Fireside chat with Ben Paterson
We sat down with Ben Paterson, Director of Data Integrity and Quality, to find out more about IMG ARENA’s Integrity team and the important work that is ongoing to protect the Rightsholders we represent.
Can you describe your background and the team you're building at IMG ARENA?
I have been working in sports integrity since 2009 – a pretty niche area of the sports betting industry. My first role was with Sportradar, building one of the first integrity systems for UEFA. I was with Sportradar for five years working with some of the world’s largest federations, before joining Genius Sports in 2014 to help them build a full integrity solution for Football Data Co (the Premier League, the FA and the Scottish FA).
I was with Genius Sports for just over seven years and joined IMG ARENA in May last year.
Brad (Van Wely) and Eireann (Kelly) made it clear that IMG ARENA wanted to create the next generation of monitoring systems and build the industry leading solution. This vision combined with IMG ARENA’s commitment to 100% official data was something I really bought into and was very keen to join. We now have a team of developers working full-time on our integrity product and we have just hired industry expert Sam Gilbert to help us bring our vision to life over the coming months.
What services are IMG ARENA offering within integrity?
If a sport wants to take their data rights to the betting circuit, they need proper protection. My philosophy has always been if you are engaging with sports betting, you have a social responsibility to protect the integrity of those sporting events. IMG ARENA share this commitment to their Rightsholders and as such are looking to become true pioneers within this space.
Monitoring tools are the key to protection and having automated systems which identify suspicious activity and are the bedrock of what we are building. Our competitors have effective systems in this space, but they were built over a decade ago. What we have built is an agile new system, using the latest technology that will allow us to quickly become industry leaders in the field.
IMG ARENA has access to a wealth of different data and video and as such can create a one-of-a-kind solution, reducing the timeframe for an outcome from weeks to hours. This integrated approach means that athletes, Rightsholders and fans can get back to enjoying the action and any potential harm can be removed from competition that same day.
Other services that we will be offering include: assisting in rulemaking, education and e-learning, investigational support, and criminal investigational assistance. We want to become the ultimate consultant in integrity to our Rightsholders, providing world-class support to world-class sport.
IMG ARENA Monitoring Process
Monitoring all relevant betting markets
Identifies all anomalous betting activity
Expert analysts investigate the rationale for odds changes
All conclusions provided using non-technical terminology
Fast alerting to Rightsholder, with rationale for concerns
Detailed report providing a technical breakdown of the betting activity within 48 hours
Betting data provided to serve as supporting evidence
All conclusions provided using non-technical technology
How important is official data when it comes to integrity?
Rightsholders are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of having strong measures in place to maintain the integrity of their sport. Much like how Spotify revolutionised the music industry by preventing unofficial streaming, Rightsholders now recognise that official rights are essential for effectively protecting their content and maintaining value of their on-field action. The IMG ARENA Alliance Programme disrupts any unofficial supply and protects the value of our client’s rights.
On top of this, if you are collecting and selling data unofficially, then the sport has no recourse or ability to tap into the operators that the data has been sold to. By selling data via official channels and insisting it is only sold through an official channel, Rightsholders can put correct measures in place. Rightsholders can insist that operators flag suspicious activity, they can insist on investigations, they can look out for restricted persons – so anyone within the sport who should not be wagering are identified and reported back to the sport. This does not happen if rights are sold unofficially, and as such any rights sold unofficially are putting those sports at unwanted risk.
IMG ARENA recently announced a 6-year deal with NWSL, this included integrity services - could you tell us more?
This is a very exciting deal, with a league that is making huge waves in the sports industry. NWSL is the leading women’s soccer league globally and they recognise the need to protect their game and ensure that their athletes are guarded. With such growth as a league, comes the opportunity to engage with sports betting on a global scale, which in turn will lead to further growth in revenue for all stakeholders. But as we mentioned earlier this comes with the need to have strong measures in place and IMG ARENA can offer that, using the solutions that we have available.
Can you sum up IMG ARENA as an integrity partner?
We see ourselves as a true partner in integrity, not just as an additional service. IMG ARENA is looking to become the ultimate consultant and partner. From the way we treat official rights to how information is stored and shared, integrity runs throughout our business. Rightsholders will have a direct line of communication with our team to everything that is going on. Support is provided throughout any investigation, and this includes written testimonies, expert witness testimonies, workshops to law enforcement and much more. Sport without integrity is not sport and we will do everything for our Rightsholders to protect the action on-field.