Can we catch the crooks: examining performance metrics of match-fixing association football players

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Ellens, Susanne (2019) Can we catch the crooks: examining performance metrics of match-fixing association football players. Research Master thesis, Victoria University.


Match-fixing is the process where the result of a sporting contest or game situation is deliberately manipulated for the personal material gain of one or more parties involved in that activity. Match-fixing is a serious problem in football affecting the integrity of the game. While indicators such as betting patterns have been used to identify match-fixing cases, there are still many that go undetected and even those that are exposed are difficult to prosecute due to a lack of hard evidence. Electronic performance and tracking systems can potentially assist in both identification and evidence- development actions by detecting unusual changes in a players’ movement behaviour on the pitch. The purpose of this research was to examine whether performance metrics derived from players' positional x and y coordinates can detect match-fixing behaviour in football. Six different performance metrics have been examined and were used to create player performance profiles. The player performance profiles have been compared with standardized mean differences and were analysed with Approximate entropy (ApEn) analysis and different recursive partitioning techniques. Results show that match-fixing behaviour influenced defensive fixing players’ performance metrics during a football game. Positional performance metrics were most associated with fixing behaviour and showed substantial differences compared to normal behaviour. Fixing players moved forward on the pitch and kept more distance towards the position-specific centroid. The altered movement pattern resulted in more spread of play in the lateral direction suggesting fixing players are stretching the defence to create space. Further studies should investigate the use of a wider range of fixing scenarios of numerous games to further develop the match-fixing detection framework. The findings of this thesis can be beneficial, not only for integrity purposes of the football related society, but also for a wider spectrum of team sports using electronic performance and tracking systems to measure player performance. These findings provide insights to player performance metrics underpinning match-fixing behaviour for defence players which can possibly assist in providing supporting evidence to prosecute match-fixing players. Further, it provides scientific knowledge to create a match-fixing detection approach which covers both betting and non-betting related match-fixing.

Item type Thesis (Research Master thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1099 Other Technology
Historical > FOR Classification > 1106 Human Movement and Sports Science
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords match-fixing; corruption; sport; performance metrics; detection; electronic performance tracking systems; football; global positioning system; GPS; local positioning system
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