Asian Football Confederation steps up fight against match-fixing
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) and Sportradar have renewed one of the longest standing integrity partnerships in world sport through to the AFC Asian Cup China 2023.
Under the agreement, Sportradar will continue to support the AFC Integrity Unit with the Intelligence and Investigation Services (I&I) which have proved vital in the fight against match-fixing in the region.
Starting in 2013, the AFC and Sportradar have created a formidable integrity partnership which has been defined by the identification of and strong action against match-fixing, which has seen the AFC Integrity Unit become one of the global leaders in sports integrity.
The effects of this strong partnership are already clear to see, with a marked decrease in match-fixing issues in Asian football, led by the successful prosecution of several landmark cases.
The AFC’s zero tolerance stance against match-fixing, supported by Sportradar’s intelligence and investigation capabilities, has enabled a strong evidentiary approach to pursue and tackle match-fixers in the region.
This was exemplified by the bold action taken in 2019 by the AFC Integrity Unit to enforce life bans against four Central Asian players caught match-fixing within AFC competitions during 2017 and 2018. This was one of a number of key sanctions which are now keeping the region safer.
Over the years the partnership has developed to include multi-faceted approaches to tackle integrity issues, through a range of cutting-edge intelligence services. Powered by Sportradar’s global team of over 100 integrity experts, and directly supported by over 20 analysts and investigators housed in integrity hubs across Manila, Sydney and Singapore, the AFC Integrity Unit has ensured it has oversight of all integrity related concerns in the region.
This holistic approach to tackling integrity threats has defined the partnership, which has grown from betting monitoring, to encompass intelligence, investigation, compliance and prevention matters as part of its daily workflow. This strong prevention aspect has become a hallmark of the collaboration and the spirit in which it works, with many attempts to manipulate matches by match-fixers disrupted before play even begins.
In terms of technical achievements, a major milestone came in 2017 with the launch of the AFC integrity mobile app, enabling fans, players and officials to report concerns directly to the AFC Integrity Unit. As part of the new agreement, this mobile app will be upgraded to allow for the reporting of doping, bullying and harassment incidents too. The evolving intelligence capabilities of Sportradar will also allow the AFC to take advantage of their expertise in the areas of anti-doping, age fraud, stadium security and compliance matters in the years ahead.
AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, who joined Sportradar Chief Executive Carsten Koerl at the signing, said: “Sportradar have been a valued and trusted partner of ours since 2013, and we are very proud of what we have accomplished together to help protect the integrity of Asian football.
“However, we cannot stand still and become complacent, that is why our cooperation has evolved over the years to include detection, safeguarding, prevention and reporting measures. Through this, Asian football has the level of integrity protection that befits our loyal and passionate fans across the continent.”
Carsten Koerl added: “We have been proud partners of the AFC since 2013 and are delighted to be extending our integrity agreement over the next four years. Our partnership has been characterised by action and innovation in the fight against match-fixing, and strong cooperation has been central for this. From day one, the AFC have sought to make integrity their top priority, and this has led to many positive results, including a clear decline in match-fixing issues across Asia.
“Sportradar are committed to developing the Integrity Services and have made serious investments in the intelligence, investigation, and anti-doping services to ensure our service remains the gold standard in integrity. We look forward to continuing our close working relationship with the AFC over the coming years and playing an even bigger role in helping to uphold the integrity of Asian football”.
Benoit Pasquier, AFC General Counsel and Director of Legal Affairs, added: “The partnership and collaboration with Sportradar has been a real success story. They have provided excellent support in helping with key investigations and at the same time we have seen a significant reduction in the number of matches which are of concern. It demonstrates, while there is no room for complacency, that we are prepared to take on those who wish to manipulate our sport.”