By Violeta Prockyte
The coronavirus lockdown has given rise to football-related betting fraud, including evidence of Ukrainian ‘ghost’ games, or matches that never take place but are faked with data sold on to bookmakers who then offer betting markets.
Estimates of bets put on these games go upward of £100,000 ($124,000) and it’s reported bookmakers more than likely paid out winning bets to match-fixers before the fraud was realised.
At the end of March, four lower league Ukrainian clubs, including Berdyansk, used a Facebook platform to promote a friendly tournament called the Azoz Cup.
BetGenius’s sports betting staff allegedly supplied data about the matches and bookmakers such as BetFred, BWin and 188bet among others all offered markets until it was revealed the event proved to be fraudulent.
An additional round of matches for the fake tournament was due to be played on March 27, and a final and third-placed play-off on March 28. But all activity ceased on March 29 and the Facebook site was deleted.
In a statement, the Ukraine FA said the country is still under COVID-19 lockdown and no official games have been permitted, so the matches couldn’t have taken place and were created to defraud betting markets.
However, BetGenius says matches of some capacity did take place, even if not entirely sanctioned. The company insisted it has proof of the games and is ready to work with Ukrainian FA and local authorities to gain clarity on the incident.
The supplier stated: “Our match security protocol requires our statisticians to verify the authenticity of fixtures through audio and visual methods. Therefore, we can confirm games did indeed take place; however, we now understand these games were not played in an official capacity and were conducted in a fraudulent manner, likely by a criminal group.”
Genius Sports, the parent company of BetGenius, is no longer covering the Ukrainian lower league games.