If you are attending a Premier League or EFL game in the coming weeks, you might be well served to keep your texting until half-time or, safer still, don’t bother at all.
It seems as if the vultures are circling, with clubs appointing undercover security in a attempt to prevent courtsiding: the practice of betting in-play as the action unfolds in front of you.
It was a new tactic that Hull City fan Daniel Mawer fell victim to in the Tigers’ 2-1 win over Reading at the KCOM Stadium on Saturday.
The 28-year-old was innocently texting his girlfriend and his mum during the first half of the contest, with subjects as controversial as Hull frontman Tom Eaves’ haircut on the agenda.
Little did he know, Mawer was being watched from afar; not by stewards, but a plain clothed member of ‘security’ tasked with spotting fans who are using their smartphones for nefarious means.
Here’s Daniel himself to take up the story.
“At half time a man in casual gear followed by a steward, came up to me and said ‘tell me what this says’ holding a badge up that said security. I said (spoiler alert) ‘…security?” he tweeted @skintnortherner.
“He then explained he’d been watching me text throughout the first half, he asked what I’d been texting (in a not so friendly manner).
“My Dad explained we text friends the score. The man said if we continued to do so we’d be ejected from the ground. When we asked why, he said there’s trouble with people notifying betting companies/or gamblers of events at a match so they could cash out/make a bet void.”
In the end, the misunderstanding was sorted out and Mawer and his fellow Hull fans were able to watch the second half in piece.
It transpires that the scenario played out as Superstadium Management and Comsec, the security firms of Hull City and the Football Data Co respectively, were scouting for those engaging in courtsiding, which is yet to be made illegal in the UK.
Where Does Courtsiding Occur?
While not as common on these shores due to the time delay that betting sites and apps have, courtsiding is a particular problem on the lower-status tennis tours, where punters are betting in-play on various markets ahead of the bookmakers’ synchronisation.
A recent BBC documentary, Can You Beat the Bookies?, was dedicated to both legitimate and immoral or illegal activities that some punters are engaging in to get an edge.
One of those sections featured a courtsider, a former Racing Post employee no less, who was fairly ambivalent to the questionable morality of his actions.
In 2014 the first arrest was made in connection with courtsiding. That was Dan Dobson, a 22-year-old Brit who was employed by Sporting Data Ltd to relay live action from the Australian Open tennis back to his bosses on London.
“You would sit on court for as long as you were needed pressing the buttons, which were sewn into my trousers and relay the scores back to London. You’d press one for Djokovic, two for Murray, for example, as fast as you could,” was his explanation of his role in the proceedings.
Dobson was arrested at the end of the day, and the implication was that he would be charged with match fixing, e.g. security had assumed he was involved in altering the outcome of the contest he was watching.
After a satisfactory explanation, he was freed without charge.
It should be said that courtsiding isn’t an illegal offence, although it does breach the terms of your ‘contract’ when buying a matchday ticket.
So football fans: you have nothing to fear. But just be careful who and what you are texting inside the stadium….