Sports

Tennis corruption interim report finds ‘lamentably fertile breeding ground for breaches of integrity’

Many of the proposed changes have been carried out in some form over the past two years, with tennis already pulling back from several major betting sponsorships.

The Australian Open has a deal with betting company William Hill and introduced courtside advertising at Melbourne Parks three major arenas for the 2016 tournament. But in the wake of the sports match fixing crisis, organisers stepped back from that arrangement the following year.

Then Tennis Australia president Steve Healy said at the time: "The arrangements that were struck with William Hill before this issue had such a high profile and so weve worked with our partners to address that."

Australian tennis has been closely affected by the scourge of corruption in the sports lower tiers. In one case, former Australian Open boys champion Oliver Anderson avoided conviction last year after pleading guilty to a match fixing offence in country Victoria.

Oliver Anderson avoided conviction after pleading guilty.

Photo: Eddie Jim

Oliver admitted to throwing the first set of a match at the ATP Traralgon Challenger tournament in October 2016. The offence was detected after bookmaker Crownbet reported suspicious betting activity to police.

Among numerous recommendations revealed in London, the task force said the International Tennis Federation should end its continuing data-rights deal with Swiss company Sportradar, at least as it concerns the lowest tiers of professional tennis.

The $70 million agreement, which was signed in 2015, involves ITF events ranging from the Davis Cup to Futures tournaments. The expansion of live data rights to those lowest, most vulnerable levels of competition has incubated corruption, the report said.

"The ITF did not appropriately assess the potential adverse effects of these agreements before entering into them."

The report cited a veteran investigator for the Tennis Integrity Unit who estimated that "hundreds of matches at Futures level (both singles and doubles) are not being played fairly, with the numbers reducing as you move upwards through the ranks of the professional game."

"Discontinuing the sale of official data at these lowest levels of tennis is a necessary, pragmatic and effective approach to containing betting-related breaches of integrity," the report said.

But the panel did not recommend restricting data at the next tier of mens events, the ATP Challenger Tour, where the rate of suspicious match reports is more than twice what it is at the Futures level. Data rights on that tour are owned by IMG.

The report said the TIU, which was established in 2008 to investigate betting-related corruption, should be reorganised to give it independent oversight, away from the sports governing bodies – the ATP, the WTA, the ITF and the four grand slam tournaments.

"The panel has not in that investigation discovered any evidence establishing a cover-up of breaches of integrity by the international governing bodies, by the TIU or by anyone else in relation to these matters," Lewis said.

"However, the panel has discovered what it considers to be errors made and opportunities missed by tennis in relation to these matters."

With New York Times, Agencies

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Scott Spits

Began his full-time career at The Age as an online sports reporter in 1999 before joining Sportal as the Deputy Editor of the AFL-Telstra online network in 2002. Rejoined the online desk at The Age in 2006 and was online sports editor between 2006 and 2016. Has covered two Olympics (Sydney 2000 and London 2012), numerous Australian Open tennis tournaments and several AFL grand finals. Reads the back page first. Hack golfer. Wannabe tennis star.

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