an alarm system for your house, you hope you never have to use it,” Krannich said. “But it’s better to identify the people breaking into your house, in comparison to not knowing who did this and maybe they will come back again.”
Some might — and likely will — try to use the fact that this case happened at all as an argument against sports wagering. But Sportradar and Krannich disagree.
“Prohibition never works, it only facilitates black markets,” Krannich said. “If you make a decision say in England not to offer a match — in this case a qualifying match for the World Cup of FIFA — for live betting, the consequence will be you drive this offer underground, where there’s no consumer protection, there’s no “know your customer,” where you don’t know if a bookmaker is doing a legitimate business.”
Lessons for US sports betting?
There are lessons for the US here, as well. Outside of Nevada sports betting, almost all wagering by Americans on American sports takes place with offshore sportsbooks. That could be about to change, depending on the verdict of the US Supreme Court in the New Jersey sports betting case.
Major US professional sports leagues like the NBA and NHL already partner with Sportradar on integrity matters, as wagering on these sports takes place in regulated markets internationally. Regulated wagering in the US would provide an opportunity to further marginalize offshore, unregulated sports betting. An expanded regulated market will give leagues more transparency and more certainty over the integrity of their games.
And instances like the case involving Lamptey — where Sportradar, FIFA and bookmakers worked together — can serve as a warning to anyone trying to manipulate matches via a regulated market.
“It all depends on the credibility of the approach of the respective governing bodies,” Krannich said. “If sport is not taking the necessary actions like FIFA did, then of course it won’t become a deterrent.”
How exactly the major pro leagues will approach the possible regulated market in the US is still an open question, of course. But the possibility of regulated wagering provides an opportunity to further ensure integrity for those leagues.