How Tech Is Helping Keep Sports Clean Of Match-Fixing

Cricket, tennis, football, baseball, etc. have seen darker days owing to match-fixing. But thanks to tech, the world of sports is on course to win its loyalists back.

Mohammad Amir and Salman Butt were found guilty of spot-fixing during a Test match at Lord's in 2010.

Match-fixing in sports is frowned upon and rightfully so. It is a smudge that many countries have been trying to wipe off and with advancements in tech, they are managing to do away with small bits here and there.

Despite the best efforts of some administrators and policemen, bookies have managed to find a way to approach cricketers, resulting in matches, or some portions of them, being fixed. This, in turn, has boosted the demand for tech organisations to join forces with sporting bodies to track suspicious activities.

Data analytics is a prominent method used by companies to monitor dubious actions. Sportradar is one of the leading organisations offering data services. It had partnered with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) during the 2020 Indian Premier League (IPL). Today, their custom-built data collection systems assist the governing bodies of over 20 sports, enabling them to obtain data directly from the stadium in the quickest time possible. Some of their clients include Serie A, MotoGP and International Tennis Federation (ITF).

Sportradar makes use of Universal Fraud Detection System (UFDS), which helps in monitoring and detecting betting activities. Using intelligence that is data-driven enables the governing bodies to alter their strategy in a way that keeps their sport clean.

Data helps in detecting anomalies and betting patterns. Earlier, it may have taken hours of human labour to go through figures to detect these patterns, but thanks to machine learning algorithms, data analysts can validate suspicious betting activities much quicker.

Genius Sports is another data and technology company that has religiously served the sports industry through its leading integrity products.

In one interview, Ben Paterson, Genius Sports’ Integrity Operations Director, stressed the importance of why sports organisations need to take integrity seriously.

“From a commercial perspective, we have seen multiple high-profile organisations, including the IPL, South African Football Association and Australian Open tennis, lose significant financial sums from match-fixing scandals. If you look at Serie A as well, going back five or ten years it was on a par with the Premier League and La Liga, but now it’s fallen behind the biggest leagues in Europe, and its spate of match-fixing scandals have undoubtedly played a part,” he said.

Sports betting is rampant, and with the technology available today, bets can be carried out within minutes. However, the involvement of third parties prevents bettors from getting a fair opportunity at earning extra revenues. Blockchain technology is a method that ensures transparency and authenticity of data related to different sports. With the use of decentralised systems, it records and verifies all data related to one particular match, eliminating third-party participation, keeping betting activities clear of any manipulation.

AI or Artificial Intelligence is another tech that offers greater benefits as far as identifying suspicious patterns in sports goes. It analyses large amounts of datasets with the use of machine learning algorithms to detect anomalies.

Andreas Krannich, the Managing Director of Integrity Services at Sportradar, spoke about AI during an interview as one of the areas they are looking to build in order to help with fraud detection. He said, “Our UFDS technology uses both AI and machine learning, and we keep constantly evolving and improving it. This has resulted in developments such as smarter alerting, learning from the betting data that has been gathered over the past 10-plus years, customised alerting developed for different sports and for different levels of competitions within the sports.”

For Indian cricket fans, the cat was out of the bag in the 1990s and ever since, the sport has never been viewed in the same light. The lingering suspicions of a match being fixed sucks the fun out of it so much that many people have actively stepped away from the sport. Spot-fixing, in fact, has had a devastating impact on the careers of players with bright futures.

The light at the end of the tunnel, however, is the tech that is being constantly developed to monitor such activities, giving sports fans a semblance of hope of justice prevailing down the line.