OSINT Blog / Post

June 19, 2024

Fair Game: The Role of OSINT in Combating Sports Corruption

In the high-octane world of sports, physical prowess and mental grit fuel not just athletes but entire communities, cultures, and economies. The prevalence of sports today—driven by the legalization of betting, the globalization of viewership through streaming, celebrity athletes, and high-profile investments—underscores how money "talks" in this domain, drawing more eyes and opening more doors than ever.

But here's the curveball: Where there's big money, there's often temptation. The sporting world isn't immune to corruption, and broader popularity has supercharged the issue. Organized crime rings now see sports manipulation as a new, fruitful playground. It's easier and less risky than traditional crime, and can deliver outsized profits. Illicit rings are fixing matches, playing puppeteer with the outcomes, and more often slipping past law enforcement and governing bodies in the process.

Corruption in sports isn't just a sideline issue; it's a multifaceted problem that touches many parts of the industry. From glaring financial disparities among athletes to the seductive pull of sports betting and emerging challenges in eSports, many segments are under threat. Let's take a closer look at how these dynamics are playing out across the professional and amateur landscape, where the allure of money casts a long shadow.

Financial Disparities and Corruption Risks

In the past decade, the economics of sport have undergone dramatic growth, with revenues now exceeding $500 billion annually. Many athletes, coaches, trainers, referees, and institutions face significant financial difficulties and competition, creating a fertile ground for corruption.

The Lure of Sports Betting and Corruption

Online betting has seen a significant rise in popularity as sports broadcasting has become globally available through new streaming models. The allure of substantial profits in a new, sometimes loosely regulated market tempts many to manipulate outcomes. Organized crime groups have already infiltrated various sports, including tennis, boxing, basketball, and cricket. In these schemes, criminals pay off referees, players, and club officials to fix matches for betting gains. Given that many athletes earn modestly, a certain number become susceptible to match-fixing through bribery and coercion.

eSports: The Next Frontier of Corruption

Esports, high-stakes video game competitions, are particularly susceptible to corruption. Generating billions in revenue annually, traditional sports teams are investing in the industry, with clubs like Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain signing eSports players. Corruption in eSports mirrors that in traditional sports, with players able to fix results, take performance-enhancing drugs, or exploit technology that slows their own, or their opponent's, internet connection.

The Role of OSINT in Combating Corruption

Open-source intelligence (OSINT) has emerged as a pivotal tool in combating sports corruption, offering a window into the covert world of unethical schemes. OSINT is crucial in enabling investigators to aggregate and review critical insights on athletes, officials, and agents. These insights can reveal past actions or associations potentially associated with corruption. OSINT also plays a key role in detecting signs of bribery or match-fixing and in network analysis, exposing concealed connections that could abet corruption.

This intelligence is essential not only for direct anti-corruption measures but also for fostering collaboration among sports governing bodies, law enforcement, and international organizations. Sharing insights allows these groups to unite more effectively in preserving the integrity of sports.

Automating OSINT Investigations into Sports Corruption

Manual OSINT tools, demanding extensive training and resources, are increasingly supplemented by automated solutions like Skopenow. 

Skopenow's comprehensive OSINT platform empowers sports governing bodies, clubs, betting firms, and stadium security with actionable, real-time intelligence. This intelligence can assist in tackling corruption, match-fixing, doping, and safety issues. Our cloud-based solution offers a comprehensive OSINT workflow, including:

  • Workbench for gathering comprehensive information about individuals and organizations in sports with potential links to corruption. It can aid in spotting those with questionable histories or dubious links to entities like betting rings or criminal groups.
  • Link Analysis to uncover hidden connections between individuals and organizations, revealing networks potentially involved in corruption or match-fixing. It scrutinizes digital footprints for commonalities that could support uncovering interactions that hint at misconduct.
  • Grid to surface relevant content on social media platforms, forums, and other online sources for real-time insights on sports corruption. Intelligence and investigation professionals can scan these sources for relevant keywords and phrases related to match-fixing and bribery, helping to corroborate other signals like betting alerts and confidential reports.
  • Pre-Check to rapidly analyze risk at scale, automatically reviewing hundreds, or even thousands of data points at once.

At Skopenow, we understand the importance of staying up-to-date on the latest developments, trends, and techniques in OSINT. Our solutions empower organizations to more effectively and efficiently gather and analyze open-source information, identify trends and patterns in the data, and detect emerging threats and risks. Start unlocking the power of open-source intelligence with a free trial today: www.skopenow.com/try.