Tennis Groups Reject Allegations of Corruption

A recent BuzzFeed report, released ahead of the Australian Open, has the tennis world on edge with allegations that top players threw matches at the behest of gamblers. Top tennis groups, however, denied the claim that they suppressed and failed to act on evidence of match-fixing.

Having to comment on a BuzzFeed story might imply something lighthearted and goofy, but that definitely wasn’t the stance the tennis world took in response to a lengthy investigative report.

“The Tennis Racket,” a report published on Sunday by BuzzFeed, alleges that some of the sport’s top professional players threw matches on the order of gambling rings based in Russia and Italy. The report also claims that when evidence of these allegations first surfaced, in 2008, the world of tennis did nothing to punish the players involved.

“The sport’s governing bodies have been warned repeatedly about a core group of 16 players—all of whom have ranked in the top 50—but none have faced any sanctions and more than half of them will begin playing at the Australian Open on Monday,” the report states.

The BuzzFeed report, conducted with the help of the BBC, utilized in-depth data analysis of 26,000 matches, as well as research into leaked documents referred to as “the Fixing Files.” (BBC filed a separate report on the issue.)

Fighting Against the Allegations

The response to the reports was swift—with top players such as Andy Murray and Roger Federer calling for more information about the scandal.

“I would love to hear names,” Federer said, according to USA Today. “Then at least it’s concrete stuff and you can actually debate about it. Was it the player? Was it the support team? Who was it? Was it before? Was it a doubles player, a singles player? Which slam?’”

That sort of information has yet to hit the public forum, and neither BuzzFeed nor the BBC revealed those names as part of their investigation. One thing that did come out, however, was a response from the tennis world.

On Monday, a group of four tennis governing bodies [PDF]—the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), the Grand Slam Board, and the International Tennis Federation (ITF)—took steps to both deny the claims of suppression made in the two reports and to emphasize the importance of the work of the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), the sport’s primary watchdog group, launched in response to the 2008 allegations.

“Tennis remains fully committed to meeting the challenge that all sports face from corrupt betting practices. We have stringent procedures and sanctions in place to deal with any suspected corruption and have shown we will act decisively when our integrity rules are broken,” ATP Executive Chairman Chris Kermode said in a news release.

The organizations emphasized that the TIU has actively investigated a wide series of cases over the years, with one case in particular leading to an investigation that led to one player’s five-year suspension and $25,000 fine. At least 18 such disciplinary cases have been brought forward, leading to permanent bans for five players and one official from the sport.

While denying the allegations of suppression, the groups pledged to do more to fight any potential corruption in tennis but noted that corruption cases can be difficult to prosecute.

“We remain open and willing to upgrade any or all of the anti‐corruption systems we have in place if we need to,” Kermode added.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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