Soccer Bookmakers Pulled Bets Twice in 2014 on False Data

Perform Group Plc’s RunningBall unit, which supplies real-time soccer data, said it sent false data to bookmakers twice this year as prosecutors in Portugal investigate one case for betting fraud.

The Portuguese public prosecutors’ office said in an e-mail it’s investigating a supposed Aug. 4 exhibition game in the country that didn’t take place even though at least six bookmakers offered wagers based on RunningBall’s live scoring updates. RunningBall said in a statement late yesterday it also supplied false data to oddsmakers for a Jan. 29 exhibition in Armenia that didn’t happen.

Perform shares declined 5.7 percent to 215 pence at the close of trading in London, their biggest drop this year.

Feltham, England-based Perform acquired RunningBall for as much as 120 million euros ($160 million) in June 2012. In the statement, Perform said it was reviewing tens of thousands of other games since then to check it didn’t supply any other false information.

“We are confident that our systems will have identified if there had been other instances,” Perform said. “Notwithstanding, as part of the investigation into last week’s events we have already commenced a full and proper review to ensure that is the case.”

Perform said RunningBall’s observers had supplied information from 156,000 matches since it acquired the Huenenberg, Switzerland-based unit. It competes with St. Gallen, Switzerland-based Sportradar AG’s Betradar service in providing match data to bookmakers.

Vulnerable Bookmakers

The bogus games, which deceived bookmakers including Betfair Group Plc and Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment Plc, show how vulnerable oddsmakers are to manipulation of low-profile sports events, according to Chris Eaton, director at Doha, Qatar-based International Center for Sport Security.

“In effect bookmakers can be tricked into believing that a match is taking place,” Eaton said.

The game in Portugal was slated as being between Spain’s Ponferradina and Freamunde of Portugal.

RunningBall said in an Aug. 7 statement its observer at a stadium in Sao Joao de Ver, Portugal, thought he was reporting on that match but he mistakenly sent information from a game involving teams wearing similar-looking uniforms and “there were no grounds for suspicion regarding the integrity of the match at the time.”

Phantom Results

RunningBall reported the game as ending with Ponferradina winning 2-1. That result was posted on Freamunde’s website along with two other fictitious exhibition games later in the week against other Spanish second-division teams, Sabadell and Lugo, according to Francesco Barranca, general director of Brussels-based Federbet, which looks for match-fixing on behalf of sports federations.

The other bogus exhibition was between Ulisses Yerevan and Gandzasar, according to the Perform statement.

Armenian bookmakers Vivaro Betting LLC and Inter Lotto LLC’s TotoGaming said they abandoned betting on the game after the first half when they received information the match wasn’t taking place.

Vahan Danielyan, club manager of Gandzasar, said his team didn’t play a match that day and it had nothing to do with the incorrect announcement.

“Bookmakers have done it,” Danielyan said by phone.

Philippines-based SBOBET and IBCbet, which turn over about $2 billion each per week, were among bookmakers to offer odds on the game in Portugal, according to Eaton. They didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail asking about the volume of betting. Bwin spokesman John Shepherd declined to comment on wagering on the game in Portugal. James Midmer, a spokesman for Betfair, which said last week it was voiding all bets on the match, didn’t respond to a phone message and e-mails.

Chelsea Website

Perform’s other business interests include providing online sports content and it runs Chelsea Football Club’s website. Its RunningBall unit employs 1,000 so-called data scouts in 70 countries. A recent advertisement for a job as a scout in Moldova offered to pay 30 euros per game. Perform said it takes the integrity of sports data “very seriously.”

“We are in the process of introducing a number of additional stringent measures to ensure that our protocols and controls remain of the highest standards,” Perform said.

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