Match-Fixing Mars Semi-Pro TennisJake Cooper | 30 Apr 2018
A shocking new report by the Independent Review Panel (IRP) has revealed that match-fixing has become a scourge on lower-level international tennis. According to the report, corruption is on the rise in the sport’s lower and middle levels and men’s tennis in particular.
After two years of research and the consultation of over 100 players, the IRP published its findings in response to a 2016 report by Buzzfeed News, in partnership with the BBC. The 2016 report identified widespread suspected illegal betting in the sport.
The recommendations offered by the IRP based on its findings pertain largely to the structure of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) as well as the practice of betting sponsorships for tennis at this level.
According to the IRP report, a match-fixing season is suspected to have operated from last October to the end of 2017. It is believed that, during this time, as many as three fixed matches took place per day at ITF events.
Meanwhile, international non-profit betting integrity watchdog, ESSA revealed that it received 160 reports of suspicious betting on tennis matches in 2017, accounting for a staggering 70% of reports on all sports last year.
Whilst the IRP said that it did not believe that corruption was a widespread problem in top-level tennis, including Grand Slam tournaments, there was also evidence of some issues at this level. It also criticised the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) for failing to conduct adequate investigations into illicit betting activity in Grand Slam tennis. The panel accused the ATP of not exhausting potential leads before ceasing investigations.
The IRP’s Recommendations
According to the Independent Review Panel, the problems of illicit betting and match-fixing are severe enough to justify extreme countermeasures. Most importantly, the IRP has recommended the termination of all ITF sponsorship deals with betting operators. The panel has also advised that the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) requires urgent reorganisation and reformation.
Speaking on behalf of the betting industry at large, ESSA said that it welcomed the findings of the Independent Review Panel and appreciated the extensive recommendations contained in its report.
ESSA (a non-profit organisation involved in supporting its members’ compliance with KYC, anti-money-laundering, and regulatory requirements) said it would now begin to consider the report in greater detail.
The firm stressed that the document in question is an interim report, which facilitates further consultation and discussion. ESSA said that the IRP’s findings pertained to various areas, including betting sponsorship, the sale of event data, and betting availability.
The company further revealed that its members’ close work with the TIU has yielded several positive investigative developments and sanctions. The parties intend to continue to work together to eradicate corruption in tennis.