A new study has uncovered what it described as unusual betting activity surrounding the Bundesliga games of three referees over a five-year period. However, it notes that this does not amount to proof of match fixing.
The study, which was first reported on by German public broadcaster WDR on Friday, was jointly conducted by the universities of Bielefeld, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The study looked at the bets placed with the British bookmaker Betfair on a total of 1,251 Bundesliga matches played between the 2010-11 and 2014-15 seasons. It found that significantly more money was bet on the games of three referees than the 23 others involved in Germany's top flight during this period. An unusually high amount of money was bet on whether more or fewer than 2.5 goals would be scored in a given match. The study did not name the three referees in question.
"What we have here is a clear connection between the amount of money bet and who the referee is. So you can hardly but this down to chance," Dr Markus Knasmüller, who has been called as an expert witness to testify on sports betting at a number of betting fraud cases in Austria told WDR. Knasmüller noted that the so-called "over or under" wagers were "the easiest to manipulate in football."
However, one of the authors of the study, Christian Deutscher of the University of Bielefeld stressed that while the betting activity was suspicious, it wasn't proof of match fixing.
"It is not possible to draw the definitive conclusion from this that betting fraud did or did not occur," Deutscher said. "However, one does see statistical characteristics that would exist if betting fraud were to have occurred."
In response to the report, the German football association (DFB) released a statement in which it noted that it had been successfully working with the sports betting watchdog Sportradar since 2005 in an effort to uncover any possible wrongdoing related to betting on Bundesliga matches. It also pointed to the fact that the authors of the study had conceded that the suspicious activity in question was not proof of betting fraud.
The DFB began working with Sportradar after it emerged in early 2005 that Robert Hoyzer had fixed and bet on a number of games he had refereed Germany's second division, the German Cup and the third division. The DFB subsequently handed Hoyzer a lifetime ban from refereeing.
pfd/ (SID, dpa)