2018 saw a “disproportionately high level of unusual activity around youth football” according to a new joint report by Stats Perform and Starlizard Integrity Services. In what was actually a decline from the previous year in which 397 matches were flagged, the Suspicious Betting Trends in Global Football Report identified suspicious betting patterns in 377 games.
The report, the second of the year, concluded that, of those 377 suspicious matches, as many as 58 of them involved youth football matches. This alarming figure was reached despite youth matches making up only 5.6% of the research.
Sadly, the report highlighted that youth football had been compromised in one European domestic youth league that was found to have an especially high amount of suspicious betting activity. 8% of fixtures in the unnamed league were regarded as suspicious, a number unchanged from the previous season. There is even one team in the league that has been involved in an incredible 13 concerning matches over the past two seasons.
The research project is compiled using data harvested from the specialist TxOdds and also discovered that Europe was home to the majority of flagged games, where 227 out of 35,469 games were marked as suspicious.
Six women’s matches were also identified as having suspicious betting patterns, including three internationals, two from matches between clubs from different nations, while one was a domestic league game. In 2017, the number of suspicious women’s fixtures totalled at zero.
Head of Starlizard Integrity Services, Affy Sheikh said;
“It is important that the football world remains diligent and alert to integrity threats at all levels of the game. In producing this report, a huge effort has been made and a vast amount of data analysed in order to provide sports and integrity stakeholders with detailed intelligence on suspicious betting patterns across many different competitions and countries.”
International Level Problem
The report also found that, in particular, international matches had the highest amount of flagged games, more so than any individual continent. Of 4,896 international matches identified, 47 were deemed to be suspicious.
One unnamed men’s senior international side had 50% of its matches identified for suspicious reasons. Despite having no matches flagged in 2017, the same team had five of its 10 games in 2018 raised for concern.
On the flip side, one European nation oversaw a dramatic turnaround in flagged matches having taken drastic action domestically. The once again unnamed country conducted an efficient campaign by the governing body and law enforcement into corruption in the game which resulted in a number of arrests as well as bringing down a hardcore organised, cross-border match-fixing operation.
Jake Marsh, the head of integrity at Stats Perform added;
“We believe that by shining a light on suspicious activity in a non-accusatory public forum we can elevate understanding of the latest trends and areas of concern to integrity stakeholders.
The efforts of integrity stakeholders, sports governing bodies and law enforcement are amplified when working together towards a common goal. To this end, we share the results of our analysis with stakeholders on a non-commercial basis in order to assist their efforts in protecting the integrity of football.”
Asia And Africa Well Concerning
Games in Asia were prominent among the suspicious matches. Despite a decline in the number of matches being flagged in the continent, Asia remained the region with the highest concentration of suspicious activity. In total, concerns were raised for 69 out of 7,263 games played on the continent that were likely to be fixed according to unusual betting patterns. This number was at least down by one from the previous year when 68 out of 5,075 matches in Asia were flagged.
Over in Africa, they have experienced an increase in flawed results, and were the only continent to do so. Out of the 1,923 African matches monitored, five were regarded as suspicious, one up from the previous year’s six.
Betting has become a huge problem in Africa, particularly in Kenya, the third largest sports betting market on the continent. Kenya has the highest number of gambling youths in Sub Saharan Africa with sports betting the most popular form of gambling and most bettors aged between 17 and 35.
In fact, so bad has the situation got there that, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has called for lawmakers to pass a law to prohibit gambling in the country. Speaking from Nairobi, his announcement is the latest in a running battle between gaming operators in the country and its government.
Just two months ago, Kenya’s Betting Control and Licensing Board (KBCLB) tore into the country’s betting industry after Kenyatta’s government accused the country’s leading operators of paying not enough tax. The KBCLB did so by freezing the mobile shortcodes and pay-bill numbers that Kenyans use to fund their betting accounts. 27 betting companies were effected by the move who were then forced to give over 12 million customers a mere 48 hours to withdraw their cash from their accounts before they lost it.
The tax allegation was disputed by the industry and its two biggest operators, SportPesa and Betin, successfully sued the government in response, claiming the freeze was illegal.