New study highlights growth in women’s sports while raising integrity concerns

The International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA), All-In Diversity Project (AIDP), Entain, Flutter, and Stats Perform have jointly launched a study highlighting the dramatic growth and calling for a proactive approach to mitigate match-fixing risk in women’s sports. Titled “Breaking Barriers: Assessing Women’s Sports, Betting, and Integrity Challenges,” the report was presented within the framework of the iGB L!VE expo in Amsterdam.

The study, conducted by the German Sport University Cologne, focuses on the economic development of women’s sports and their potential vulnerability to match-fixing. Khalid Ali, CEO of IBIA, emphasized the need for vigilance regarding sports integrity in the rapidly growing industry

“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,” Ali said. “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 examines five women’s sports—soccer, tennis, basketball, cricket, and volleyball—and analyzes the economic development of each, along with the characteristics of the women’s sports betting market. The research reveals that the significant growth in women’s sports has been accompanied by a similar rise in betting on women’s sports.

Soccer leads the way, with an annual sports betting market growth rate of around 20% since 2020, followed by tennis, basketball, and cricket, each experiencing growth rates of over 10% from 2017 to 2022.

Furthermore, the study explores the characteristics of female bettors. It found that 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%.

Notably, the total number of women betting on women’s soccer has more than doubled. The volume of bets placed on women’s sports has seen greater growth among women than men, indicating untapped opportunities in this market segment.

Grainne Hurst, Group Director of Corporate Affairs at Entain, expressed the company’s commitment to promoting fairness and integrity in all sports competitions at the study’s presentation. “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,” she stated.

For his part, Alex Rice, Chief Commercial Officer at Stats Perform, highlighted that understanding women’s sports fans is “key” to growing the fan, commercial and on-field potential of women’s sports, which is why the company was proud to have helped with the research.

The study acknowledges that corruption does exist in women’s sports, but highlights that it is significantly lower compared to men’s sports. However, it stresses the importance of proactive measures to prevent match-fixing.

Recommendations against match-fixing include strengthening monitoring and cooperation between sports governing bodies, betting operators, and law enforcement agencies.

Additionally, targeted education and communication programs are recommended to raise awareness among athletes, coaches, and support staff about the risks of corruption and match-fixing.

Cricket was among the sports studied in the report

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.”

Ian Devlin, Sports Integrity Manager at Flutter, added: “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 growth has created a higher demand for the company 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.

Moving forward, increasing available data and conducting further research will be crucial in understanding match-fixing dynamics in women’s sports and developing tailored approaches to safeguard sports integrity in this sector.