Tennis World Rocked by Match-Fixing Cover-up Allegations
Posted on: January 19, 2016, 01:35h.
Last updated on: January 19, 2016, 01:37h.
The tennis universe is reeling from allegations that 16 top-level players have been strongly suspected of throwing matches over the past ten years, while authorities failed to act.
Documents passed to the UK’s BBC television network and Buzzfeed News by anonymous whistleblowers within the sport report that the 16 players in question have all ranked in the top 50 in the world, and that among them are Grand Slam title winners.
Neither the BBC nor Buzfeed have revealed any of the players’ names at this juncture.
The pros in question had reportedly been repeatedly flagged to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TUI), but were free to continue their careers with impunity, a revelation this week that led to cries of a cover-up at the highest level.
Eight of the names mentioned in the document are due to take the court for the Australian Open, which began Monday in Melbourne.
The British broadcaster said over the weekend that the documents provide details of an investigation that began in 2007 to examine relationships between gambling syndicates and professional players.
The probe found that betting syndicates in Russia, northern Italy, and Sicily had made hundreds of thousands of dollars betting on games that investigators suspected were corrupt.
Three of these matches, said the BBC, were at the Wimbledon Championships.
Twenty-eight players in all were reported to tennis authorities for suspected involvement, but no action was taken.
The BBC contacted one of the investigators, Mark Phillips, who said that the evidence was as “powerful as he had ever seen.
“There was a core of about 10 players who we believed were the most common perpetrators that were at the root of the problem,” he explained. “The evidence was really strong. There appeared to be a really good chance to nip it in the bud and get a strong deterrent out there to root out the main bad apples.”
William Hill Sponsorship Criticized
At the Australian Open, a prominent billboard for bookmaker William Hill (the official betting partner of the tournament) came in for a barrage of criticism in the wake of the allegations, with calls for tennis to end its ties with bookmakers.
But William Hill’s Group Director of Security and Community Bill South said that regulated bookmakers were not to blame for match-fixing scandals.
“Close partnerships between regulated and licensed betting operators like William Hill and sporting bodies are part of the solution to integrity issues, not part of the problem,” South said in an official statement.
“We have comprehensive information sharing agreements to inform the sport’s integrity bodies, and for the sport to promote licensed operators is key to ensuring transparency,” he added.
While Roger Federer called the match-fixing allegations “far-fetched” today, Novak Djokovic spoke candidly to reporters about being offered $200,000 to fix a match in St. Petersburg ten years ago.
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