Sports Fraud best tackled by intelligence management and information sharing
Mark Gibson, sales and marketing director, Public Security at SAS, explains why information sharing is key to tackling betting scams.
First Published in sportsIndustrybiz
In recent years, governing authorities have begun to realise that corrupt gambling represents an ever greater threat to the integrity of sport than doping. Illegal gambling rings have huge power in certain sports, not least in football.
The most notorious recent example of suspicious betting patterns was a match between Argentina and Nigeria in June 2011, which featured a late surge in gambling which appeared to predict a controversial goal for Argentina in the 98th minute. The match is now under investigation by FIFA.
Further evidence that the sporting authorities are taking these matters increasingly seriously comes from the world of snooker. It was only in May 2011, that Scottish players, Stephen Maguire and Jamie Burnett were finally cleared after a two-and-a-half-year investigation into suspicious betting patterns in their match at snooker’s 2008 UK Championship in Telford.
Governing bodies in other sports including horse racing, tennis and athletics have also been active in conducting reviews, establishing units dedicated to cracking down on the problem and putting in place expert resources.
What they often lack, however, is a dedicated electronic intelligence management system. A recent government-commissioned report recommended that ‘every sport should have a system for capturing intelligence and reporting regularly to the Sports Betting Intelligence Unit’. At the moment, many do not have access to this capability.
The truth is to properly get to grips with issues of corruption, administrators require full end-to-end information management functionality that facilitates information sharing and that is capable of pinpointing suspicious patterns of activity.
Information Sharing is Key
In 2005, the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport drew up a ten-point plan for dealing with betting in sport. Several of the key points related to the need to share information. The report stipulated, for example, that sports authorities “will co-operate with, and share information with, the relevant statutory authorities in the context of sports betting (e.g. police, customs, National Criminal Intelligence Service, Gambling Commission).”
It also recommended that the authorities “take responsibility for proactively supplying the relevant authorities with information and knowledge relating to corrupt practices,” and that they “seek to cooperate with bookmakers and betting operators who seek to enter into information-sharing agreements with them or their regulatory arms.”
Currently, one of the key issues sports authorities face in tackling corruption is that they too often rely on paper-based systems that make effective information sharing difficult, not least because key information is frequently not recorded. Electronic intelligence management systems are today becoming an indispensable requirement if governing bodies are to tackle corruption effectively.
Delivering Efficient Investigations
Of course, organisations must ensure that the chosen solution delivers all the functionality they need to effectively tackle corruption in their particular sport. Critically, systems must be able to incorporate an intelligent search capability and to gather and then sift through vast quantities of structured and unstructured data. In addition, they must be able to link players, teams, events and officials to build a picture of patterns of offending.
After all, it is not generally the suspicious betting activity itself that is difficult to pinpoint. More typically, it is the complex underlying pattern of historical associations between players, coaches and games, often stretching back many years, which is particularly difficult to track.
Ideally, in this context, systems should also be able search relevant websites and emails and bring all these materials into a central resource for review, assessment and ultimately for use as evidence in criminal prosecutions.
For most organisations, if the implementation of this kind of system is to be truly effective, it should prompt a more open approach to information sharing. Preferably, key stakeholders should be involved from the start when setting up systems. Ideally too, the installation of the solutions should be accompanied by a commitment to making information flow within the organisation and wherever possible to sharing intelligence not only internally but also with partners and other stakeholders.
Integrity is Key
The most secure electronic intelligence management solutions are where all relevant information is contained within one platform and access controlled to make it easy for key stakeholders to view information but hard for unauthorised personnel to do so.
All governing bodies see the need to preserve the integrity of their sport as a priority. Spectators will only want to watch an event if they believe that everyone involved is giving their all. If there is any suspicion that a result or even a single element of a match has been contrived then interest in the outcome is lost. What was previously an eagerly awaited contest becomes a meaningless farce.
Electronic intelligence management solutions give sports authorities the opportunity to address this issue; to identify errant behaviour and to punish it much more quickly and efficiently than ever before. At the same time, the successful execution of the process is likely to act as an effective deterrent to others within the sport that might be considering corrupt activities.
In a sporting world where major new betting scandals seem to surface every few weeks, electronic intelligence management solutions enable sports authorities to effectively protect not only their brand but also the brand of their sport.