Tennis Watchdog Probes 24 Suspicious Cases of Match-Fixing

  • Exhibition matches organized April-June as COVID-19 suspended men’s and women’s tours 
  • TIU report predicts increased illegal activity when professional tennis resumes in August
  • Claims reduced earning opportunities due to pandemic increase risk of betting-related corruption
  • International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) will replace the TIU from January 2021
tennis ball near the net on a court
The Tennis Integrity Unit will investigate 24 suspicious tennis exhibition matches held from April to June. [Image:]

Alarm sounded over April-June exhibitions

Match-fixing watchdog the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) has received reports of 24 suspicious matches held between April and June. Typically, although not necessarily, the alerts point to fixing activity and inside betting, which the TIU undertakes to investigate.

alerts point to fixing activity and inside betting

The games in question are exhibitions organized while both men’s and women’s tours remain suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Both the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) allow players to compete in exhibitions when tours are inactive.

“Players are self-employed independent contractors and, as such, are free to make decisions concerning their own activities during the time the Tour is suspended,” an ATP spokesman told Reuters earlier this month.

Corrupt activity likely to increase, TIU warns

According to an Associated Press report, the alerts were filed by betting companies that track unusual gambling patterns. As usual, the TIU did not give details of specific matches or events under investigation but predicted a rise in illicit betting activity in the coming months.

a firm indicator that corruptors remain active”

“Suspicious betting on tennis during the lockdown is seen as a firm indicator that corruptors remain active, and are likely to increase their focus on the sport when professional tennis resumes in August,” the TIU warned in a statement.

While there are a few tennis exhibition events starring big-name players, the majority are smaller events around the world featuring lower-ranked competitors.

Pandemic fallout heightens risk

The impact of coronavirus on the sporting world and the betting industry is far-reaching. The TIU warned on its website that months of inactivity, leading to reduced playing and earning opportunities, would increase “the risks associated with betting-related corruption and doping violations.”

Despite the TIU’s report, The Global Lottery Monitoring System (GLMS) has announced a year-on-year decline in suspicious betting alerts during the first six months of 2020. The GLMS, the sports wagering integrity body for the lottery industry, said soccer received the highest number of alerts sent to members, with 197. Basketball was second with 27 alerts, followed by ice hockey with 19 and tennis on 18, its report states.

Zero-tolerance approach

As an initiative of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), Grand Slam Board, ATP, and WTA, the TIU reflects a zero-tolerance stance against gambling-related corruption in the professional tennis circuits. In May, the TIA slapped a lifetime ban on Egyptian tennis player Youssef Hossam for match-fixing and corruption offenses.

from January 2021, the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) will replace the TIU

With effect from January 2021, the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) will replace the TIU as the independent integrity organization for professional tennis. As reported in a media release on its website, the TIU said the change will mark “a further and significant move towards the organization’s operational and legal independence from the ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slams.”