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Tennis Match-Fixing Scandal: Bombshell Report Alleges Widespread Match-Fixing by Top Players at Major Events
According to a joint investigation by the BBC and BuzzFeed UK, tennis has been plagued by widespread match-fixing from top players at top events, including Wimbledon, for years. However, authorities with the Association of Tennis Professionals have done little to stop it.
Going back to 2008, the report focuses on a core group of 16 players with a number of matches that had highly suspicious betting patterns. All 16 of these players have been ranked in the top 50 at one point or another. Among them are a US Open singles winner and Wimbledon doubles champions. Eight of them are taking part in the 2016 Australian Open, which is underway now.
Much of the information in this investigation comes from the bookmakers themselves. However, the BBC and BuzzFeed UK have also obtained leaked ATP documents containing a trove of evidence.
Here’s the gist of what we know. When European bookmakers notice suspicious betting behavior on particular events, they report it to the European Sports Security Association. According to the ESSA, 15 of the 16 core players investigated by the BBC and BuzzFeed UK have been repeatedly flagged for suspicious matches and reported to the ATP’s Tennis Integrity Unit. In one case, the ESSA sent four alerts to the Tennis Integrity Unit about the same player, who is suspected of repeatedly fixing his first set. But despite being in possession of this evidence, no action has been taken by the Tennis Integrity Unit.
Given the damage a match-fixing scandal would inflict upon professional tennis, it’s not hard to understand why some would view the ATP’s lack of action as a sign of a coverup. However, the ATP says this is not the case.
“The Tennis Integrity Unit and the tennis authorities absolutely reject any suggestion that evidence of match fixing has been suppressed for any reason or isn’t being thoroughly investigated,” said Chris Kermode, executive chairman and president of the ATP. “In its investigations, the Tennis Integrity Unit has to find evidence, as opposed to information, suspicion or hearsay. This is the key here—that it requires evidence.”
Philosophical differences over the difference between “evidence” and “information” aside, Kermode is right about one thing. According to the report, gambling syndicates in Italy and Russia have made hundreds of thousands of dollars on “highly suspicious bets” on dozens of matches. However, the BBC and BuzzFeed UK cannot prove a link between the 16 players they investigated and the gamblers because they do not have access to phone, bank, or computer records.
This is why the BBC and BuzzFeed UK will not name the players. In the United Kingdom there are significantly weaker protections for journalists and significantly stronger libel laws.
Of course, that could change soon. Given the nature of the allegations, one would expect authorities in the UK to open a criminal investigation. And if they should find phone, bank, or computer records linking players to gamblers, we could have a betting scandal of historic proportions on our hands.