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Ground-Breaking Study Highlights Dramatic Growth in Women’s Sports

Calls for proactive approach to mitigating risk of match-fixing in women’s sports.

July 12, 2023

LONDON/BRUSSELS – 12 July 2023 – The International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA), All-In Diversity Project (AIDP), Entain, Flutter, and Stats Perform today launched a ground-breaking study on women’s sports and women in sports betting, “Breaking Barriers: Assessing Women’s Sports, Betting, and Integrity Challenges.”

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The study, conducted by the German Sport University Cologne, and launched at iGaming Business Live! in Amsterdam, analyses the economic development of five women’s sports: soccer, tennis, basketball, cricket, and volleyball. For the very first time it analyses the size and characteristics of the women’s sports betting market and examines the potential vulnerability of women’s sports to match-fixing.

Khalid Ali, CEO of IBIA, said: “We are about to witness the best attended and most watched Women’s World Cup in history, and where soccer leads other women’s sports are rapidly following. The dramatic growth of women’s sports is a hugely positive development – for fans, the sports and athletes themselves, and also for the betting market. It is creating very significant and untapped opportunities for sports betting. However, with increased growth, comes an increased responsibility for ensuring we get ahead of the game when it comes to sports integrity and the fight against match-fixing in women’s sport. There is no room for complacency.”

The study confirms that the dramatic increase in women’s sport has been accompanied by a similar growth in betting on women’s sport. Soccer is leading the way in terms of the number of people betting and placing bets on women’s sport, with an annual market growth rate of approximately 20% since 2020. This is followed by tennis, basketball, cricket, with growth rates of over 10% during the period 2017-2022.

It also analyses the particular characteristics of female bettors. Over the last few years the percentage of female bettors in women’s sports has consistently risen across all five sports analyzed, with annual growth rates of up to 10%, while the total number of women betting on women’s soccer has more than doubled. The total volume of bets placed on women’s sports has grown more among women than men, highlighting potential untapped opportunities.

Grainne Hurst, Group Director of Corporate Affairs at Entain stated: “Entain is delighted to fund and support the publication of today’s study, which is an important step in increasing our understanding of developing trends within women’s sport. We are proud to already support aspiring female athletes through our multi-year partnership with SportsAid and our Pitching In initiative and we will continue to work with organisations to promote fairness and integrity in all sports competitions.

Alex Rice, Chief Commercial Officer at Stats Perform also said: “Stats Perform has a history and commitment to investing in women’s sports and enabling rightsholders and teams to grow their fan, commercial and on-field potential. Understanding women’s sports fans is key to achieving this, so we’re proud to have helped with this important research.”

Whilst corruption exists in women’s sport, the study found that it is significantly lower than in men’s sports. However, the experience of men’s sport has shown that sports betting can be the subject of criminals who defraud regulated operators by manipulating matches and exploiting vulnerabilities of sports and athletes.

The study makes a series of recommendations to strengthen the fight against match-fixing in women’s sport, including:

  • Strengthening monitoring and enhancing cooperation between sports governing bodies, betting operators, and law enforcement agencies.
  • Develop targeted and tailored education and communication programs for athletes, coaches, and support staff to raise awareness about the risks of corruption and match-fixing and help create and reinforce a culture of integrity.
  • Promote fair wages and economic transparency in women’s sports to reduce the risk of corruption and match-fixing.

Ian Devlin, Sports Integrity Manager at Flutter said: “We are seeing the popularity of women’s sport continuing to grow, with last summer’s European Championship the biggest women’s event for Flutter by volume and a seminal moment for many of our European brands. This has created a higher demand from us to offer more sports, with more markets, relating to women’s events, starting with the upcoming FIFA World Cup. However, as women’s sports continue to grow, so does the risk of participants being approached by individuals seeking to profit from sports-related corruption. This is an area that Flutter takes very seriously, with our Betting Integrity team working closely with both sport’s governing and trade bodies, such as the IBIA, to ensure that we, and the markets we offer, uphold the very highest level of sporting integrity.

Christina Thakor-Rankin, Co-Founder, All-in Diversity, continued: “This study wants to be the beginning of a conversation with the betting industry on how it addresses women’s sports. By understanding what this new and rapidly evolving landscape looks like we put ourselves in the best possible position to keep customers, sports betting operators, athletes and sport safe for all.

Additionally, a key next step is to increase the data available and conduct further research and analysis on women’s sports and betting. This will help deepen the understanding of the match- fixing dynamics in women’s sports and will allow to develop approaches to sports integrity which are tailored to the particular circumstances of women’s sports.