Foto: Marcos Oliveira/Agência Senado

On Tuesday (18), Tiago Horta Barbosa, head of integrity for Latin America at the company Genius Sports, spoke to the CPI on the Manipulation of Games and Sports Betting. Barbosa stated that Brazilian football is an “extremely vulnerable target” for game manipulation, due to the ‘low’ salaries of most athletes.

“The large number of games played at different sporting levels creates an environment ripe for manipulation. Each game, especially those in lower divisions, represents a potential opportunity for those seeking to corrupt the sport, and Brazil is the country in which the most matches football games are played all over the world”, explained Barbosa.

Technology in combating game manipulation

Barbosa highlighted the vast experience of Genius Sports, which works with more than 160 sports leagues and federations. He emphasized the importance of advanced technological means to identify manipulations aimed at profits in the betting market.

The company uses algorithms that cross-reference information about teams, players and referees, with alerts analyzed by integrity experts.

“To effectively combat corruption in sport, it is imperative that we remain vigilant and responsive to the ever-evolving tactics employed by those who seek to undermine its integrity.”

Head of Integrity for Latin America at Genius Sports, Tiago Horta Barbosa – Photo: Marcos Oliveira/Agência Senado

Sports education, monitoring and competition against game manipulation

Barbosa commented that, if high-level, high-salary Brazilian players become involved in fraud, less favored athletes may see this as a chance to “change the level” in their lives.

He cited statistics showing that most fraud occurs in lower-division tournaments and advocated for education about the risks of rigging competitions.

“Facing the problem […] involves building integrity systems in the sporting environment that truly serve to prevent the occurrence of fraud in sport, to effectively detect those that still occur and, finally, that provide the tools to that a rapid response can be given, whether through severe sanctions or other means.”

Responding to Senator Romário (PL-RJ), Barbosa stated that there was no problem with competing companies serving the same entities. Genius Sports and Sportradar serve FIFA and UEFA.

He highlighted that FIFA’s recommendation is that sports entities work with more than one monitoring company, strengthening the identification of fraud.

Senator Romário (PL-RJ), in a speech. Photo: Edilson Rodrigues/Agência Senado

“Nothing prevents a sports entity from working with more than one monitoring company. In fact, this is FIFA’s recommendation, even to strengthen eventually identified cases of manipulation. It is logical that it is much stronger if you have two or three reports indicating that there was one fraud than just one, that’s positive.”

Lucas Paquetá case and international integration

Barbosa did not express an opinion on the case of player Lucas Paquetá, investigated in England on suspicion of involvement in betting schemes. He stated that the English Federation must trust the work of its partners.

“[Paquetá] may have and may not have [committed the crime]. I really don’t have the elements to be affirming any situation in relation to this.”

Romário mentioned the essential role of the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA), of which Genius Sports is an associate member, in the investigation into the athlete, and questioned whether the IBIA model could be applied in Brazil.

“This is natural within the regulatory process that we are going through. My understanding is that this will naturally happen, especially because the law itself determines that bookmakers are part of some integrity monitoring system”, declared Barbosa.

Challenges and advances in sports integrity

Despite the efforts of Brazilian entities, Barbosa acknowledged that sporting integrity in Europe is “10 to 15 years ahead” of Brazil. Thus, he highlighted the importance of a collaborative system between stakeholders, public authorities, sports entities and athletes’ unions.

“The issue of bringing together stakeholders, being able to set up a collaborative system with public authorities, sports entities, athletes’ unions, all of this, I think they are already at a more advanced level than we are today, but that doesn’t mean that the people are not heading in that direction.”

Finally, Barbosa also refrained from judging the statements made by businessman John Textor, Botafogo’s majority shareholder, about manipulating results. Furthermore, he said he could not compare Good Game’s analysis methods with those of Sportradar on the games contested by Textor.