Suspicious matches are being detected in more sports and smaller, regional leagues as well
The year 2021 was one that confirmed match-fixing to be as big an issue in sport as it has ever been. Some 903 suspicious matches across 10 different sports in 76 different countries were detected by Sportradar Integrity Services.
This figure represented the highest number on record in our 17-year history of bet monitoring and detection of match-fixing, and illustrates the growing threat across the world, with match-fixers diversifying into new sports, competitions and locations, even threatening areas with no previous history of match-fixing.
Sportradar officially monitors several Indian sporting competitions already: the Indian Premier League, Indian Super League, Tamil Nadu Premier League, Pro Kabaddi League, and Pro Volleyball League. These events are monitored by our Universal Fraud Detection System (UFDS), an advanced and proven bet monitoring system, that allows betting market abnormalities to be analysed and reported by our global team of qualified integrity experts.
In 2021, we detected 13 suspicious matches played in India, including many from outside of our official monitoring. Ten of these were football matches from the regional state leagues, which is consistent with the increasing global pattern of lower-level competitions being targeted for manipulation, as 50 per cent of suspicious football matches in domestic leagues came from the third tier or lower in 2021 globally.
These smaller leagues and competitions often lack the financial strength and resources to implement key integrity protections, making them more susceptible to illicit approaches. This is a trend which is expected to continue through 2022 as more leagues re-emerge from Covid-19 cancellations and postponements, providing more vulnerable targets for match-fixers.
There were also three suspicious tennis games from India in 2021, and all three players who were deemed complicit were Indian players. By nature, tennis is a touring sport, with tournaments taking place in various locations week-to-week, meaning that there is not a significant integrity issue with Indian tennis per se. However, as there had been no suspicious tennis matches detected in India during the two previous years, to witness suspicious matches involving three different local players suggests that this could be a worsening problem for both the country and the sport.
Despite cricket being the number one sport in India, both in a popularity and worldwide betting interest in Indian sports, no suspicious matches were detected in Indian cricket in 2021. Yet suspicious cricket matches have previously been detected in India, and there has been ongoing suspicious betting activity witnessed across global cricket in recent years, with nine suspicious matches detected in 2021, and four detected so far this year.
The unregulated Indian betting market is at the forefront of cricket betting activity, and increased vigilance is required as betting interest continues to increase, even for lower-level competitions, where players can be considered more vulnerable targets due to the less substantial playing salaries.
It can be said with confidence that sport — and therefore sports betting — in India is only going to expand due to Indian sport’s continued development from a commercial perspective, alongside the number of new leagues and tournaments that are establishing themselves.
For the integrity of these competitions to be maintained, it is vital that key stakeholders in Indian sport continue to take proactive steps. The rise in suspicious matches from lower levels of competitions further outlines how all levels of Indian sport need protection for our sporting landscape to thrive.
The writer is Director Sports Content and Partnerships, Sportradar