It is a metric at the heart of football’s fiercest culture war, pitting traditionalists against stat-savvy data experts. But expected goals (xG) – along with other analytics such as passes allowed per defensive action – has become a vital new weapon in the fight against match-fixing, the Guardian can reveal. The Guardian has learned that there are more than 30 cases in over half a dozen countries where football analytics is being used in the package of supporting evidence – alongside suspicious betting patterns and intelligence – to bring those involved to justice.
In one major case, two teams are suspected of “trading” the results of their league and cup games, so that one club was saved from relegation and the other qualified for Europe. Although there were no unusual betting patterns, the authorities believed a fix was at play and went to experts at Stats Perform, which used its Opta data to identify several red flags. The matter is with the sport’s governing body and the police force in that country.