Data plays a central role in the gaming industry, but when sporting integrity is at stake, it takes on even more importance. With the help of sports data analysts Stats Perform, iGB dives into the world of data collection to see the extent of its impact on the gaming industry.
When it comes to protecting the integrity of sport, the fight is fought on several fronts. It is the fans’ responsibility to bet fairly without seeking unscrupulous advantages. There is pressure on players to stay strong when faced with easy ways to make a quick buck. And the various governing bodies must remain vigilant because the threats to sporting integrity evolve from year to year.
However, the fight always comes down to one key element: data.
The importance of data
Data plays a crucial role in the world of sports integrity, regardless of your side, as sports data and artificial intelligence technology provider Stats Perform knows.
“Live data, when it comes to sporting events, is very valuable and can be misused,” says Jake Marsh, global integrity manager at Stats Perform. “It can make a lot of money for people and a lot of money for businesses, like betting operators. We’re at the forefront of trying to make sure things run as cleanly as possible in this area. .
Marsh adds that betting operators depend on accurate, reliable, transparent, high-quality and lightning-fast event data to ensure that the markets they run are clean and accurate. It is an intense operation that requires the greatest vigilance because many factors come into play: who are the actors and who regulates which competition, for example. Elsewhere, technology, technological vulnerabilities around speed and latency are some of the other variables that affect the accuracy of the data that is so valuable to everyone involved.
“Having a secure data supply chain is now a key element in supporting the betting industry. We believe that our customers deserve to have their own operations protected by best practices and vendor-led risk management processes, i.e. companies like Stats Perform,” says Marsh.
“Betting operators rely on us for the veracity of our data to run their markets efficiently – and so they don’t lose money themselves. This is an area that is long overdue in the industry, a area that needs to be examined.
Stats Perform has an array of weapons in its arsenal when it comes to maintaining sporting integrity. This is especially important because the company has had to learn to deal with a wide range of threats, as Marsh explains.
“We’ve had fake games, we’ve had organized crime trying to infiltrate data collection networks in Europe, we’ve had a case in two different countries of a group deploying signal jammers to try and disrupt a better data distribution, which we identified and mitigated.”
As well as working with the data supply chain – maintaining the quality of data available in the markets – the company is also involved in anti-match fixing issues.
This includes monitoring betting and conducting underground investigations into major sporting events, while the intelligence team shares information with betting operators. Betting analysis, performance analysis and intelligence are combined in one package.
Stats Perform performs this service on behalf of betting operators and rights holders, as betting integrity is a shared interest of both parties.
“On the data integrity side, we have a leading data collection division,” continues Marsh. “We have really within the company set up standards around the collection and distribution of betting data. Not just tangible means like policy, but also intangible means like processes, and we have a risk management framework in place around this whole data supply chain.
“Everything we do on a daily basis is aimed at minimizing this risk for betting operators and the market. But of course, the integrity of sport does not only include match fixing.
The bigger picture
While acknowledging the importance that sports betting plays in the production of Stats Perform and sports integrity as a whole, Marsh is keen to highlight the work that needs to be done outside of betting.
“Integrity itself now covers a wide range of areas,” he says.
“In the beginning, integrity meant match-fixing and corruption of betting. Then it became that doping was also mixed in there. But now it covers a range of issues: protection, governance, prevention online and tackling online abuse, and all of these areas now fall under integrity.”
One need only recall the fallout from last summer’s Euro 2020 final to understand the significance of what Marsh is saying.
As the definition of integrity expands, so do the ways to approach the problem.
Stats Perform’s integrity work now includes investigations into investments, due diligence, club ownership, agents and finance, to name a few. One of the objectives is to strengthen the internal structures that support the sport, in order to prevent corruption from spreading to the lowest levels.
Stats Perform also recognizes the importance of educating and protecting the athletes themselves, as in the age of social media they are more susceptible than ever to threats to their integrity.
Marsh adds: “Our players themselves are increasingly experiencing abuse, particularly on social media, whether it’s when they’ve played poorly or are seen to have said something wrong in the press. and that the fans don’t like it. The sport was really unprepared for this kind of problem.
“In the same way that when match-fixing really started to become a problem in terms of leaks, organized crime and groups outside of sport targeting sport, the problem of online abuse on social media is quite similar – this is a huge problem.
“But the sport doesn’t necessarily have the in-house technology and solutions, or the budgets to tackle it.”
This informed Stats Perform’s partnership with data science company Signify, as the duo teamed up to create a new social media abuse monitoring service.
Of the collaboration, Marsh says, “It is all about preventing and investigating online abuse of athletes across a range of online hate, racism, homophobia and ableism abuse. It covers a really wide range. And it is now firmly under our umbrella in terms of our integrity mission.
“And of course there are links to betting, because players can be abused online if [someone has] lost a bet and starts making match-fixing accusations. There is a link there with our work that we do regularly. It’s all just part of Stats Perform being a responsible partner to the betting and sports industries, and simply trying to help find solutions to help protect all stakeholders.
Stakeholders come to rely on Stats Perform because it has proven to be a reliable data resource. And to ensure that this remains the case in the future, the company is doing everything in its power to maintain its high standards.
It recently retained its accreditation from the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA) for a second consecutive year, becoming the first sports betting data provider to be accredited in 2021.
Marsh adds: “We supported the IBIA when they immediately released the data standards and said, ‘We totally agree with that, it’s a fantastic idea for the betting industry and for the sports in general. We believe we can lead by example in this area, we are confident that our house is in order and that we can help the industry maintain and develop even higher standards.
“Naturally, we strive year after year to find new ways to manage risks, identify new threats and mitigate them. To be able to demonstrate that we have had an independent quality assurance audit around our data supply chain is fantastic, something we are very proud of.
“As a company, we go beyond the standards themselves in terms of what we do. That’s not to say the standards aren’t strong because they are.
Marsh emphasizes that the fight to preserve integrity in sport will always be a collaborative effort because each party has a vital interest in the operation.
“It’s really important that we see all stakeholders have a role to play in integrity, betting and the integrity of sport,” he says. “We see ourselves as service providers for the betting and sports industries. It is not just the betting operator that has incentives or financial and reputational issues at stake, there is also a sport involved.