Tennis Engulfed by ‘Tsunami’ of Corruption, Says $28 Million Independent Review

Posted on: April 25, 2018, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: April 25, 2018, 04:28h.

Tennis has a “serious integrity problem,” according to the findings of an independent task force, set up in 2016 to investigate tennis’ serious integrity problem.

tennis match-fixing
Are match-fixers calling the shots at tennis’ lower levels? The new report on integrity in tennis believes so and, surprisingly, it lays the blame with sports integrity firm Sportsradar. (Image)

The Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis, which has taken 27 months to complete at a cost of nearly £20 million ($28 million), was launched in the wake of the ugly headlines of January 2016 when documents passed to the BBC and Buzzfeed News indicated match-fixing was rife at the highest levels of the game.

The documents, leaked to the media by whistleblowers, alleged sixteen players, all of whom had been ranked in the top 50 in the world, were strongly suspected of throwing matches. Tennis authorities were said to be aware of the allegations but had failed to investigate, prompting claims of a cover up.

Backhanders in Futures Circuit

The new report found little evidence that corruption was a “widespread problem” in the upper echelons of the game or that tennis authorities were guilty of suppressing integrity investigations. But it did find that “integrity issues have not reached a significant level at Grand Slam events, ATP or WTA Tour events, WTA $125k events, or ITF women’s $60k and $100k events.”

It also found that tennis was “responsible for more suspicious betting than any other sport.” Of 3,200 players polled from all levels of professional tennis, 464, or 14.5 percent, said they had first-hand knowledge of match-fixing.

However, most of the corruption exists at the lower levels of the game because of the poor prize money on offer, the report concluded. It noted that of players it spoke to in the Futures circuits, only 336 men and 253 women were able to break even from playing the game, before accounting and coaching costs, making them vulnerable to match-fixing.

Sportsradar Accused, Responds Angrily

It also pointed the finger in an unlikely direction – at sports data and integrity firm Sportsradar, which provides global sporting bodies such as FIFA and UEFA with solutions to fight match-fixing and corruption.

The report claims the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) 2012 deal with Sportradar, which introduced the distribution of live scores from smaller tournaments, had a serious impact on the integrity of the game because it allowed bookmakers to offer odds on low level matches.

“The panel has seen little empirical evidence that betting was widespread on the lowest levels of ITF tournaments before the deal in 2012,” it noted.

Sportradar on Thursday called the findings “unrealistic and potentially unlawful.”

“Prohibition simply doesn’t work,” said the firm in an official statement. “Prohibiting data partnerships will not stop betting, live or otherwise, on these matches nor will it remove corruption risk at this level. Pre-match betting will remain available and the risk of data fraud and ghost matches will increase. This will almost certainly encourage black-market activity.”