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Tennis Officials To Review Anti-Corruption Unit Amid Match-Fixing Claims

The move announced on Wednesday comes after a joint investigation by BuzzFeed News and the BBC uncovered evidence that the Tennis Integrity Unit failed to rigorously investigate possible match-fixing among dozens of players.

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Updated on

What We Know So Far

  • Tennis officials on Tuesday announced plans to launch an independent review of their anti-corruption measures.
  • The announcement comes after a joint BuzzFeed News and BBC investigation showed evidence that match-fixing has run rampant in the sport for years.
  • As recently as Sunday, a major gambling website suspended betting on an Australian Open match after irregular patterns raised suspicions that it had been fixed.
  • Association of Tennis Professionals President Chris Kermode pledged to follow the auditor's recommendations: "We will act on anything that comes out of this."
  • A prominent attorney known for his work at the European Union will be in charge of the review.

Updates

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Tennis officials said the changing landscape regarding allegations of sports corruption factored into the speed of their response to possible match-fixing.

On Wednesday, top tennis executives announced they would be appointing an independent panel to review anti-corruption measures after BuzzFeed News and the BBC published a joint investigation into possible match-fixing.

When the report was published last week, tennis officials expressed confidence in the Tennis Integrity Unit. But governing bodies from around the world quickly converged in Melbourne, the site of the Australian Open, to confront the scandal head-on immediately, rather than wait, they said.

Philip Brook, chair of the Tennis Integrity Unit's board, told reporters that the release of the BuzzFeed News-BBC report "was widely written about and it has changed the environment."

"We are very determined to make sure that we demonstrate to all of you today and to everybody around the world that we take this matter very seriously, and that the integrity of our sport is paramount," he added.

The BuzzFeed News-BBC report was published last week as the Australian Open kicked off, but the investigation also followed allegations of fraud that rocked world soccer last year.

Association of Tennis Professionals President Chris Kermode denied that tennis authorities were lagging behind the changing landscape of sport and betting, saying the time was right to independently investigate any claims of match-fixing.

"I don't think it automatically means we are behind the curve, but I think it has provided an opportunity to take a good look," he said. "The landscape has changed, we are in a different world, and this is clearly the time to have a look."

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Tennis officials on Wednesday said they do not believe the findings revealed in a joint investigation by BuzzFeed News and the BBC warranted the damage the sport’s reputation has since suffered.

Rick Rycroft / AP

Association of Tennis Professionals President Chris Kermode (right) speaks, along with International Tennis Federation President David Haggerty (left) and Wimbledon Chair Philip Brook (center).

The report, published last week, did not include names of a core group of 16 players — all of whom have ranked in the top 50 and were the subject of warnings from tennis authorities who suspected them of fixing matches at major tournaments.

The BuzzFeed News–BBC investigation uncovered evidence that the Tennis Integrity Unit did little in response, with none of the players facing sanctions. Half of those in the group are playing at the Australian Open, which ends this weekend.

The investigation relied on a cache of leaked documents and a massive analysis of the betting activity on 26,000 matches, as well as interviews across three continents.

But speaking to reporters Tuesday in Melbourne, Philip Brook, chair of the Tennis Integrity Unit's board, said he disagreed with the decision to publish the findings.

"Speaking as the current chairman of the Tennis Integrity Board," he said, "I was disappointed in the program, and, as I said in my opening remarks, I don't think we felt that it revealed anything new."

Joined by David Haggerty, president of the International Tennis Federation, and Association of Tennis Professionals President Chris Kermode, Brook said reaction to the report had nevertheless been damaging to tennis's reputation, prompting the sport's governing boards to take swift action.

He also accused the media companies of airing the report on the eve of the Australian Open to maximize its publicity.

"It's been hard on the Australian Open, no question about it," Brook said. "But obviously, the report was timed to hit at this point to try to create as big a story as possible."

Asked if he felt that the timing of the announcement was akin to an admission of deeper problems in the sport of tennis — despite earlier statements expressing complete confidence in the Tennis Integrity Unit — Kermode said it showed the opposite.

"I actually think the intention of doing this is to be really, really proactive and take this head-on," he said. "We don't have anything to hide at all."

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Wimbledon Chair Philip Brook told reporters the review would include the tennis's anti-corruption program, including the Tennis Integrity Unit.

"This is an important decision that has been taken with the full backing of the sport's leadership," Brook said, adding that tennis leaders "are doing everything we need to do to stop corruption in our sport."

Officials also said that the review would take as long as it needed to. Adam Lewis, a prominent attorney who has worked in Washington, D.C., and in London, will head up the review. Tennis officials pointed to his time in the cabinet of the European commissioner responsible for competition and financial institutions, and then at an EU law firm in Brussels, as making him the ideal candidate to lead the review.

While insisting that the evidence uncovered in the BuzzFeed News–BBC investigation did not amount to evidence of actual match-fixing, the officials acknowledged the findings had caused a crisis of sorts in professional tennis.

"It's important to point out that having lists which are mainly compiled by suspicious betting patterns, you know, do not mean corruption," Kermode said. "They are a red flag and they are investigated. We believe any player, until they are proven guilty, should be allowed to play and shouldn't have their reputation damaged at all."

Haggerty said he felt match-fixing questions were more of a "moral-compass issue."

"Someone's corrupt or they are not," he told reporters.

The review will be funded by the Tennis Integrity Unit, and the executive pledged to follow any recommendations coming out of it.

"We will act on anything that comes out of this," Kermode said.

Tennis's governing boards outlined the review in a statement, saying an Independent Review Panel will review and report on the "appropriateness and effectiveness" of the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program and make recommendations for change.

In conducting the review, the IRP will take into account public commentary regarding the processes, procedures and resources of the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU). The Governing Bodies of International Tennis said they expect the IRP to address issues including:

- How the TIU can be more transparent without compromising the TIU's need for investigative confidentiality

- Additional resources for the TIU both within the unit and at tournaments

- Structural and/or governance changes that enhance the independence of the TIU

- How to extend the scope and reach of the tennis integrity education program
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The announcement was slated to be made at a news conference Wednesday at the Australian Open where Association of Tennis Professionals President Chris Kermode, International Tennis Federation President David Haggerty, and Wimbledon Chair Philip Brook are expected to attend.

The move comes after a joint BuzzFeed News and BBC investigation found evidence suggesting match-fixing has run rampant in the sport for years with little action on the part of tennis officials.

To address those findings, tennis executives are expected to announce an independent review of the sports anti-corruption team, the Tennis Integrity Unit, according to the Associated Press, which cited a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The review will be run out of London, the AP added.

The sport's governing bodies have been meeting at Melbourne Park, the site of the Australian Open, to discuss the scandal, which unfolded as the tournament got underway, the New York Times reported.

As early as Sunday, a major gambling website suspended betting an Australian Open doubles match featuring little-known players Andrea Hlavackova and Lukasz Kubot against Spain's Lara Arruabarrena and David Marrero after irregular patterns raised suspicions that it had been fixed.

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