Covid is proving to be ‘El Dorado’ for match-fixers: expert

PARIS, France, March 10The Covid-19 pandemic has been an “eldorado” for matchfixers due to the negative impact the virus has had on individual sports finances, a leading sports tech firm has told AFP. .

Sportradar Integrity Services, which works with more than 100 sports federations and leagues, detected 903 suspicious matches in 2021 – the highest number recorded in the company’s 17-year history.

“The cancer of match-fixing is spreading, and these figures should serve as a warning and a wake-up call for global sport, at all levels,” said Sportradar chief executive Andreas Krannich.

The increase in suspicious activity over the past year has been accompanied by record levels of global sports betting turnover which Sportradar estimates at more than €1.45 trillion ($1.6 trillion).

Around €165 million was generated from match-fixing bets.

Football had the highest frequency of suspicious matches at one in 201 matches.

It was followed by esports, with one game in 384, and basketball with one game in 498.

Krannich said he was “a very optimistic person”, but said the numbers were “a threatening development”.

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Krannich, who joined the company in 2008 after stints with the German Football Association and the Bundesliga, said with the sport taking such a financial hit, governing bodies needed to cut corners. In too many cases, it is the services designed to eradicate match fixing that have been scaled back or removed.

“Unfortunately, Covid has been a game-changer as the financial situation for most sports around the world has been negatively affected and sports governing bodies have been forced to save money,” he said during a briefing. ‘a telephone interview.

“So the integrity units are affected. As a result, for match-fixers, it’s an El Dorado.

– ‘Learning the hard way’ –

In a positive development, Krannich welcomed the provisional suspension of nine footballers from Austria’s third and fourth divisions last weekend for alleged match-fixing, which follows the arrest of five people last November by the Austrian Federal Police.

“This is just the beginning,” he predicted.

Sportradar’s intelligence team, made up of more than 30 investigators – drawn from the military, police, financial fraud and counter-terrorism – supported the investigation.

While match-fixing in a well-established and wealthy sport like football is unfortunately nothing new, such high numbers for a newcomer like esports are concerning.

This is especially the case when esports, which have huge success in China and South Korea, aspire to become an Olympic sport.

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“Esports wants to be accepted by the IOC one day, and it’s still a very young sport,” Krannich said.

“The main problem at the moment is that there are structural issues where different publishers are doing their own thing, with a lack of rules and regulations that fit their purpose.

“The most important thing is to put in place appropriate rules and regulations for the fight against doping and match-fixing.

“The second thing they need is dedicated resources such as financial support applied to integrity and staff trained in this area.”

Krannich drew on bitter personal experience to warn esports of getting caught up in scandal.

He was working in the commercial department of the Bundesliga for business development in 2005 when a scandal broke involving referee Robert Hoyzer, who was later imprisoned after he confessed to taking money from the Croatian mafia to influence the match results.

Following the scandal that shook European football, Krannich was entrusted with the implementation and coordination of the Integrity program in the game in Germany.

“In esports there are good examples and a lot of bad examples,” he said.

“Some esports publishers and organizers still aren’t taking the issue seriously enough, and some of them – as in other sports – need a scandal to break before they act.

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“When the Hoyzer scandal broke, we were caught off guard and (were) unprepared for it.

“Seventeen years later, all sports have heard of match fixing and everyone should take it seriously,” he said.

“We hope esports as a whole doesn’t have to learn the hard way, and they can take steps now to help address this issue and minimize risk in the future.”