Tennis Announces Review of Anticorruption Efforts

Tennis Announces Review of Anticorruption Efforts

MELBOURNE, Australia — Tennis officials on Wednesday announced an independent review into their sport’s anticorruption program, including its internal integrity unit.

The leaders of tennis’s multiple governing bodies — often at cross purposes through the years — have been meeting at Melbourne Park, the site of the Australian Open, which has been overshadowed by reports of match fixing.

“It is unprecedented that the seven stakeholders of tennis have come together so quickly with one purpose, and that is with the sole aim to restore public confidence in our sport,” Chris Kermode, the ATP chairman, said at a news conference.

Adam Lewis, a British expert in sports law, will lead the inquiry, which Kermode called “a completely open review” where “nothing is off the table” that will give Lewis and his panel full access to officials, players and information.

“All of us, all seven bodies in our sport, believe that with everything in the news and the serious allegations that have been thrown at our sport, the last thing anyone wants is another sports body investigating itself, which is why we have taken this very bold step to commission a completely independent review,” Kermode said.

He was referring to the corruption inquiries that have caused upheaval at FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, and the International Association of Athletics Federations, track and field’s comparable oversight group.

Also appearing at the news conference were David Haggerty, the president of the International Tennis Federation, and Philip Brook, the chairman of the All England Club, which stages Wimbledon. Brook is also chairman of the board that oversees the Tennis Integrity Unit, the sport’s internal watchdog.

“Tennis has committed to implement all the recommendations of the review and to fund them in full,” Brook said.

In announcing the review, the governing bodies of tennis also committed to make “the outcomes and recommendations” of the new panel publicly available.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that a mixed doubles match at the Australian Open raised suspicions of match fixing when a major sports gambling website suspended betting on the match because of atypically high betting volume and unusual patterns. Integrity officials have since interviewed the players involved in the match. Haggerty said the board was unable to comment further on the matter for now.

A report by the BBC and BuzzFeed released Jan. 18, the opening Monday of the tournament, claimed to have uncovered evidence that 16 players ranked in the top 50 over the last decade had been brought to the attention of the Tennis Integrity Unit because their matches had repeatedly involved unusual betting patterns.

According to the report, which did not name the players, none of the 16 had been disciplined, although Kermode and other tennis officials have said that there was no cover-up and that suspicious betting patterns are not sufficient proof on their own of match fixing.

Brook was asked if this was the biggest crisis the sport had had to deal with recently.

“I would say certainly the events of the last 10 days have caused damage to our sport; there is no getting away from that,” he said.

Brook defended the work of the Tennis Integrity Unit, formed in 2008 after a surge in online betting activity and match-fixing concerns. Brook said that $14 million had been invested in the unit since 2008 and that 18 individuals had been convicted of corruption offenses, with five players and one official banned for life.

Brook also confirmed that he believed the problem was more about perception than reality at this stage, but said improvement was both possible and important.

“I think the Tennis Integrity Unit has done very good work over the last seven years,” Brook said. “We have a lot of confidence in the team there. I think what the events of the last few days have shown us, however, is that we are in a changed world. Sport is under the microscope. We have to reassure everybody in our sport, watching our sport, that integrity is absolutely at the top of our pile of things to do.”

Lewis, named to lead the inquiry, is to appoint two others to assist him. The review is expected to examine the integrity unit’s structure and governance and to explore how it can be more transparent without compromising investigations. Its resources will also be reassessed.

The integrity unit has six employees and, according to officials, a $2 million annual budget, but there is expected to be an increased emphasis on education at the junior level and at the lowest levels of the professional game, which have proved particularly vulnerable to match fixing because of the low level of both scrutiny and prize money.

“What we’re trying to do is antidoping and anticorruption presentations at each of the Grand Slam tournaments for juniors and at some of the larger I.T.F. junior events to get the kids at an early stage,” Haggerty said in an interview before the news conference.

Haggerty also plans to strengthen the I.T.F.’s online tutorial on anticorruption efforts.

“I think it’s very good, but I think it can be updated with more information there so you really have a better understanding, because you’re not going to solve this when they’re pro,” Haggerty said. “Giving them education when they’re pros is very helpful, but I think we need to start early with players who are coming through. I think that is what will make a really big impact.”

Haggerty emphasized that one difficulty was the disparity in the level of cooperation the integrity unit received from law enforcement in different countries.

“In certain areas of the world, there is a lot of illegal gambling that happens,” he said. “No rules and regulations, and authorities and police forces won’t prosecute, so I think we’re trying to get a little better handle on that.”

Haggerty added that he supported more transparency in tennis’s anticorruption efforts. At present, the integrity unit does not release information except when a player is sanctioned.

“We could be more transparent,” Haggerty said. “We have to determine what that means. Maybe it’s similar to what we do in antidoping, that at the end of the year or at different periods we publish something that lets people know there is integrity in what we’re doing.”

Haggerty, elected I.T.F. president in September, defended the decision last year to sign a five-year, $70 million data rights deal with the Swiss company Sportradar. The deal applies to I.T.F. events from the Davis Cup, the premier men’s team event, to Futures tournaments, the lowest rung on the professional ladder.

“Gambling is legal; corruption is illegal,” Haggerty said. “I think what Sportradar is doing gives us the ability to work with them in more of a partnership and share information and get information from them to help us see unusual betting patterns. Their betting analysts help us and are a resource for us to give us a little bit more bandwidth than we would have on our own.

“Betway wants a clean sport, as do we,” Haggerty continued, referring to an online gambling company. “Corruption hurts gambling as much as it hurts the sports.”

Live data from tournaments can be used by gambling sites to facilitate betting, particularly in-play betting in which wagers can be made on elements of the match as it progresses. Brook said such in-play wagers were banned in France, made oversight more difficult and might be examined by the new panel.

“It’s something like 68 different bets that are possible on a tennis match,” he said. “More than half of them are in-play. That therefore raises and enhances the possibility for people to organize things that are harder to spot.”

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