David Lampitt, Head of Global Sports Partnerships for Sportradar, speaking at last month’s Betting on Sports America conference in New Jersey, has acknowledged that there are now “a number of different ways in which technology is being used to drive automated access to sports betting data”, particularly around the top four US sports.
Addressing delegates, he explained: “All of the major US leagues are looking at the automated aspect to data collection, but the challenge for this market is how it can be used as part of the data collection for betting. Because the demands of data for betting are very different.
“The NHL is looking at player tracking, the NFL has next-gen stats, and the NBA has a tracking deal with Second Spectrum that Sportradar is part of, while the MLB is probably the best known for activity in this field through the Statcast feed.”
The data from Second Spectrum’s player-tracking system for the NBA, WNBA and NBA Development League, which Sportradar is distributing to more than 80 countries, includes advanced statistics such as speed, distance, drives, paint touches and defensive impact.
Despite these advances, Lampitt stressed that we are “not quite there yet”, a view shared unanimously by a panel at this year’s Betting on Football conference, but said that automated data collection is coming and it “will be part of the next generation of how we collect data”.
He added: “I think that the speed of adoption for automated data will vary sport by sport. For example, you already see for a sport like tennis where the automation of Hawk-Eye technology is already built into the game as part of the line-calling.”
Berkant Elieyioglu, Sportradar’s Managing Director of Live Data, spoke recently about how the relentless pursuit of quality data – and the subsequent investment in automation – is driven by the pressure on operators to offer as many in-play betting opportunities as possible.
The risk of this ever-increasing demand is, according to Elieyioglu, that data becomes harder to collect, harder to validate, harder to quality-assure and harder to deliver in real-time.
If a data supply company doesn’t take it’s internal controls seriously enough then it can lead to issues such as ‘ghost games’, where fixtures are either completely made up or start times shifted, providing cheats with the opportunity to manipulate the betting market.
However, the use of technology – together with robust quality control processes – has given assurance to Sportradar’s clients, which range from the biggest sporting federations to global betting operators and media companies, as well as state authorities and regulators.
“It’s really an end-to-end process with quality control at every stage,” said Elieyioglu. “Everything from ensuring that fixture information is checked and re-checked with credible sources such as official club websites, to following up with boots on the ground to check the fixture details are true, for example with the home or host team.
“We won’t cover matches if we can’t trust a source. We have a dedicated internal fixtures team who are responsible for checking the quality of all fixtures. The team investigate all the matches with risk potential, and if there are any suspicions, we simply won’t cover those games. Quality measurements like these are important, as quality comes before anything else.”