‘Tsunami’ of match-fixing in lower-level tennis, says report
A “tsunami” of match-fixing is plaguing lower-level tennis events, according to a new report from the Independent Review Panel (IRP).
Set up in response to a 2016 report by the BBC and BuzzFeed News that found suspected illegal betting in the sport, the IRP study was carried out over a period of two years and included more than 100 players.
The report found corruption at “lower and middle levels of the sport”, with the men’s game a particular concern.
There was also “some evidence of some issues” at higher levels of the game, such as at Grand Slam contests, but the IRP did not believe this to be a “widespread problem” in elite tennis.
The IRP also dismissed any possibility of a cover-up by tennis governing bodies or the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU).
One of the key outcomes was a proposal for the International Tennis Federation (ITF) consider terminating all sponsorship deals with betting companies and for the Tennis Integrity Unit to be both reorganised and reformed.
Other findings included a suspected “match-fixing season” running from October to the end of the year, with as many as two or three fixed matches per day in ITF events during this period.
Elsewhere, the IRP hit out at investigations at Grand Slam events, saying these were “insufficient”, while also criticising the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the global governing body for the men’s game, for “failing to exhaust potential leads before ending investigations”.
Last year, industry integrity body ESSA said it received 160 reports of suspicious betting across tennis, making the sport responsible for around 70% of reports for all of 2017.
Responding to the report, ESSA said: “ESSA welcomes the publication of the Review Panel’s interim report and the extensive recommendations contained within it.
“These relate to multiple areas including the availability of betting on tennis events, betting sponsorship of those events and the sale of event data to betting operators.
“ESSA will now begin to consider the detail of the interim report and to consult with our members, which represent many of the largest regulated betting operators, to determine how best to respond to the report’s initial findings and recommendations. It is important to highlight that this is an interim report, which opens a further period of discussion and consultation.
“ESSA and its members have been working closely with the TIU to address potential betting related match-fixing throughout this process and are committed to working with them to tackle corruption.
“This has delivered a number of positive investigative actions and sanctions and we will continue to work in partnership with the tennis authorities.”
Related article: ESSA reports 266 suspicious betting cases in 2017