Match Fixing and Covid-19
For some reason, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a very direct and very interesting impact on potential match-fixing in the sports betting world. According to data research, potential match-fixing has been detected in more than 1,100 suspicious sports matches since April of 2020, essentially right at the beginning of the pandemic and quarantine.
Match-fixing, which is the act of playing or officiating a match with the intention of achieving a pre-determined result, has received a lot of additional attention since the start of the pandemic. Across the world, the media has reported that the pandemic seems to have increased the risk of match-fixing events.
According to The Guardian, Sportradar Integrity Services used its betting monitoring system, the Universal Fraud Detection System (UFDS), to find suspicious activity across 12 sports in more than 70 countries. These findings date back to the start of the pandemic, with 655 of the matches detected in the first nine months of 2021.
According to Sportradar’s figures, soccer is the sport most at risk of corruption linked to betting, and in particular, unethical and illegal practices like match-fixing. Through the UFDS, Sportradar Integrity Services has flagged a whopping 500 suspicious soccer games this year alone.
Interestingly, Sportsradar also found that the region hardest hit by this sports betting-related corruption was Europe, as they detected 382 suspicious matches detected this year. There were 115 total matches detected in Latin America, 74 in Pacific Asia, 43 in Africa, 10 in the Middle East, and 9 in North America. The numbers in Europe were probably disproportionately affected because of the continent-wide popularity of soccer among European citizens.
Tom Mace, the director of global operations for Integrity Services, talked a little bit about this dire situation. “I understand Covid has not caused match-fixing to happen but the general trend is not getting better, but getting worse for us,” he said, “The pandemic has added fuel to the fire and we are seeing certain areas increase overall…[it] has massively exaggerated this problem.”
Mace went on to say that he fully expects these numbers to increase in 2021. “We are on track to see very much an increase in 2021 compared to 2020 and even 2019, which was already the highest on record,” he said, “Overall, in 2019 there were 880 sporting fixtures which were fixed.”
The exact reason for this trend is uncertain, but it is evident that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant negative impact on the sports betting industry. It will be interesting to follow the numbers and see if this highly morally questionable betting trend continues after the pandemic is long gone.
It will also be interesting to see how sports betting officials handle and try to legally amend this situation. What preventative measures will they take? Legal ramifications for match-fixing are pretty grey and lenient, so seeking to create new legislation to combat this problem may be a good idea, but we’ll see what officials choose to do.