Authorities in the tennis world are looking to bring in a ban on gambling sponsorships in the sport. Official tennis bodies have had wide-ranging discussions in regard to gambling and match-fixing.
Corruption is, of course, is a very serious matter and there have been long-running investigations into it in tennis. There has also been a lot of outcry in the media in relation to the integrity of the sport.
The main report from the independent review of integrity in tennis has recently been released. The panel, headed by Adam Lewis QC , began its deliberations at the start of 2016 and has been looking into these issues on a deep level. Almost three years after the investigation began, the report has surfaced.
The review cost about $26m over the course of the three years. The panel spoke directly with more than 100 players, as well as giving surveys to more than 3,200 players. Of those, 464 of them said they have knowledge of match-fixing incidents in the sport. Of the matches involving match-fixing between 2009 and 2017, 83% of them were for men’s matches.
The report’s recommendations
There are many recommendations in the report. The sport is committing to implementing each of these recommendations as best as possible.
One of the main measures is curtailing the selling of live data. This is the way in which a lot of the gambling and match-fixing issues occur in the sport. Live data on obscure matches is ideal to make money on match-fixing.
There will also be a ban brought in on betting companies being able to sponsor events or individual players. There will also be a restructuring of the Tennis Integrity Unit.
The report found no major issues in the upper levels of the sport or any cover-ups. However, it is in the lower levels of professional tennis where most of these problems occur.
This is because it is a cut-throat space with many players struggling to keep up the costs of playing in tournaments week to week. It can be expensive to survive on the circuit, with all sorts of expenses needing to be covered. The lure of making quick cash by agreeing to fix matches is often too much for them to resist.
Why is there match fixing?
In 2011 the relationship between Sportradar, a leading sports data management company and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) came into being, and the deal is in place until 2020.
Through this deal, people can bet on tens of thousands of obscure tennis matches that use live data. The money in a lot of these events is very small, so the players stand to make a lot more if they engage in some form of match-fixing.
Sportradar says that if you stop selling this data in an official capacity, there would be an increasing presence for the black market. Despite this, the recommendation to curtail the sale of live data is still in place, albeit only for the smaller tournaments.
Of course, the ending of this relationship will create a loss in revenue for ITF. Therefore, the panel is recommending that more funding will go to the ITF from other governing bodies in the sport.
Will these measures work?
It is widely hoped that these measures will see marked improvements in the integrity of the sport.
The new ITF World Tennis Tour starts in January and completely changes the way professional tennis operates. Fewer players will be given a world ranking, meaning their professional status may end.
Considerably more funding will be going towards the Tennis Integrity Unit and much more focus will be put into prosecuting those found to be engaging in some form of match-fixing.
Previously, this unit was found to be largely ineffective, but this is changing. There will now be a supervisory board in place ensure that it is meeting their remit.
The battle against corruption will continue. Some cases are still emerging in the media. In October, three tennis umpires in Thailand were given lifetime bans from the sport after it was found they were partaking in match-fixing. They were banned by the Tennis Integrity Unit.