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The Lausanne, Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has upheld the FIFA-instituted lifetime ban of a Ghanian football referee who helped fix a prominent World Cup qualifying match in November of 2016. The ban on the Ghana ref, Joseph Odartei Lamptey, was first handed down in March of 2017, at which point Lamptey appealed and, as of Monday, lost.
The World Cup qualifier in question took place on November 12, 2016 between Senegal and South Africa. The match was won by South Africa 2-1 and featured several curious decisions and non-decisions by Lamptey, including a questionable penalty kick awarded to South Africa in the 41st minute and a too-quick restart, also by South Africa, in the 45th minute.
South Africa scored on both instances to build a suspect 2-0 lead. Senegal scored late to create the final margin, and a ruckus started after the match in a stadium tunnel between Senegalese officials and the match’s referees, primarily Lamptey. Senegal soon filed a complaint with FIFA. FIFA soon began its own investigation, and by February of 2017, had launched its own enforcement proceedings against Lamptey. Late last year, Lamptey apologised publicly to Senegal, but it was one of those situations where such an apology is all but irrelevant.
The big key in discovering that the fix was in was a flowing-time analysis of the match by Sportradar, a third-party sports-analysis firm that has worked with FIFA and other sporting bodies. Sportradar’s work showed that the in-play lines during the Senegal-South Africa match did not move as they should during the opening 40 minutes, when there was no score, but instead behaved as if scores by South Africa had already been factored in.
Here’s the statement from FIFA about the background of the match-fixing:
FIFA has taken note of the motivated arbitral award of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) confirming the lifetime ban imposed by FIFA’s Disciplinary and Appeal Committees on Ghanaian match official Joseph Odartei Lamptey.
FIFA’s judicial bodies had banned Mr Lamptey for life for breaching art. 69 par 1 (unlawfully influencing match results) of the FIFA Disciplinary Code during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying match between South Africa and Senegal on 12 November 2016.
In its ruling, CAS concluded that Mr Lamptey had intentionally taken two wrong decisions with the sole purpose of enabling a specific number of goals to be scored that would make pertinent bets successful. CAS concluded that there was an obvious link between these intentionally wrong decisions and a deviation from an expected betting pattern, and consequently found Mr Lamptey guilty of having unlawfully influenced the result of the match.
This CAS decision underlines FIFA’s commitment to protecting the integrity of football and its zero-tolerance policy on match manipulation, while also highlighting the effectiveness of its current agreement with Sportradar that uses their Fraud Detection System, which played an important role in this case.
FIFA also published a link to CAS’s 26-page statement of findings in the case, launched when Lamptey filed a formal appeal to his lifetime ban. CAS relied heavily on Sportradar’s thorough analysis of the in-play lines in reaffirming that something was amiss.
A couple of excerpts from CAS’s research and report detail the issues:
Mr Mace, Director of Global Operations Integrity Services at Sportradar, described the procedures followed in the analysis of the betting activities in any match controlled by his organization. Mr. Mace confirmed that with respect to the Match no market abnormalities were detected prior to kick-off, but that evidence of suspicious betting appeared from the 12th minute of the first half (0:0), as odds for at least three goals being scored in total failed to increase as logically expected until the first goal in the 43rd minute, after which the suspicious betting ceased. Mr. Mace underlined that in normal market conditions, it would have been expected that odds for this outcome increased steadily during this timeframe, because, as the time remaining in a match diminishes, so does the time available for either team to create the opportunities necessary for the required three goals to be scored. In other words, the odds movements for the Match were very irrational, because they implied the same probability of 3 goals materialising after 40 minutes as at the start of the Match: with no goals being scored, this was very suspicious. Mr Mace, then, declared that bookmakers take into account the scoring history of the clubs playing the match: however, information available before the match cannot affect the odds in the live betting markets.
Mr. O’Hanrahan, Football Betting Analyst at StarLizard, confirmed his serious concerns about the Match, because during the first half the in-running Totals (i.e., for bets “over” or “under” a total number of goals in a match offered by the bookmaker) failed to evolve as we would ordinarily expect to see in a normal market condition. There was strong support in the market for “Over 2.00 goals” during this time, which suggests that the market was confident that more than 3 goals were going to be scored during the Match. [Author’s note — “3” might be a typo in the CAS report, instead of “2”.] Then, in the second half, the “Over 2.75” and “Over 2.50” prices only slowly evolved prior to the scoring of the third goal, which suggests that the market continued to expect a third goal to be scored. Therefore, StarLizard assessed there to be a very strong likelihood that integrity issues exist in this Match, because no events during the Match justified the suspicious evolution.
The affirmation of the ban also stands as a feather in the caps of both FIFA and Sportradar, the firm that analyzed the in-play odds. It’s the fourth time that Sportradar’s work has been used in a case brought before CAS, though this one is the highest-profile matter to date. Sportradar’s own statements proclaim the service has played a part in more than 200 sports-related disciplinary sanctions, and some 24 criminal convictions.
The fact that post-match analysis can increasing be used to identify match-fixing behavior ought to have a chilling and limiting effect on that behavior. Still, it’s one of those processes that takes a bit of time; at the least, there’s one less crooked referee running around fouling up the works. After a lifetime ban from international refereeing, he’ll have plenty of time to console himself with the most popular World Cup anthems of all time.
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