Sportradar detects several potential instances of match-fixing in 2021 (image credit: Wirestock Creators)
There was a record number of sporting events suspected for betting corruption and match-fixing in 2021, according to a report released by Sportradar, a company that provides sports data to leagues, sportsbooks, and media.
While Sportradar’s bet-monitoring service, the Universal Fraud Detection System (UFDS), identified suspicious activity in 903 matches across 10 sports in 76 countries in 2021, this does not necessarily indicate those events were fraudulent or featured illegal activity. With the rapid increase in events available for betting, it’s also unclear if the 2021 data indicates an increase in the rate of suspicious activity.
The most popular sport for betting in the United States, football, saw zero suspicious indicators, according to data released Sportradar for the 2021 calendar year.
The numbers in the report, titled “Betting Corruption and Match-fixing in 2021”, reveal the largest amount of suspicious activity recorded by Sportradar since the company began tracking such data in 2004. With several new markets launching legal sports betting in the U.S. last year, there are more wagers being placed than ever. Sportradar estimates there were $1.45 trillion in legal sports wagers worldwide in 2021.
Sports With the Most Suspicious Activity, Per Report
Not surprisingly considering its worldwide appeal, soccer experienced the highest frequency of suspicious matches in 2021 (as categorized by Sportradar) at a rate of 0.5% of all matches. Next came esports and basketball, each with rates well below 0.25 percent incidents of suspicion.
The most frequent competitions dinged by the report were lower-level soccer competitions in Eastern Europe or Asia. Those matches accounted for half of the 903 suspicious cases logged by Sportradar for 2021.
Last year, Sportradar and its partners helped secure 65 sanctions related to betting fraud in 11 separate countries across the globe. This included 46 sporting sanctions, 15 criminal sanctions, and four sanctions that were both sporting and criminal. The large majority of the sanctions occurred in the sports of soccer (commonly referred to as “football” everywhere but in the U.S.) and professional tennis. Included in those 2021 sanctions, eight athletes were slapped with lifetime bans.
“There is no easy short-term solution to the match-fixing issue, and we’re likely to see similar numbers of suspicious matches in 2022, if not more,” Andreas Krannich, Managing Director, Sportradar Integrity Services, said in the report. “As the market has developed … the threat of match fixing has evolved.
“Bet monitoring and intelligence gathering … has been proven to deliver sanctions against those involved in match-fixing. Preventative measures, such as educating athletes and stakeholders, are also crucially important in the long-term fight against match-fixing.”
To prepare the annual report, Sportradar uses UFDS to monitor more than half a million sports events in several countries at all levels of professional ranks. The report has been made free to sports leagues and Sportradar partners with a goal of educating the industry on the dangers of sports betting corruption. Currently, FIFA, UEFA, ITF, and ICC are among those organizations that consult the annual report to monitor integrity in their sports.