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Sportradar denies it violated Ukrainian FA’s betting and data rights

Dynamo Kyiv play FC Zorya Luhansk in a recent Ukrainian Premier League Match. (Photo by Dmytro Smolyenko/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

A war of words has broken out between the Ukrainian Association of Football (UAF) and betting and data services company Sportradar after the national football federation accused the company of violating its betting and data rights.

The UAF’s ethics and fair play committee wrote to three data companies – Sportradar, Genius Sports and Stats Perform – on 20 February this year, asking them to refrain from collecting data at Ukrainian Premier League matches, including U-21 and U-19 competitions.

The UAF did not have an official data collection and distribution partner at the time but went on to sign an exclusive deal with FeedConstruct on May 29, covering the Ukrainian Premier League and Ukrainian Cup.

Following this deal, the federation then sent two further letters, dated 15 June and 18 June, singling Sportradar out for criticism and accusing the company of violating its betting rights by sending data scouts to collect data at UAF matches.

In the first, the UAF wrote: “During such monitoring and visits to venues, the Committee many times established violations of the UAF’s betting rights by your company.

“One of the recent violations the Committee established were collection and supply of betting data from matches of [the] Volodymyr Yashnik Memorial Tournament in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine.

“The Committee established that some of the matches were offered by Italian bookmaker SNAI. According to [the] SNAI website, data of three matches of such tournament was supplied by Sportradar.”

The UAF wrote a further letter three days later, copying Fifa’s Integrity Unit into the message and complaining that it had not received any response from Sportradar.

The second letter said: “Taking account of the fact that your company does not reply to our emails on such matters and continues sending scouts to Ukrainian football matches, we consider such behaviour as a hostile act and inform you that [we] reserve a right to institute proceedings against your company.”

An article appeared on iGaming Business the following day, revealing details of the UAF’s letter, but SportBusiness understands this was removed after Sportradar contacted the publication.

The data company is also understood to have now written to the UAF expressing its concerns about the leaking of confidential business communications.

SportBusiness understands the company goes on in the letter to accuse the federation of a coordinated attempt to discredit Sportradar in the media and speculates about its motives for doing so. It also claims Sportradar’s competitors in the data supply chain conduct coverage of Ukrainian football in a similar way.

The data services company has pointed out that it previously had a data rights partnership with the Ukrainian Premier League from 2014 to 2019. The deal included the rights to collect and distribute data for media and betting purposes for the Ukrainian Premier League, U21/U19 Championship, the Ukrainian Cup, Super Cup as well as Second League and Third League. It also provided the match centre and media for the official UPL website as part of the partnership.

The company claims that the rights situation in Ukrainian football has subsequently changed, complaining in the letter that it has become a challenge to understand which organisations within the country are responsible for rights management.

David Lampitt, Sportradar’s managing director, Sports Partnerships, told SportBusiness: “We’re unclear as to why UAF has singled out Sportradar when other competitors in the data supply market are also collecting data and covering Ukrainian football.

“Prior to this year, Sportradar was the only data supplier investing in an official data partnership in Ukraine through our deal with the UPL that had been running since 2014.

“Since this cooperation expired last year, we have been in regular contact with the UPL to prolong our commercial agreement for Ukrainian football competitions. After being notified of the appointment of FeedConstruct as data partner for the UAF/UPL three weeks ago, we have also actively engaged with them to acquire a sub-licence.”

The company has told this publication that since the UAF announced its exclusive deal with FeedConstruct it has only gathered match data for relevant UAF matches from a media feed.

But to confuse the picture, Sportradar is understood to have finished its letter to the UAF by questioning the federation’s right to prevent unauthorised scouts from collecting data at its matches anyway, claiming that there are no intellectual property rights over live sports data under European competition law.

The argument has echoes of Sportradar’s ongoing dispute with Football Data Company, the data rights-holder for the English Premier League, English Football League and Scottish Football League.

In March, Sportradar served legal proceedings against FDC claiming that the five-year deal it signed with Genius Sports in May last year is anti-competitive.

Under the deal FDC and Genius have taken a zero-tolerance approach to ‘unofficial’ data scouts, evicting any other supplier suspected of gathering data at games. The deal also placed the authority to sublicense the data rights to other data suppliers in BetGenius’ hands and requires all bookmaker clients in the downstream market have an ‘over-license’ to use the official Genius data, curtailing their ability to access data from other sources.

But Sportradar has argued for some time that this approach, coupled with the licensing structure, places BetGenius in a ‘super dominant’ position and enables it to foreclose the market to its competitors.

Read this: Can data be classed as IP? Sportradar and Genius want to find out