GCRC Sports Panel – Using Data as an Asset

GCRC Sports is the part of the GC Research Club that allows in-house lawyers from the sports sector to meet and discuss, at our panel events or online, the things that matter to them.

In the fifth of a series of articles based on the discussions held at the second GCRC Sports Panel in January, we will be looking into how sports organisations can use their own data as an asset and how the legal department can assist them in so doing.

How can the organisation use their own data as an asset and how can in-house assist the process of doing so?

One in-house lawyer raised how, in her association, she was exploring the possibility of engaging a third-party company to monitor its competitions. She also raised how internal data collection can often become disorganised if not managed with foresight.

We’ve started exploring engaging a third-party company to start monitoring our competitions but what we quickly realised is that its very intertwined with the need to be able to monitor the betting patterns, but you also need sport data to pull down the red flags if there is a genuine sports reason for why the betting red flag has been alerted, or if it’s something that needs to be escalated and you need the interplay of those two types of data and you need to look at them in conjunction with each other to work out if something is serious or if there’s just been a sending off on the pitch.

The betting data section of it ended up being quite easy and straightforward, but when we lifted a few stones as to what sports data we collect already it turns out that across the organisation there was about 5 or 6, possibly more, and these are just the ones I know of, who are collecting all sorts of data. There was some duplication, some double payment, some of it is being used for distinct purposes, but there is some crossover. I got everyone in a room and the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand’s doing and this was happening five times over, and that prompted me to put it on as an agenda item.

It got to us, in the context of what we wanted to do with the betting, it became a little bit big and we had to take a step back, focus on engaging the third party monitoring company and then, as a bigger project, look at the sports data model which we have at the moment, which isn’t really a model at all, and step back and have a look at what our model should be on a larger scale going forward.

We lifted a stone and everything scurried out and we put it back down which is why we’re here. It became a project in itself and we had to isolate it slightly, for the purposes of engaging with the third party monitoring party and providing sports data to them – it’s generally what we do at elite level.

It’s generally really basic. At the end of every match, the match referee does a report, and we’re providing that data to Sportradar, potentially 24/48 hours after the match, depending on the level of the game and when the match report comes into us. That will record data such as sendings off, the time of substitutions, and all the scoring and for what reasons, things like that. Then on a more sophisticated level, there’s someone else who’s recording really sophisticated data which isn’t quite so relevant for betting purposes. It’s about taking a step back and understanding what sports do and also to get data collectors’ views really as to what would be a good model, or how do we even approach it.

One in-house lawyer raised the idea of having a betting expert in-house watching the games in order to clarify this data.

You could consider having someone in-house, watching the games, rather than relying on data you could have someone. Perhaps not a model that suits every sport, but we have betting experts in-house who watch the markets and watch the sport. They’re watching both at the same time and they’re able to make that assessment as to what they’d expect the market to do based on what’s happened during the event. That might be one option to consider to speed that up so that you’re not waiting for data to be fed up. At a subjective level you’ve got someone actually watching the game, and if you’ve got an external monitoring company on the betting side of it, then those people can be in touch.

Another in-house lawyer discussed how there are now suspension feeds built up in some sports feed services that can suspend the market if illicit activity is occurring.

You’ve also got some feed services for sports that have some suspension feeds built in, so if a horse pulls up lame, or if the ball’s on the 5 yard line, they’ll suspend the markets; or if someone might get sent off they’ll suspend the market.

Relating back to the first point about the multiplication of data collection, this in-house lawyer raised how improving technology will only make things more difficult to keep up with, in terms of the speed of data collection.

This takes me back to another thing I was thinking which is your point of multiple collection, and another thing we’ve been thinking is, as the technology improves, the 8 second delay on TV for example, time will be the issue. Bookies want quick data, the media want broad data, as the technology improves, those things come together a little bit and there’s a lot of efficiency to be had there. The more you can pool it, there’ll always be some betting elements and the suspension needs to be instant.

There is an efficiency to be had in considering the collection that takes place in the various departments. Be it based on data that your ref might send to your integrity partner after the game or performance data like tackles that is being recorded in-game. We’re starting to get to the point where you can offer live markets on tackles because the speed is sufficient to do it. Whether that’s a wise idea I don’t necessarily know at this point, but it’s a possibility. So there definitely are efficiencies to be had.

He also raised how leagues, as a whole, are using data to benchmark their performance.

One of the benefits of that – a slightly different point – is a number of the governing bodies we work with are performance benchmarking their league as a whole with the ambition to be one of the top leagues, and they want to know how the top leagues are the best leagues, other than the fact that they have better players. How do they attract better players? Why is their game better? Is it quicker is it slower? What is it they need to do to become one of those better leagues? Not just on a player level, but league wide.

On an international level, the UEFA’s 11 point plan to deal with betting and integrity was briefly discussed.

On a betting and integrity level both UEFA and FIFA are taking a lot of active interest in that area and looking to introduce some mandatory sanctions. UEFA were talking in December about laying out a new 11 point plan to deal with betting and integrity. I’m trying to remember who they engaged with – might be Sportradar – to look at the betting markets with the Champions League matches going cross-territories. They certainly monitor the matches as well, which obviously involves English clubs.

With FIFA also trying to create a database of all the players – ‘partly for transfer reasons but also for integrity reasons too’ – the issue of international competitions was also raised, in terms of tracking player behaviour in relation to to competitions like the Football or the Rugby World Cup. The participation agreement in relation to these tournaments was described as very important in relation to this.

It’s about getting the competition organizers on board to actually push those terms and conditions and that’s where it takes probably a little bit of convincing because some of those terms and conditions seem draconian in terms of access and investigative powers, perhaps not the organizer, but the regulator might have. When you’ve got the players’ associations getting involved in that debate, it’s quite hard for people to see the bigger picture sometimes.

The whole approach we’re adopting for our anti-corruption strategy is not selling it, not going out to players, agents, match officials and saying what you can and can’t do and this is what you’re giving up. It’s actually a protective approach – to protect them, their reputation and ultimately the game. It’s for their benefit, not for my personal benefit or the regulator’s benefit apart from protecting the game. The people who are going to massively lose out if they get corrupted or play in a corrupt game but are actually a legitimate player, is the player themselves because it will tarnish them forever potentially.

It was, however, noted that the players may actually be keener than you’d initially think to support a more draconian approach. An attending private practice lawyer said the following.

I get the impression, at least from a UK viewpoint, that, to draw a parallel, which I don’t normally like to do, with doping related issues, is that actually the players seem to be genuinely in favour of more draconian rules, longer bans, because they want their sport to be clean or at least when they’re speaking publicly.

If you have any feedback or advice for GCRC Sports Panel team, please get in touch with the panel coordinator William Barns-Graham.

About William Barns-Graham

William is the content manager and head of communications at GC Research Club. He is a professional journalist, researcher and strategist. He has worked at GC Research Club since February 2013 and has rapidly become a distinguished voice in the in-house legal blogging community, writing on Lexis Nexis and interviewing leading legal thinkers and writers, in house lawyers and CEOs within the legal tech world. He has also coordinated the GCRC Sports Panel series.
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