By Sachin Narayanan*
A long-running lawsuit before the United Kingdom Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) about sports betting data ownership was settled on October 11th, 2022, with Football DataCo (FDC) and Genius Sports (Betgenius) coming to a confidential settlement agreement with Sportradar AG (Sportradar). Sportradar is a European sports technology company specializing in sports data & betting (Sportradar, 2023) that competes with Betgenius, who is partnered with FDC, the sporting organization that “represents the rights” of professional football league data in England and Scotland (Football DataCo, 2023). As the Claimant, Sportradar questioned the agreement between FDC and Betgenius and alleged that the two monopolized data collection and dissemination across the Premier League, the English Football League (EFL) and the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL). The underlying issues in the case are particularly relevant in the burgeoning U.S. sports betting market.
With technological advancements in the sport industry, the word “data” has often been thrown around in different contexts as an umbrella term for various types of information. It fundamentally revolves around one main aspect of the game, i.e., the players. Data is actively collected from and about the players both during the game and off the field. This is then used by various entities for different outcomes like marketing, coaching, and betting. With such a complicated network, the question arises as to who should claim ownership of the collected data, who gets to share it and who all get to use it for their own purposes. In this case, the initial lawsuit was filed by Sportradar on February 28, 2020 questioning the nature of the agreement between the Defendants, which involved FDC issuing a “Request for Proposals” for four data-collection and supply positions, one “official” and three “accredited” providers. These FDC-approved providers would be able to use their own ways to legally collect live in-game data from the stadia for three fixed years, after which there would be a new call for proposals. However, Sportradar claimed that FDC later changed the criteria for provider selection by removing the three accredited provider positions and altering the time-period to a “minimum” instead of a fixed term. Therefore, when Betgenius was offered to become the “official” provider, they had complete control over the live in-game data, which is often considered the gold-standard of sports data, making it extremely difficult for competitors like Sportradar to obtain similar data for commercial purposes, directly affecting their business.
This initial lawsuit to the CAT prompted the Defendants to file counterclaims against Sportradar, seeking to establish that their agreement with Betgenius does not violate any antitrust laws. Further, the Defendants stated that the reason Sportradar was unable to legally collect in-game data from stadia was due to ground regulations and ticketing conditions that were independent of the agreement between the two Defendants. FDC’s counterclaim targeted Sportradar for using in-stadia scouts to collect data, which allegedly violated the Defendant’s intellectual property rights. Further, they asserted that the connection between the claim and the counterclaim would prevent the CAT from preceding over this case as they look purely at competition-related issues. The Defendants appealed to move this case to the High Court (Sportradar AG and Another v Football DataCo Limited and Others, 2020). The President of CAT rejected the Defendant’s application to move but did approve of a High Court judge to chair this case within the Tribunal (Nixon, 2020). The final settlement between all parties involved FDC retaining their decision-making authority on who gets to collect, license and market live in-game data, and Betgenius (Genius Sports) retaining their “official” rights until 2024. Sportradar and similar companies were barred from using in-stadia scouts to collect live data (Faulkner, 2022).
The ownership of data that these companies collect, and share is often key in determining various aspects of their operation such as the betting lines and odds. Live in-game data that is collected as plays are made constantly influence the machine learning algorithms of the betting companies, ultimately giving them the edge over millions of fans trying to “beat the system”. With the legalization of sports betting in numerous states in the U.S., there has been an explosive emergence of new sportsbooks almost every day. For example, Sportradar is a key player in the U.S. too, partnering with betting company FanDuel to be the “exclusive worldwide provider” of betting data for the NBA, WNBA and the NBA G League from the 2023-24 season all the way to the 2030-31 season (Cascon, 2022).
On the other hand, Genius Sports recently obtained “exclusive distribution rights” for NFL data, who were previously partnered with Sportradar (Bearman, 2021). Therefore, UK lawsuits like Sportradar v. Football DataCo could act as test cases for potentially similar lawsuits in the U.S. that challenge “official” data ownership rights, possibly even involving the same groups of companies. Indeed, balancing antitrust laws and ownership claims makes collecting and monetizing in-game data a critical issue.
Bearman, D. (2021, April 2). Genius Sports tapped as NFL’s exclusive distributor of data to Sportsbooks. ESPN. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from https://www.espn.com/chalk/story/_/id/31180158/genius-sports-tapped-nfl-exclusive-distributor-data-sportsbooks
Cascon, M. (2022, October 26). Industry leaders sportradar and FanDuel sign long-term agreement for official NBA data through 2030-31 season. Sportradar. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from https://sportradar.com/industry-leaders-sportradar-and-fanduel-sign-long-term-agreement-for-official-nba-data-through-2030-31-season/?lang=en-us#:~:text=Sportradar’s%20data%20rights%20partnership%20with,through%20the%202030%2D31%20season.
Faulkner, J. (2022, October 14). Betting cos.. Settle Soccer Ip dispute midtrial. Law360. Retrieved January 25, 2023, from https://www.law360.com/articles/1539641/betting-cos-settle-soccer-ip-dispute-midtrial
Football DataCo. (2023). Football dataco – what we do. Football DataCo – What We Do. Retrieved January 25, 2023, from https://www.football-dataco.com/what-we-do
Nixon, A. (2020, December 16). Why the competition appeal tribunal refused football dataco’s application to transfer Sportradar’s claim to the High Court. LawInSport. Retrieved January 25, 2023, from https://www.lawinsport.com/topics/item/why-the-competition-appeal-tribunal-refused-football-dataco-s-application-to-transfer-sportradar-s-claim-to-the-high-court
Sportradar. (2022, December 9). About Us. Sportradar. Retrieved January 25, 2023, from https://sportradar.com/about/?lang=en-us
Sportradar AG and Another v Football DataCo Limited and Others, Case No.: 1342/5/7/20 (2020), https://www.catribunal.org.uk/cases/13425720-sportradar-ag-and-another
* Sachin Narayanan is a doctoral student at Florida State University.