Tennis engulfed in a ‘tsunami’ of corruption and faces ‘serious integrity problem’, says independent report

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Professional tennis is engulfed in a “tsunami” of match-fixing with lower-level events providing a “fertile breeding ground” for corruption from online gambling, according to a multi-million pound independent review published on Wednesday.

The Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis, which was set up in February 2016 following wide-ranging reports of match fixing, also claimed the sport faces a “serious integrity problem” – but found no evidence of any top-level players being implicated.

The report also shows no evidence of a cover-up by either the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) or governing bodies the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). However some of the actions taken by the ITF and ATP were deemed to be “inappropriate or ineffective”.

“Integrity issues have not reached a significant level at Grand Slam events, ATP or WTA Tour events, WTA $125k events, or ITF women’s $60k and $100k events,” the report states.

Instead the interim review, which was based on over 1000 interview with players and officials in the sport and cost almost £20m to fund, said that the biggest problems were to be found at the “lower and middle levels of the sport”, especially in the men’s game.

Wednesday’s report said that this was because prize money on the Futures Tour was so low, making corruption from professional gamblers a more enticing course of action for struggling players.  

“The nature of the game lends itself to manipulation for betting purposes,” the report states. “The player incentive structure creates a fertile breeding ground for breaches of integrity. Today, tennis faces a serious integrity problem.”

“Detection is difficult, not least because at many lower levels there are no spectators and inadequate facilities to protect players from potential corruptors,” the review added. “Moreover, under-performance is often attributed to ’tanking’ which is often tolerated.

“The player incentive structure creates a fertile breeding ground for breaches of integrity, with only the top 250 to 350 players earning enough money to break even.”

Among the report’s 33 pages of recommendations to tackle corruption are the restructuring of the professional game and a reduction in tournaments that are deemed ‘professional’ but where players stand to lose money because of the cost of competing, in order to make them less vulnerable to fixing.

In a potential blow for the financing of the sport, the report argues that tournaments should no longer accept sponsorships from betting companies. Discontinuing the sale of official live scoring data at lower-level events to betting companies is also suggested.

And the report calls for the current TUI, which is comprised of representatives from governing bodies, to be replaced by an independent ‘Supervisory Board’.

The sport’s governing bodies, the ITF, ATP and Women’s Tennis Association, have pledged to implement the findings of the final report, which is due to be published prior to the 2018 Wimbledon Championships.

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