Tennis Has ‘Serious Integrity Problem’ With Betting, Says Independent Review
Tennis has been played since the 16th century, when King Henry VIII used to play the sport of kings, then called royal tennis. The Grand Slam titles and the money associated with tennis, even at the lower levels of match play, haven’t been around as long, but many of the majors (Australian, French, and U.S. Opens, as well as Wimbledon) have existed for at least 100 years and have attracted millions of fans worldwide, as well as millions of dollars in winnings and sponsorships.
Now, a three-lawyer panel has published its findings of a review into gambling on tennis after a two-year period of study and investigation. Called the Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis, the lawyers found a “tsunami” of corruption with regard to tennis and sports betting, and found matches were thrown in order to get a payout even in the lower levels of tennis. The panel also found that while there was rampant match-fixing, the governing bodies of tennis were not involved in covering up the mess.
In their investigation, the lawyers conducted 200 interviews with stakeholders in the game, including coaches and members of the governing bodies. Panel members also surveyed more than 3,000 players. The report had 12 recommendations for the governing bodies of tennis to consider. The first recommendation was that the International Tennis Federation or ITF end a deal with a data firm in Switzerland that allowed the company live data rights to matches from the Davis Cup down to the lowest rung on the professional ladder, the Futures tournaments. The panel said the deal with Sportradar has only served to inject illegal gambling into matches because live data from tournament play can be used to bet on every aspect of tennis matches in real time. This makes it easy for players and coaches to be tempted to change match outcomes. The panel found this was particularly true with the lower levels of the sport, which are the most vulnerable to match-fixing because players and coaches struggle to make money.
The panel also noted in order to prevent any notion of collusion, the ITF should eliminate all sponsorships of tennis matches even the ones at the lower levels, for any company that represents betting, whether on land or electronically.
Lawyers who served on the panel said the Tennis Integrity Unit, which was specifically created by the ITF to investigate match-fixing and collusion, should be given oversight recognition by all of tennis’ governing bodies, including the ITF, ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals – men), and WTA (Women’s Tennis Association).
Several other recommendations made by the panel include:
- A greater transparency in the proceedings of the Tennis Integrity Association (TIA) and better cooperation with law enforcement. In addition, any law enforcement agency that cooperates with the TIA needs to understand the sport.
- Wider training about match-fixing and collusion for players, especially at the lower levels.
- Better security for players before, during, and after match play.
- Reform the pathway players take at the lower levels to the higher-level matches, where the prize money is the lowest,
The panel, in particular, focused on the youngest, most vulnerable players on the professional circuit. It noted in its research that the incentives for players to throw matches becomes less and less as players rise in the rankings. The panel also noted that the amount of match-fixing in the sport hurts the overall game of tennis because it may weaken the very records of match play that propels younger players higher in the tennis rankings, where both the prestige and the money are higher for tournament wins.
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