Game, Set and Match-Fixing

In January 2016 it came to light that tennis players have been involved in match fixing and betting scandals in the past, including eight of them who competed at last month’s Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year. It has since been revealed that tennis umpires have also been involved in corrupting the sport which I and many others love.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) have been called forward to face a British government hearing following the tennis authorities’ failure to make the bans of two umpire’s public.

In 2015, two umpires were banned from the sport for life, one was from Kazakhstan and the other was from Croatia. An investigation from The Guardian has prompted the hearing following the respective tennis authorities’ failure to announce that two umpires had receive bans and four others were being questioned.

How The Umpires Have Been Corrupting The Betting Market

This investigation is important as it highlights that match fixing and betting corruption is not only being carried out by players, but by tennis officials as well. From what we have learned it is apparent that an umpire would not update the score on their tablet in real time, instead waiting in some cases for up to a minute before changing the score.

Betting companies and live score websites obtain their data from the umpire updating the score, meaning that a delay in the change of scores would allow the umpires enough time to message gamblers or organisations to place bets on a particular player to win that game. Of course, this is in fact cheating the system as the score could be deuce or 40-30 on the live score of the bookmakers’ website when the bet is placed, whereas in fact the game has already in fact been completed.

Prevention Actions To Be Put In Place

You may be wondering why this has not been picked up on in the past, but this is down to the fact that this has been going on in the third tier of professional tennis, the ITF circuit. Due to this, very few matches are televised and results go very much under the radar. The ITF recently signed a $70million deal with the data company SportRadar, which provides live scores, statistics and odds to sell on to betting companies. As a result of this it makes an ideal market to bet on due to the increasing popularity of the sport as a betting product.

British Member of Parliament, Damian Collins, has called for a review on the sport looking at whether it should facilitate betting on lower tier tournaments and matches. He described the investigations findings as being a wake-up call for a sport which is under-resourced when it comes to tackling corruption. He went on to say that independent scrutiny is required from those outside of the sport in order to regulate potential issues of match-fixing and betting corruption in the future.

It could take up to a year to resolve this investigation, which is concerning as it demonstrates that action is not being taken promptly and is therefore damaging tennis’ reputation as a sport.

The ITF has said that its reason for not making the announcement of the umpires’ bans public was down to its policy on naming offenders only changing in December of last year. The hearing of the culture, media and sport select committee is set to take place in the spring.

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