Review finds tennis a “fertile breeding ground” for corruption
The Independent Review Panel investigating corruption in tennis released its interim report at a press conference on Wednesday. The final report is expected later this year.
“Serious integrity problems” in the betting system and a “tsunami” of fixed matches in the lower levels are some of the concerns raised by the Independent Review Panel (IRP) that has spent the past two years looking into corruption in the sport of tennis.
The IRP was set up by tennis authorities in January 2016 and tasked with looking into allegations forwarded in a BBC/Buzzfeed investigation that tennis’ policing body, the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), had been suppressing match-fixing evidence. While the IRP found no direct evidence of such cover-ups, it states that “the current tennis environment provides a lamentably fertile breeding ground for breaches of integrity” and also states that some of the TIU’s shortcomings can be attributed to “insufficient oversight”.
The interim report, which is partly based on more than 1000 interviews with players, officials and other stakeholders, points to the lower levels of the sport as the most problematic in terms of corruption. Here, the report quotes one investigator, there is a “tsunami” of integrity breaches. Inadequate facilities and a lack of spectators can lead to under-performing or ‘tanking’ by the players and very few professional players can earn enough to break even, which leads players to an “invidious position” where they can more easily be tempted into corruption or match manipulation, the report says.
There is no ‘simple fix’ for tennis, but the report lists 12 recommendations that can help address the integrity breaches identified. The recommendations cover the imposing of restrictions on the sale of live scoring data, maintaining the number of matches available for betting and eliminating betting sponsorships from tennis tournaments to decrease opportunities for corruption.
The panel also proposes more resources to establish a more independent TIU, more preventive work through education as well as stricter integrity rules and tougher sanctions. Finally, the panel recommends that both national and international tennis bodies look to international cooperative possibilities such as the Macolin Convention to be able to deal more effectively with match-fixing.
The governing bodies of tennis were pleased to find that the report cleared them of the allegations.
“We are pleased with the Panel’s findings that they have seen no evidence of any institutional corruption or cover-up by the tennis authorities or the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU),” ,” said a statement from the governing bodies of tennis, the ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slam Board, after the release of the report.
“However, we also recognise that there are vulnerabilities, particularly at the lower levels of tennis. We are committed to seizing the opportunity to address these concerns through firm and decisive action.
The IRP will continue its work and deliver its final report later this year.