Tennis to review corruption fight

2016-01-27 07:01
Chris Kermode (Getty Images)

Melbourne - Tennis authorities on Wednesday announced an independent review into their fight against corruption after a bombshell report alleging widespread match-fixing cast a shadow over the sport.

In an announcement at the Australian Open, the ATP, WTA, ITF and the heads of all four Grand Slams said the review was aimed at shaking up tennis's opaque anti-corruption body, and called for governments worldwide to make match-fixing a criminal offence.

Tennis has been left reeling after last week's BBC and BuzzFeed report sparked a succession of corruption revelations, putting the sport under the microscope after scandals also engulfed football and athletics.

"The environment for all major sports, including tennis, has changed dramatically over the past eight years and combined with issues raised in the media, we believe now is the right time to review how we continue to fight corruption in the game," a joint statement said.

"Given the seriousness of the issue, we call on all governments worldwide to make match-fixing a distinct criminal offence, resourced by national crime-fighting agencies working in cooperation with sports integrity boards and other relevant stakeholders."

The main priority of the review, headed by Adam Lewis QC, a London-based leading expert on sports law, is to look at the structure of the Tennis Integrity Unit, including how to make it more transparent and better resourced.

Tennis authorities pledged to make the review's outcomes public and to "implement and fund all the actions recommended".

Tennis has poured US$14 million into its anti-corruption body, which was set up in 2008 and has secured 18 convictions including six life bans, mainly involving obscure and low-ranking players.

The corruption issue has consumed the Australian Open, the season's first Grand Slam tournament, with some players revealing previous match-fixing approaches including world number one Novak Djokovic.

It comes after the BBC and BuzzFeed report, citing leaked files, said players who had reached the top 50 had been repeatedly suspected of fixing matches but had never faced action.

On Sunday, two players were questioned by the Tennis Integrity Unit after a report of an unusual betting pattern surrounding a mixed doubles match in the Australian Open's first round.

Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) head Chris Kermode said tennis was keen to address the problem and not go down the route of "other sports" which have become mired in controversy.

Athletics' world governing body, the IAAF, has been hit by claims of a doping cover-up and football's FIFA has been rocked by a succession of bribery and corruption scandals.

But Kermode also criticised the naming of players in relation to unusual betting patterns, especially after the bizarre citing of Australia's Lleyton Hewitt, a former world number one and two-time Grand Slam champion.

The naming of Hewitt "speaks volumes", Kermode told reporters in Melbourne. "I'm not sure he'd give his mother one point while he was playing," he said.

Philip Brook, the chairman of both Wimbledon and the Tennis Integrity Board, said all governments needed to help in the fight against match-fixing by making it a punishable offence.

"It's a criminal offence in certain parts of the world and not in others. This is not just a tennis issue," Brook said.

Chris Eaton, director of integrity at the International Centre for Sport Security, said last week that betting analysis showed that signs of match manipulation were "heavy and regularly occurring" in the sport's lower levels.

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