Interim independent review of integrity in Tennis find “tsunami” of betting-related integrity issues in lower level tennis
At the lower levels of the sport, tennis faces a “tsunami” of betting and other integrity breaches according to an interim independent review of integrity in Tennis released in April this year.
The report, which addresses integrity issues facing the sport, provides a damning insight into the scope and seriousness of betting-related integrity issues in professional tennis today. The investigation, which was established after shock allegations of corruption dominated the 2016 Australian Open, made a welcome finding that there were no widespread systemic issues at the higher levels of professional tennis, namely at grand slam level or on the ATP and WTA tours. Despite the opportune timing of such a finding, with Wimbledon kicking off in July 2018, the issues at lower-level tournaments risk exposing the integrity of the sport as a whole.
A key issue set out in the report which is said to exacerbate the problem is the emergence of online betting and the sale of official live scoring data. These contracts make tens of thousands of matches available for betting which “creates greater opportunities for players and officials to bet or act corruptly.” In an effort to stamp out such corruption, the report recommended that the International Tennis Federation (“ITF”) end its data-rights deal with Swiss company ‘Sportradar’ worth $70 million over a five-year period, at least, as it relates to the lowest tiers of professional tennis.
Whilst deals such as these are considerably lucrative for the sport, they also open up the available markets for betting within professional tennis. The report asserted that the lucrative nature of the data sales should not be used to justify the continued practice, stating, “the resolution of significant integrity concerns cannot be driven by the question of financial return — even when much of it is redistributed to the sport.”
These lucrative incentives are particularly appealing to lower-level tournaments. As the report notes, players who regularly compete at lower levels are unable to recoup their costs from tournament winnings, much less earn a living wage. Match-fixing is much more common at these levels for this reason.
Notably, the TIU has investigated a number of ITF Futures players in 2018, finding them guilty of corruption charges under Section D of the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program. Offenses under this provision include match-fixing, facilitating betting, providing insider information and failing to report corrupt approaches to the TIU. In some instances, players approached other players and offered payment in return for agreeing to lose nominated sets and games. The result of this is that if the approached player does not disclose the approach to the TIU, both players are liable to sanctions, even if the approached player did not agree to the approach.
Punishments in these instances can include the issuing of lifetime bans, and carry significant fines.
Upon release of the interim report, the governing bodies of tennis, including the ATP and WTA Tours, the International Tennis Federation and the four grand slam tournaments including Tennis Australia Chair Jayne Hrdlicka, confirmed their agreement with the package of measures and recommendations proposed by the report and advised that they required time to consult and respond to the recommendations after detailed “exploration and analysis” whilst continuing to “implement existing initiatives to enhance and expand tennis’s governance of the sport in relation to betting-related integrity”.
As the report concludes, these changes are “necessary, pragmatic and effective approaches to containing betting-related breaches of integrity”.
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