Tennis

Education key to stamping out match-fixing

2017-09-22 08:12
Tennis racket (Getty Images)

London - Educating tennis players about the dangers of betting-related corruption is a key priority for the sport's global anti-corruption body, the Tennis Integrity Unit.

Phil Suddick, information manager at the TIU, said in a rare interview that the unit has boosted its focus on education with the recruitment of two new members of staff. 

Suddick, a police officer for 30 years investigating global organised crime, who has been in his present role for just over two years, put the issue of betting-related corruption into context. 

His unit received 292 match alerts in 2016 - from 120 000 professional matches covering the whole game from the futures tour to the Grand Slams - where betting operators believed the betting patterns were suspicious. 

"We do face significant challenges in relation to some of the events and where they take place," said Suddick, speaking after appearing on a panel at a Betting on Sports conference in London.

"You have to be pragmatic and provided you develop and maintain relationships with betting operators I genuinely think that is the way forward because they hold the data that provides information to help prosecute people who seek to corrupt the sport for financial gain." 

For Suddick, though, a key element that has been added to the weaponry at the TIU's disposal this year has been the appointment of Matthew Perry - who has a background in anti-doping education -- to take charge of education and training. 

"Education is vitally important," said Suddick. 

"I have a kid of 28-years-old and an 11-year-old boy. For the former, at his age education could be too late but 10-11 is a fantastic age to capture their minds in terms of sport and its risks. 

"Education head Matt Perry has a remit for the whole of education across tennis, which is a huge piece of work with over 200 federations. Imagine the number of players involved and the different tournaments right up from juniors and futures to the Slams."

Perry was involved in the recent launch of the ITF Knowledge programme at the recent US Open. The aim of the new e-learning module is to inform and educate junior players about integrity in tennis and to protect them on their journey as players. 

Perry understandably cannot handle the whole education remit on his own so he has obtained the funding for two assistants - Suddick says one of their priorities will be speaking with juniors and their parents. 

"It is the parents who tend to be coaches and the people who travel with them and it is they who will notice a sponsorship deal that isn't really one," said Suddick. 

"This could be a person who pays for flights and hotels, which is the thin end of the wedge, but the wedge can grow into something larger down the line. 

"We have to educate the entourage around the juniors from the coach, the parents to the hitting partner and others involved. 

"If Matt and his team can educate players at a younger age, that can only be good for tennis. 

"They come into the sport as juniors and they need to have all the tools at their disposal to cope with those who wish to corrupt them. 

"For me, education is probably the strongest and most important measure to protect the sport in the long term."

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