This week we give the floor to James Watson, eSports Product Owner, Sportradar. He addresses a major concern for emerging technology and sports today, eSports.
For the last two weeks of May, there have been a variety of issues ranging from bribery and match-fixing to the more well-known issue of doping during the Olympics as Rio 2016 approaches. Furthermore, there is a development in the investigation of Portugal's Second Division soccer teams with links to the Russian mafia and a criminal financial network led by Chinese investors.
The Integrity In Sports Programme is currently conducting two training courses in Brazil to develop specialized skills to identify and more effectively combat crimes linked to sport. Both events are aimed at raising awareness and strengthening the capacity of Brazilian law enforcement, security, and justice authorities in relation to integrity in sports ahead of and during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
THE FLOOR TO...
Mr James Watson, eSports Product Owner, Sportradar
There are many exciting ways to track a sport’s success: stadium attendance, viewing figures, commercial partnership income, player salaries, prize pools etc. While a debate exists as to whether eSports is in fact a sport, what is unarguable, is that across all those measurable, eSports is posting seriously impressive numbers. But there are other ways that sports and those following sports can gauge growth. Put simply, the higher the profile of a sport, the more likely it is that it will struggle with some kind of integrity-related pressures. Sadly, eSports now finds itself facing those demons. Corporate structures and governance is an area where eSports is showing its growing pains, as various stakeholders vie to create the hierarchies, relationships and philosophies that will guide the development and maturation of eSports over the coming years. The recent launch of WESA (the World Esports Association) is the latest such project and supporters and critics will be watching what it promises and what it delivers closely. While a list of performance enhancers in the world of eSports does not overlap neatly with WADA’s Prohibited List, the ESL (the largest eSports tournament organiser) has been in discussions with WADA and NADA since last summer, focusing on creating a list and system that fits this unique world. But it was the recent StarCraft II match fixing scandal which saw top Korean player Life charged with manipulating two matches last May that brought the issue of eSports match fixing back into focus. Esports had its first significant scandal in 2010 when Savior was banned for life by the Korean Esports Association (KESPA). Since then, while the number of traditional bookmakers has grown from just Pinnacle Sports to today’s list of about 80 operators worldwide, it is the unique skin betting sites that have caused a high level of concern. These unregulated sites allow eSports fans (no matter their age) to wager hundreds of dollars’ worth of virtual in-game items on eSports matches and tournaments. In fact, at the recent Esports Betting Summit hosted in London, Rahul Sood of Unikrn told attendants he was shocked to find his 13 year old was placing bets on his favourite eSports teams. Against this backdrop, ESL took the lead and brought Sportradar on board to employ their Fraud Detection System to monitor their tournaments. The FDS, which monitors betting patterns for 11 other sports, monitors all operators offering eSports, as well as the prominent skin betting sites. The team of eSports experts in-house also use live streams from the events to contextualise any betting patterns that seem irregular. In addition, ESL invited Sportradar to deliver a series of educational workshops at the Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice this year, giving teams and players an insight into this murky world, how it works and how it can impact their sport and career. These key preventative and monitoring actions will be critical to protecting the credibility of eSports competitions, but ESL cannot be the only one taking action. While Sportradar are already undertaking risk assessments and providing match fixing reports for other key stakeholders in the ecosystem, and while rumblings of a joined-up “eSports integrity initiative” are definitely welcome, the coming months will find existing followers and new observers looking to all relevant parties for leadership, action, and commitment to integrity: eSports’ continued growth and success undoubtedly depend on it.
Police in Cyprus have confirmed that they are looking into allegations from a Portuguese footballer who said that he and other players fixed a football game on the island back in 2011. Pedro Bonifacio – who plays for Portuguese lower league Atletico Malveira but in the past played for Doxa Katokopia and Anagennises Derynia in Cyprus – said in an interview with Expresso magazine that he was part of a fixed game during Doxa’s Cyprus Cup game against Olympiakos Nicosia back on December 7, 2011. The betting volume for that specific game on the night had also hit a disproportionately high total of €590,962. He later backtracked with his comments arguing that he was misquoted by the journalist who interviewed him saying that he was recounting a “story told to him by a friend” adding that he never “spoke of any game, clubs or individuals”. When asked by Super Spor FM if he would cooperate with police who are investigating, he said that he was at their disposal. His comments have made big news across the football community on the island with Police Spokesperson Andreas Angelides confirming that they are now looking into the matter.
Source: "Police looking into Cypriot match-fixing claims", 23 May 2016, In Cyprus, https://in-cyprus.com/footballer-talks-match-fixing-cyprus/
Unusual betting activity in the city of Frosinone before the club's Serie A defeat to Napoli on Saturday has led to an investigation being opened into a suspected manipulation of the game. Three betting companies -- Intralot, Eurobet and Goldbet -- all noted large sums of money being placed on accumulator bets that involved one Frosinone player being sent off and Napoli winning the game. Frosinone midfielder Mirko Gori was shown a red card after just 13 minutes of the game for kicking the ball against Napoli's Lorenzo Insigne as he lay on the ground after a foul. With Napoli needing to win to finish second and Frosinone already relegated, a victory for the Azzurri -- which would have completed the accumulators -- at that stage was already extremely likely. Napoli won the game 4-0 thanks to a Gonzalo Higuain hat trick. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, bets on Frosinone being given a red card were suspended before kick-off due to the unusual activity, which has been passed on to an office set up in the wake of previous match-fixing scandals to oversee a correct betting system. The Journalistic Agency for Gaming (AGIMEG) reports that since betting on the red card for Frosinone was suspended due to the unusual activity, no winnings have yet been paid out until an investigation by the authorities is completed.
Source: "Frosinone vs. Naploi betting activity prompts investigation", 17 May 2016, ESPN FC Ben Gladwell, https://www.espnfc.com/italian-serie-a/story/2874815/frosinone-vs-napoli-betting-activity-prompts-investigation
A few days after Portuguese police arrested 15 persons, including eight Second Division soccer players, involved in match-fixing, authorities reported they were also investigating a network of money laundering linked to the Russian mafia, La Jornada reported Sunday. Europol investigators said that the Russian mafia allegedly launders millions of dollars through Uniao de Leiria, a third category soccer team owned by the Russian group D-Sports. “The way the group operates is by identifying European soccer teams that are going through financial troubles and approaching them with benefactors who offer them donations and to invest in them,” the Europol said in statement. Money laundering is carried out through the sale of players, television rights agreements and online betting, the regional police added, explaining they also operate through shell companies registered in tax havens. Igor Angelini, head of Europol's Finance Intelligence, said that soccer has certain vulnerabilities in regards to their financial and cultural structure, which are exploited by criminals. On Friday, after the arrest of the 15 people, police explained that suspicions had arisen after observing the January game between Oriental and Oliveirense, when players can be observed attempting to score a goal against their own goalie, who at the same time was committing highly absurd mistakes in order to allow the rival team to score against him. The president and director of a third team, Leixoes, were also detained, although later released. However, they have been suspended. In the meantime, four Oriental and four Oliveirense players remain in prison after having received close to US$4,000 for fix-matching crimes.
Joaquim Evangelista, president of the soccer players union, confirmed his organization had been notified of the ongoing fix-matching, and said this was only the tip of the iceberg. G.D. Chavez coach Vitor Oliveira said players become easy prey to match-fixing because they don't get paid on time. He said some football clubs delay paying their players up to three months. Investigators believe match-fixing is being operated by a criminal financial network led by Chinese investors who seek out online betting benefits.
Source: "Europol Investigators have detected Russian mafia money laundering and Chinese match-fixing linked to various Portugal's Second Division Soccer teams", 22 May 2016, La Jornada-Portugal Times, https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Portugal-Soccer-Infiltrated-by-Russian-Mafia-Chinese-Criminals-20160522-0011.html
Melbourne Victory's AFC Champions League (ACL) opponent Jeonbuk Motors are under investigation for allegedly bribing referees in the K League. The Busan district prosecutor's office announced on Monday that they have indicted former K League referees and one of Jeonbuk's scouts for match fixing in 2013. Victory will take on Jeonbuk in South Korea on Tuesday night in their ACL Round of 16 second leg. In a statement, Jeonbuk revealed they have suspended the scout in question. "We investigated and can confirm that the scout who bribed referees is working for us, and we can also confirm that he did it without reporting to club," the statement read. "We feel really sorry that he acted in a way which violates sportsmanship. We apologize to all the fans of professional football and Jeonbuk Hyundai." "We're also shocked but we will cooperate with the investigation and do everything to make sure this kind of case does not happen again." "The scout has been suspended from today and we will follow the investigation results of prosecutors' office."
Source: Lee Yong-hun and Michael Huguenin, "A South Korean district prosecutor has indicted one of the K League champions' scouts for bribing referees", 24 May 2016, Goal, https://www.goal.com/en-au/news/4027/asia/2016/05/24/23866862/jeonbuk-implicated-in-match-fixing-investigation
BUCHAREST — Romania's football federation (FRF) has imposed bans of between two years and two months on three coaches and 14 players at second division Gloria Buzau over match-fixing allegations. Coach Viorel Ion and assistants Marian Rosu and Romeo Bunica have been suspended from taking part in soccer-related activities for two years. They were also fined 200,000 lei (£33,983) apiece, the FRF's disciplinary committee said in a statement. Former striker Ion, who had a successful playing career at several Romanian clubs including Bucharest rivals Steaua and Rapid and German side VfL Bochum, said he would appeal.
Source: Angel Krasimirov, "Romanian Coaches and Players Banned for Match-Fixing", 26 May 2016, NY Times, https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2016/05/26/sports/soccer/26reuters-soccer-romania-matchfixing.html?partner=IFTTT&_r=0
International Olympic Committee
Thirty one athletes from six sports could be banned from this year's Rio Olympics after failing dope tests when 454 samples were reexamined from the 2008 Beijing Games, the International Olympic Committee said on Tuesday. The IOC also said it would start re-testing Sochi 2014 winter Games samples after allegations of tarnished samples were made last week by Russia's former top anti-doping scientist. Some 250 samples from the London Games will also be reexamined. In an effort to crack down on cheats during the Olympics, the IOC said this was targeted re-testing on athletes likely to be at the Rio Games starting on Aug. 5, and those found to have tested positive would not compete.
An IOC official told Reuters no names would be made public at this stage until athletes had been informed and a second sample, or B-sample, tested as well. "The aim is to stop any drugs cheats coming to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro," the IOC said. "The (IOC) Executive Board agreed unanimously to initiate proceedings immediately, with the 12 National Olympic Committees concerned informed in the coming days." The re-tests, a regular procedure by the IOC as it looks to use newer methods or look for new substances, were carried out in conjunction with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and international federations.
Source: Martyn Herman, "IOC says 31 athletes could miss Rio after positive Beijing drugs re-tests", 17 May 2016, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-doping-idUSKCN0Y81L8
The fledgling Sport Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA) has signed its second country and the first in North America to its membership. Mexico – through the National Authority of Physical Education and Sport (CONADE) – joins Spain as a SIGA member, committing itself to the 12 Core Principles on Sport Integrity that were formally adopted last month in Madrid, in a meeting hosted by the Spanish Government. SIGA’s core objective is to establish a global standards of best practices and encourage their implantation across sports and countries worldwide. The three core areas for SIGA are Financial Integrity, Good Governance, and Sports Betting Integrity. "SIGA welcomes Mexico to our coordinated global effort to tackle corruption in sport.” Mexico has been taking a more active role in international sport leadership recently, hosting the FIFA Congress last week in Mexico City – the first Congress of the ‘reforming’ FIFA. Liga MX’s chief executive Enrique Bonilla was elected to FIFA’s Audit and Compliance committee. Alfredo Castillo Cervantes, Head of CONADE: “...Mexico is joining the multi-stakeholder coalition of SIGA to help accelerate the adoption of international standards and best practices that will lay the proper foundation for ensuring a strong future for sport." “Governments must preserve the role of sport in society and there is no better way to do this than by working closely with the members of this coalition.”
Source: Paul Nicolson, "Mexico signs up to Global Sport Integrity Alliance", 17 May 2016, Inside World Football https://www.insideworldfootball.com/2016/05/17/mexico-signs-global-sport-integrity-alliance/
ODDS AND ENDS
On 19 May the Victoria Police Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit (SIIU) hosted a symposium focusing on corruption in sport. A number of the presenters (including Detective Sergeant Kieran Murnane from the SIIU) were then interviewed on radio in relation to the topics raised at the conference.
Source: "Victoria Police Conference focus on corruption in sport", 19 May 2016, Victoria Police Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit, https://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/newsradio/audio/theticket/201605/r1568278_23593466.mp3
INTEGRITY IN SPORT EVENTS
30-31 May in Rio de Janeiro - National Workshop "15th INTERPOL Global Programme on Anti-Corruption, Financial Crimes, and Asset Recovery: Combating Crimes in Sport" in cooperation with the International Olympic Committee and the Brazilian Federal Police
2-3 June in Rio de Janeiro - INTERPOL Integrity in Sport Training for Law Enforcement: "How to investigate Match-fixing and illegal betting", in cooperation with the International Olympic Committee and the Brazilian Federal Police
- AFC Champions League (ACL) Anti-Corruption Anti-Doping Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Athletics Australia Beijing 2008 Cyprus eSports EUROPOL FIFA FIFA Congress Football INTERPOL IOC IOC Executive Board Italian Serie A Italy Journalistic Agency for Gaming (AGIMEG) K-League Match-Fixing Mexico National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) National Authority of Physical Education and Sport (CONADE) National Olympic Committee Olympic Olympic Games Rio de Janeiro 2016 Paralympic Portugal Romania Romanian Football Federation (FRF) Sochi 2014 South Korea Sport Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA) Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit Sportsradar Winter Sports World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)