14th August 2019

Increase in suspicious betting patterns in African & women’s football

African and women’s football showed increases in matches involving suspicious betting patterns and youth games remain a concern, according to ‘Suspicious Betting Trends in Global Football 2019’, a Report produced by Stats Perform Integrity and Starlizard Integrity Services. The Report analysed 62,250 matches played during 2018, almost 14% more than the 54,000 analysed in 2017 and found 377 of them to be suspicious, compared to 397 last year. In other words, 0.6% of matches analysed during 2018 were found to involve suspicious betting patterns, compared to 0.7% during 2017.

Africa was the only continent to show an increase in suspicious matches for 2018…

Every continental region apart from Africa showed a decline in the number of suspicious matches identified. It showed an increase from one suspicious game during 2017 to five during 2018.

Six women’s football matches were identified as involving suspicious betting patterns during 2018, compared to none during 2017. Three of these involved international games between countries, two involved international club matches, and one involved a domestic league match. Match-fixing in women’s cricket was flagged as a potential issue by The Sports Integrity Initiative in 2016, concerns that were repeated this year.

The reason that youth games are considered a concern is that although the number of suspicious matches has declined from 62 in 2017 to 58 in 2018, they are still over represented. Youth matches account for 5.6% of all matches analysed duding 2018, but make up 15.4% of all suspicious matches identified. One team in a European youth league has now been involved in 13 suspicious matches over the past two years, and another European youth league showed an increase from one suspicious match in 114 games during 2017 to 21 in 189 games during 2018.

Other anomalies are also identified in the report:

• In one top division Eastern European league, 16 matches were identified with suspicious betting patterns, almost 7% of all games played;
• One country’s senior men’s team was involved with five suspicious matches during 2018, 50% of the fixtures it played (the team was involved in no suspicious matches during 2017);
• Eight international and 12 club friendlies (20 in total) involved suspicious betting patterns;
• There was a marked decrease in suspicious matches within the lower leagues of a specific European country, after ‘effective action by the governing body and law enforcement’.

Suspicious matches by tier…

It is important to point out that a suspicious betting pattern does not mean that match-fixing has taken place, but that a sporting event has attracted unexpected betting activity with atypical bet sizes or volumes that continue, even after price adjustments have been made to deter such activity. A betting pattern is normally only confirmed as ‘suspicious’ after betting operators have been asked whether the unusual patterns could be for legitimate reasons, such as pricing the market incorrectly.

As such, the authors of the Report pointed out that its purpose is to pick out general trends, rather than holding specific countries or leagues responsible. “We believe that by shining a light on suspicious activity in a non-accusatory public forum we can elevate understanding of the latest trends and areas of concern to integrity stakeholders”, said Jake Marsh, Head of Integrity at Stats Perform. “The efforts of integrity stakeholders, sports governing bodies and law enforcement are amplified when working together towards a common goal. To this end, we share the results of our analysis with stakeholders on a non-commercial basis in order to assist their efforts in protecting the integrity of football.”

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