Opinion 11 September 2021

Setka Cup: the role of the sporting community in preventing match-fixing

• Valerii Ozarenko, Head of Tournament Development at the Setka Cup, explains how the platform supports athletes and prevents match-fixing. The Setka Cup’s international tournaments have been operating since 2018. The core sport is table tennis, but the Setka Cup also includes tennis and beach volleyball. In 2020, perhaps because of Covid-19, the tournaments achieved international recognition. When major sporting events were canceled or postponed, the Setka Cup’s table tennis matches received significant attention across the world.

The Setka Cup’s team is comprised of over 100 experts who are responsible for the tournament organisation processes, the technical equipment within arenas, the conditions necessary for athlete training and for competition, risk management, and the support of fair play. The team is led by Valerii Ozarenko, Head of Tournament Development at the Setka Cup. Mr. Ozarenko is a former table tennis player, and a well-known member of the sports community.

In this article, Ozarenko presents the Setka Cup platform, its fundamental principles and explains how the Setka Cup has become one of the largest organisers of commercial tournaments. He also outlines how the platform’s organisers prevent match-fixing, and how they have built a strong sports community.

What are Setka Cup tournaments?

The Setka Cup is an international platform that holds table tennis, tennis, and beach volleyball tournaments. In 2018, the platform launched its first 1×1 table tennis matches. Since then, the Setka Cup has added 1×1 tennis and 2×2 beach volleyball tournaments. 

Currently, our platform has 13 sports arenas in Ukraine and the Czech Republic. The table tennis rooms of our locations have unique names. For instance, rooms in Lviv (the largest city in western Ukraine) are named after the most influential cities in table tennis history — ‘London’ and ‘Beijing’. Our arenas comply with up-to-date European standards and have professional flooring, lighting, and air conditioning.

The Setka Cup brings together beginners and professional athletes, including World Championship prizewinners and participants in the Olympic Games. The total number of athletes participating in Setka Cup tournaments has increased by 20% since January 2021 and has reached 780 active players. Today, 600 of them participate in table tennis tournaments in Ukraine and the Czech Republic. The Ukrainian Table Tennis Federation has 1,868 active players (aged 18-55), and every third athlete is a participant in the Setka Cup’s tournaments.

The Setka Cup’s tournaments are live streamed. All analytics and detailed player stats, such as athletes’ ratings and win rates, are updated in real time and available for each game.

Among Asian countries, the Philippines has the highest number of Setka Cup fans; in North America – the United States, in South America – Brazil, in Africa – South Africa.

The streams of the sports tournaments are featured in no fewer than 150 countries. According to our most recent data, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Spain, and Poland are in the top ten list of countries where Setka Cup tournaments are the most popular among fans. 

2020-2021: Opportunities and challenges

The fact is, 2020 has become significant for the Setka Cup. Rescheduled or cancelled major sports events have fuelled the demand for table tennis and other alternative sports competitions that complied with local quarantine measures.

The Setka Cup has experienced a sharp increase in growth. We added new sports, such as tennis and beach volleyball, and expanded the tournament’s geography. And the tendency seems likely to continue over time. 

The total number of Setka Cup matches of the first half of 2021 has doubled.

This year the Setka Cup opened its first location on the territory of the EU (Prague, capital of the Czech Republic). The total number of Setka Cup matches in the first half of 2021 has doubled compared to the same period in 2020. In June 2021, the monthly number of matches in all three sports reached 7,504 events.

Consequently, the Setka Cup’s games, as well as other similar tournaments, are becoming more and more popular with fans and sportspeople. Unfortunately, scammers also became fans of these commercial tournaments. 

Internal policies and Codes of Conduct

Each player in our tournaments must agree to the internal policies and the Code of Conduct. The last one is an internal document detailing a number of provisions relating to the obligations and restrictions during participation in tournaments, as well as the athlete’s responsibility for possible, intentional or not, violation of principles of fair play. 

Moreover, all participants of our table tennis tournaments in Ukraine must agree to the Ethics and Fair Play Committee Agreement of the Ukrainian Table Tennis Federation (UTTF). This Committee, launched in the Summer of 2021, also reserves the right to disqualify both players and referees and match organisers who violate the principle of fairness in sporting competitions. All participants and referees are informed about potential risks and understand that they can lose their reputation and ratings, and even receive a lifetime ban for being involved in match-fixing. 

Systems of fraud detection and investigations

The Setka Cup does not tolerate fraud or corruption by staff or related third parties. Our players, judges, and staff members are required to be watchful for fraud, corruption, or any suspicious behaviour and report it to appropriate management. 

If we receive such reports, the standard procedure of internal investigation begins. The process includes various methods and procedures. Regarding table tennis tournaments, such a procedure also involves the UTTF Ethics and Fair Play Committee representatives. In some cases, when a more objective assessment of the facts of unfair play is required, the tournament’s organisers recommend that the implicated competitors take a polygraph test (a lie detector test) conducted by an independent polygraph examiner.

We have a strong team, including security specialists, responsible for detecting and investigating suspicious activity during each game. We also have external professional support from our partner BETER, which powers the Setka Cup tournaments and provides sports content to over 100 sportsbooks worldwide. 

BETER has a risk management system that detects and prevents fraud. We, on our side, pay huge attention to the tournament’s conditions and provide complex support for our sportspeople.

How the sporting community helps to prevent match-fixing

Each athlete is an integral member of the sports community. Every day we do our utmost to support and develop our players, maintain a safe and comfortable environment for them and take into consideration all of their wishes in order to provide them with valuable opportunities.

We created break rooms where participants can relax and watch online games of other players and opponents. Moreover, we have unique media channels, including Setka Cup TV, where we publish news, match highlights, lifehacks, and interviews with our participants and representatives of the sports community. It helps us to bring sportspeople together and to further develop our community.

In addition to our fraud prevention instruments and techniques, we also employ an internal admission system for athletes. That means that new athletes can enter our tournaments only after receiving a personal recommendation from a current participant. 

When you are inside this community, you constantly communicate with other athletes and understand how indispensable cohesion and trust are. This concept is one of the best prevention against fraud and unfair play.

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