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Sportradar slams tennis report’s ‘data black-out’ proposal

| By iGB Editorial Team
Data provider is a partner of the International Tennis Federation

Sportradar has warned tennis’ administrators that they would stake the reputation of the sport on a “guess” if they were to adopt all of the recommendations published by the Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis report, including the controversial proposal to introduce a “total data black-out”.

The report, which was published in April after being co-authored by three legal experts, produced a series of recommendations for tennis’ governing bodies, including the International Tennis Federation (ITF), with whom Sportradar has an ongoing partnership. It was commissioned soon after an expose by BBC and Buzzfeed in early 2016 suggested the Tennis Integrity Unit failed to rigorously investigate possible match-fixing among dozens of players.

The members of the panel were appointed by the ITF, as well as the Grand Slam Board, which oversees the sport’s four Grand Slam tournaments, and the men’s ATP World Tour and Women’s Tennis Association.

Sportradar said that whilst it agreed with the majority of the report’s recommendations, the “discontinuance of data sales… would not only fail in practice, but would cause further risk to the integrity of the game, with potentially irreversible consequences”.

Sportradar managing director of group operations, David Lampitt, said: “Attempting a total data black-out on a sport has never been done, or even trialled or tested before.

“Counter evidence and expert analysis indicate that such an approach is likely to have a harmful effect on integrity, which would be hard to reverse if unsuccessful.

“So, the panel is staking its reputation, and that of the sport, on an uncertain ‘guess’, when there is good evidence that a different approach and an incremental process of implementing enhanced and targeted measures would be more likely to deliver successful outcomes and integrity benefits.”

Lampitt, who warned that such an approach would “push the betting market underground where the integrity issues would be out of sight”, also questioned the findings with regard to sections of the report.

“It’s important to point out that the relative risk that the Review attributes to the different levels of tennis is also misleading,” he added. “In 2017, and consistently over the last four years, ITF tennis has, in fact, had the lowest risk of corruption across all the levels of the professional game, including the Grand Slams.

“Of course, integrity risks exist across all levels. But they are most prevalent at the mid-level of the men’s game, so the rationale for applying the most draconian measures to the ITF men’s and women’s competitions and recommending relatively modest changes at the other levels doesn’t tally with the evidence.”

Sportradar has made six recommendations in response to the report:

1.        Implement a proactive tennis-wide approach to restricting data distribution, targeting specific matches with an elevated risk of corrupt activity based on a consistent and analysis-led evaluation;

2.        Create a new body made up of representatives from tennis, betting operators and sports data companies to ensure a more concerted and collective approach to fighting corruption in tennis;

3.        Increase AV streaming coverage, where possible, to help provide reliable evidence;

4.        Create new regulations to enable quicker sanctioning based on betting data and expert player analysis;

5.        Bring in targeted measures to deal with online abuse of players, especially at lower levels, enabling players to escalate concerns;

6.        Use technology to target risks, streamline processes, maximise impact and enhance intelligence-led enforcement action.

Sportradar extended its partnership with the ITF in March. Under the renewed deal, the ITF now has access to Sportradar’s Integrity Services offering, with Sportradar using its Fraud Detection System to monitor and analyse betting patterns across more than 50,000 ITF Pro Circuit tennis matches.

In April, the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) reported a year-on-year rise in the number of suspicious betting alerts during the first quarter of 2018.

For the three months to March 31, the TIU received a total of 38 match alerts via Memorandum of Understandings with various gambling regulators and betting organisations. This represented an increase on the 30 alerts received in the first quarter of last year, but a drop on the 48 recorded in the opening three months of 2016.

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