Technology on Football Betting-related Corruption and Match Fixing

Technology can be a double-edged sword when looking at the global issue of betting-related corruption and match fixing in football.

Betting and Technology

On one hand, the advancements in technology including e-commerce, live online betting or in-play betting are used by unscrupulous criminals based in unregulated betting markets like Asia to place bets anonymously from their smart mobile phone during football matches in other continents like Europe. Organised criminals based for example in the Philippines, can leverage their links with European mafias to undertake their corrupt operations to abuse the betting systems due to the differences in the legal status of sport betting in different countries (Forrest 2016).

Match fixing in football is not an isolated issue and there are other related activities where football players, referees, league officials and club owners get involved for different reasons including gambling addictions and sporting success goals (Harvey and Levi 2016). The main difference with the rest of these other activities is that corrupt, gambling-related match fixing relies on technology and online legal loopholes for the purpose of taking advantage of the betting markets:

Harvey & Levi

Integrity and Technology

On the other hand, Right Holders such as FIFA and UEFA, Integrity and Technology service providers like Sportradar and Perform Group with the information from hundreds of bookmakers and their Analysts, and the support from Law Enforcement Agencies such as Interpol and Europol use technology in the first instance to detect and report match fixing.

Betting Environment

Education and Technology

Technology has also an important role in preventing any wrongdoing as a complement to the education received by players, coaches and referees every season by European professional football stakeholders like FIFPro via face-to-face workshops and online e-learning tutorials. Another role of technology is facilitating players, coaches and referees reporting immediately to FIFA or UEFA via online forms and whistleblowing mobile apps like the Finish ‘Player’s Red Button’ or Sportradar’s RADAR.

Online e-learning tutorials and mobile apps should be tailored to each league depending on the levels of corruption and depending on the personal circumstances of each player (Harvey and Levi 2014). As illustrated on the research by Dr Harvey and nine professional footballers’ associations among nearly 2,000 players, player’s experience and their educational needs differ broadly from country to country and between leagues (Harvey and Levi 2014). Therefore, bespoke and personalised tutorials and apps will have a greater impact on football players’ integrity education.

Personalised Tutorial

In my view, players’ data regularly updated via online questionnaires should be a requirement for Right Holders to ensure that the education provided stays relevant and keeps them ahead of criminals. Moreover, adding a gamification element will make online learning more engaging for young football players.

Is The Premier League doing enough to accommodate Disabled Football Fans?

Originally published on Future Sport on January 27, 2017

Football is a global sport, uniting people form all backgrounds. Could the Premier League do more to make games and stadiums more accessible to disabled fans?

Premier League football clubs are really different now compared to 20 years ago. Millions of pounds are going from fans and sponsors to privately-owned Premier League clubs, football players, football managers and their agents. A club like Manchester United FC can make £12 million in revenue per match, a player like Yaya Touré from Manchester City FC is paid an estimated £1,306 per hour, and a football agent like Mino Raiola can make £20 million from a single player transfer. Foreign Club owners have been attracted by double digit returns in a global low economic growth rate. And yet despite these huge sums, clubs are not investing enough in accessible facilities and they are not providing their event day staff with customer service training.

Old Trafford

There has been a clear demographic and social change in football fans: there is an ageing fan base that requires venue managers and staff to understand older customers’ needs and accessibility requirements. Premier League football clubs’ neglect of disabled fans is astonishing and very latent. The Forgotten Fans, fans with a disability or reduced mobility, are not generally treated well by English Premier League and Championship clubs. In my opinion it should be mandatory for English Premier League clubs that participate in UEFA, Premier League and FA tournaments to comply with the existing disability and accessibility legislation; unfortunately some clubs have a different agenda.

According to the Premier League Handbook 2016/17 each club should provide sufficient and adequate facilities for disabled supporters; unfortunately, only a few clubs have an accessible facility or have upgraded their stadia taking accessibility considerations into account, for example the Etihad Stadium, the Emirates StadiumOld Trafford and the London Stadium (thanks to the legacy from London 2012 Paralympic Games). Premier League Clubs generally do employ an official to liaise with disabled supporters; however, Disability Liaison Officers are generally not senior managers, and therefore they can only deliver what their club Executives help them to achieve. Unfortunately, there is no existing professional qualification for a Disability Liaison Officer or standardised recruitment process.

Emirates Stadium_wheelchair_access

My personal experience working at Wembley Stadium is that, as a sport facility, it has been designed with a thorough understanding of accessibility following consultation with multiple stakeholders including Level Playing Field and accessibility experts. It has competent part-time Disability Liaison Officers at Wembley and Club Wembley levels; it has great wheelchair platforms at different levels with space for companions; it offers secure accessible toilets in good locations, and it offers a good experience for blind and partially sighted football fans with a 90-minute commentary service via Alan March Sport.

However, the customer experience at Wembley Stadium for older fans and fans with a disability still differs to the experience of able-bodied fans in a number of ways: the lack of an “Ability Suite”; the lack of accessible food and drinks kiosks; the lack of training of event day staff; the lack of sufficient Blue Badge accessible parking spaces; a sub-optimal Shuttle Bus Service from Wembley Park Station to the Stadium. My suggestion would be to have an accessible Shuttle Golf Kart Service from Wembley with access to a secured and secluded lane of 600 metres following Olympic Way to the stadium, and adding Shuttle Bus Services from Wembley Central and Wembley Station as traffic on event days is too congested and not all buses that travel to the Stadium are fully accessible.

SirAlex_MUDSA

Thanks to Sir Alex Ferguson and Phil Downs among others, a club like Manchester United FC have considered disabled fans for the last 25 years as an important group and incorporated accessibility and disability in the Manchester United culture as part of its CSR policies, bringing football and its communities together. Currently, various non-for-profit organisations work with clubs, the Premier League and UEFA (for example, Level Playing Field and CAFE) to evaluate football clubs’ consideration of disabled fans’ needs (mainly based on the ratio between accessible seats compared to the total seat capacity); however, these non-for-profit organisations have no jurisdiction to sanction clubs for not complying with the UK or European disability and accessibility legislation.

It is great news that Premier League clubs may face sanctions over lack of improvement; however, in my opinion sanctions are not the best way forward. I strongly believe that the FA, UEFA and the Premier League in consultation with other European leagues should create a reference Accessibility Guide, with shared best practices, technical guidelines and recommendations from experts, to help clubs deliver inclusive football events and build new, accessible facilities. I also think the UK Government could legislate to ensure that Premier League clubs invest in accessibility and for example spend at least 0.5% of their revenues on training event day staff and 5% on making stadia more accessible.