The Corruption of Tennis

Recently, the BBC and Buzzfeed News revealed secret files exposing evidence of widespread suspected match-fixing at the top level of world tennis.  In the past decade, 16 players who have ranked in the top 50 have been repeatedly flagged to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) over suspicions that they have thrown matches.  All of these players, including winners of Grand Slam titles, were allowed to continue competing.

The TIU, which was set up to police professional tennis, said that it had a zero-tolerance approach to betting-related corruption.  Chris Kermode, who heads the Association of Tennis Professionals, rejected any claims evidence of match-fixing had been suppressed, but added that the reports mostly refer to events from about 10 years ago.  The documents passed to the BBC and Buzzfeed News include the findings of Tennis racketan investigation set up in 2007 by the Association of Tennis Professionals, which is headed by Kermode.  It was originally formed to look into suspicious betting activity after a game between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello.  While both players were cleared, the investigation developed into a much wider enquiry into the underbelly of tennis betting.

Documents obtained by the BBC reveal betting syndicates in Russia, northern Italy and Sicily making hundreds of thousands of pounds betting on matches that investigators believed to be fixed, three of which were at Wimbledon.  In 2008, the enquiry team said that 28 players should be investigated, although this was never followed up.  While tennis introduced a new anti-corruption code in 2009, from a legal standpoint previous corruption offenses couldn’t be pursued, meaning that no new investigations into players mentioned in the 2008 report were opened.

Recently, the BBC and Buzzfeed News were given a series of documents, as well as the names of current players in the TIU who have repeatedly been warned about betting organizations, sports integrity units and professional gamblers.  Many of these players have been watched by tennis authorities as far back as 2003.  Last year, the European Sports Security Association, which monitors betting for leading bookmakers, flagged up more than 50 suspicious matches to the TIU, and have stated that tennis attracts more suspicious gambling activity than any other sport.

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