As high-speed data becomes a larger part of the global sports betting industry, the companies that provide it are growing increasingly litigious to protect their commercial rights.
IMG Arena, the gambling data arm of Endeavor (NYSE: EDR), filed a suit in the U.K. last week against Stats Perform, alleging that the competitor is unlawfully dispatching scouts to collect data at soccer games across Europe where IMG Arena has exclusive rights. The claim, filed in High Court of the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales on March 22, cites at least $1.6 million in demanded damages, according to a copy obtained by Sportico.
IMG Arena has a partnership with the European Leagues, a collection of soccer organizations in 19 different countries, including the top professional leagues in Portugal, Denmark and the Netherlands. Stats Perform bid on the contract alongside IMG Arena back in 2021, according to the suit, but IMG Arena won the business in an exclusive deal signed in Feb. 2022. Stats Perform, the suit alleges, is now sending data scouts to games to build a competitive data product.
“Stats Perform are fully aware that they are infringing our rights and our exclusivity, and this is undermining the value of rights holders’ data rights and IP,” IMG Arena president Freddie Longe said in an interview. “This is an industry-wide issue that needs to be more broadly addressed. We believe that rights holders should not only be taking a more active role in protecting the value of these rights, but also refuse to work with companies who companies continuing to engage in these unscrupulous practices.”
Representatives for the European Leagues and Stats Perform, which is owned by Vista Equity Partners, declined to comment.
It’s the latest legal battle over high-speed sports data. Companies like IMG Arena and Stats Perform often pay leagues to collect the data, then sell it downstream to betting operators and media companies. Two years ago Genius Sports (NYSE: GENI) and Sportradar (Nasdaq: SRAD), were locked in a similar legal battle over the use of data scouts, a dispute that settled last year.
The legal battles come as the value of sports data skyrockets, particularly because of their value for powering in-game betting, which represents the majority of wagers in many legal gambling markets. It’s not uncommon for companies to ink nine-figure deals with leagues across the world, which gives them front-line access to the fastest and most reliable feeds.
IMG has made two claims: inducing and/or procuring a breach of contract and unlawful means conspiracy. The breach of contract claim is predicated on that deal signed last year, wherein IMG agreed to pay for an exclusive license to enter stadia to collect and collate real-time statistical data, termed “fast betting data.” The contract also contemplates IMG supplying that data to licensed bookmakers, sports betting operators and others that fall under a contractual category termed “betting customers.” The agreement runs from 2022 to 2027.
IMG argues that Stats Perform, by allegedly engaging in data scouting, has caused a breach in the exclusive license. Rights contained in the license are also said to be captured in ground regulations and ticket conditions. IMG further insists that Stats Perform is part of an illegal conspiracy with its “unauthorized and unofficial scouts” whom IMG accuses of attempting to conceal their conduct from IMG Data. The lawsuit describes purported evidence from matches in five countries, including Germany, Austria and Greece.
While some of the world’s biggest sports leagues use computer vision to instantaneously collect official data, the European Leagues are largely lower-tech, meaning the official IMG Arena feed relies on authorized scouts of their own. In those higher-profile leagues, competitors often create data feeds off of open-source information, like a video feed, but for many smaller leagues, those feeds don’t exist. As a result, often the only way to build a data feed with any speed is via scouts who attend in person.
That was a critical part of the legal battle between Genius Sports and Sportradar over the last few years. Genius alleged that Sportradar was unlawfully sending scouts to U.K. soccer events where live broadcasts were less reliable. That litigation was settled last year, with Sportradar agreeing to refrain from in-stadium scouting, and securing a sublicense from Genius Sports.
Longe said in an interview that IMG Arena has evidence of other companies sending data scouts to European Leagues matches, but he declined to name them. Though use of scouts is a common practice—at sporting events in the U.S. and abroad—he said that IMG Arena doesn’t deploy them in leagues where a competitor has an exclusive deal.
“If we lose an RFP process fair and square, we would never ever engage in the practice of sending scouts within stadiums,” he said. “We never have and never will.”
IMG Arena demands at least $1.6 million in damages. This figure is based on what IMG expects betting operators would have paid in fees for fast betting data had Stats Perform not (allegedly) provided unofficial data to those operators. IMG also wants compensation for “ongoing costs of investigating Stats Perform’s wrongful conduct” and additional damages if Stats Perform “has profited from their wrongful conduct in excess of the compensation that would be payable to IMG Data.” Further, IMG seeks a permanent injunction that would block Stats Perform from continuing to engage in data collection acts IMG contends are unlawful.
IMG’s claim reflects the company’s portrayal of facts. Stats Perform will have an opportunity to rebut the claims and offer its own set of facts and arguments.
The case falls under English law. In the U.S., an analogous set of arguments would face more difficulty given First Amendment protections for data as being in the public domain.