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In the third of a series of articles based on the discussions held at the third GCRC Sports Panel in January, we will be looking into whether on-the-pitch data can be used to identify match-fixing.
Might sporting data (i.e. data from activity on the pitch/course/etc) be used to help identify potential fraud and spot-fixing?
The conversation began with a slight disagreement over the usefulness of sporting data for identifying potential fraud and spot-fixing. This divergence of opinion was summarised by one attendee as follows:
I think we had two divergent views. We’ve had someone saying that you never see anything that you can prove from the field of play, and that, to me, seems to ring true. The case in cricket of Mohammed Amir, he’s bowling these massive no balls that someone of his ability is not going to bowl by accident. He’s bowling it because he wants to intimidate the batsman or he’s bowling it because it’s corrupt, but could they have proven it purely from the footage? I suspect probably not. They needed that News of the World sting, they needed that background information to actually be able to pursue those criminal convictions, to be able to pursue an ICC regulatory case. But I was really interested in what one of you was saying about percentages – maybe there is an opportunity?
The proponent of the view that on-the-pitch data could be used claimed that it can be useful, but only for certain sports and only in combination with other factors.
If a snooker player who makes 87% of his pots in the bottom right corner is at 70%, you’re in a position to ask a question. We supply betting performance data to rights holders, which can be used in association with the betting patterns and with all the other work that you guys do, to actually identify where there are issues and what can be done about it.
It depends sport by sport. I agree with you both sides – you can’t be using this alone, particularly in dynamic sports like cricket. We don’t do sports like snooker for this purpose, or darts – sports of that nature. But where there’s a solitary goal, you can do it and it can be helpful for integrity purposes. Again its contributory – you wouldn’t use all of this alone, but you can demonstrate pretty clearly that someone is underperforming. In association with the other evidence that you might be collecting from betting exchanges, it’s pretty compelling stuff.
Another attendee, to a large extent, agreed, saying that along with betting data and telephone records, it helps you to ask the question.
The words you used earlier – ‘you see visually’ – it helps you ask the question. It doesn’t give you the answer. It helps you ask the right questions to the individuals involved and with the betting data – along with something we haven’t talked about which is access to telephone records – those are the three key areas of any corruption case. What you need to prove it is the betting records, what you see, then the television records, which then allows you to ask a number of questions to the individual when you speak to them, around those key areas.
An in-house lawyer gave an example of where using both on- and off-the-pitch might come in handy.
If you have a corrupt horse race where the jockey takes the horse out miles in front – say, deliberately to tire the horse out and lose the race. It’s quite obvious from what you can see but you think, ‘let’s have a look at the sectional time’, ‘let’s have a look at how long it took him to do the first however many furlongs’, ‘let’s have a look back at previous runs by that horse and by other horses on that racecourse over that distance’, and that could be helpful to support your case. It wouldn’t work in every case for but in cases like this, it provides great supporting evidence. There may be a point further down the line when we start to collect that data as a matter of course and perhaps make decisions based on it. I think there is a place for it as supporting evidence in a case like that.
There was some agreement here, and one in-house lawyer concluded that on-the-pitch data can help to act as an alert, rather than as evidence on its own.
As the depth and the breadth of data you can collect from the various sports grows, it will have more of a role as an alert and then as evidence. Cricket for no balls – you can do it if people are bowling an unusual number.
Finally, another in-house lawyer noted the various reasons, aside from match-fixing, for match-manipulation, and added that that the breadth of match manipulation is wider than betting-related integrity issues.
We started off calling our strategy in this area betting integrity, when actually for sports, it is wider than that. It could be match-manipulation for sporting reasons. We’ve broadened the scope of what we’re looking at. While we appreciate that most betting corruption will manifest itself in the betting patterns, that you’re monitoring regulated markets only, there’ll be other unregulated betting patterns that you wouldn’t have an idea of.
If you have any feedback or advice for GCRC Sports Panel team, please get in touch with the panel coordinator William Barns-Graham.