The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) has expressed concern that the growing number of alerts it receives for suspicious betting patterns is reflective of an increased level of corruption in tennis.
As part of its first annual report, the TIU said that while alerts alone were not proof of corruption, the system led to nine players and officials being sanctioned in 2016.
The 292 alerts received last year was almost 20% higher than the 246 in 2015, with eight of them from Grand Slam, ATP and WTA matches. Worryingly, 96 of these 292 alerts came between July and September, a busy period in the tennis calendar which includes two of the four Grand Slam’s.
Secret files exposing evidence of alleged match-fixing at the top of the game were also revealed by the BBC and BuzzFeed in 2016. The files stated that, over the last decade, 16 players ranked in the top 50 had been repeatedly flagged to the TIU over suspicions they have thrown matches.
While all the players involved could continue competing, the TIU has now changed the system so that from 1 January 2017, a player suspected of a corruption offence will be given a provisional suspension. Previously they could continue playing until a disciplinary notice had been served.
Nigel Willerton, Director of the TIU, commented: “The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) responded to a substantially increased workload in 2016 with significant expansion and development, designed to provide tennis with the level of resource and expertise needed to meet the challenges posed by corruption in the sport.”
The annual report came soon after news broke of Nick Lindahl’s seven-year ban for match-fixing. The Australian, who achieved a career-high ranking of 187 before retiring in 2013, has also been fined £28,000 for plotting to throw a match at a minor Australian tournament in his final playing year.
While the report makes a lot about the healthy co-operation the TIU has developed with bookmakers and gambling regulators, there is still a great deal of work that could be done in the area. Most of the bookmakers are part of the ESSA integrity organisation and there are only a handful of regulators seemingly involved.
However this is a good positive step for tennis in address the issues of match fixing which are plaguing the sport and hopefully the TIU will be given the backing it needs to build on the work done so far.