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Tennis World Reacts To Match-Fixing Exposé

BuzzFeed News published a yearlong investigation into match-fixing in tennis. Keep track of the response here.

Matt Chase for BuzzFeed News

What We Know So Far

  • BuzzFeed News and the BBC exposed secret files containing evidence of widespread match-fixing by players at the upper level of world tennis.
  • A core group of 16 players — all of whom have ranked in the top 50 — have been repeatedly flagged to the world tennis authorities over suspicions that they have thrown matches at tournaments including Wimbledon, allowing corrupt gamblers to cash in by betting against them.
  • None of those players have ever faced sanctions.
  • More than half of them are playing at the Australian Open, which started on Monday.
  • Separately, a data analysis by BuzzFeed News identified 15 players who regularly lost matches in which heavily lopsided betting appeared to substantially shift the odds — a red flag for possible match-fixing. Four players showed particularly unusual patterns.
  • And tennis authorities ignored “extremely damaging evidence” over fixing, a former senior British police officer who investigated match-fixing said.

Reaction From the Tennis World

  • Members of the U.K. Parliament are planning to open a hearing into how tennis officials responded to suspected of match-fixing, The Telegraph reported.
  • Andy Murray, the world No. 2, called for greater transparency in sport, and said that more should be done to educate young players about the dangers of corruption in tennis.
  • World No. 1 Novak Djokovic said he had been indirectly offered $200,000 to throw a match in 2007.
  • World No. 3 Roger Federer said he would “like to hear names” linked to the allegations, but that “you have to take it super serious.”
  • The governing bodies for world tennis released a joint statement and held a press conference in Melbourne to deny that evidence of match-fixing had been suppressed.
  • Chris Kermode, chair of the Association of Tennis Professionals Executive, insisted that gambling “is not a widespread issue in the sport” and that there is a “zero tolerance” policy for match-fixing.

Updates

John Whittingdale, U.K. secretary of state for culture, media, and sport, said he is talking to tennis officials, stressing that they need to make sure the “game is absolutely clean.”

“I have spoken this week with the Lawn Tennis Association, the All England tennis club and the Association of Tennis Professionals,” he said in response to a parliamentary question on Thursday. “We are determined to do all we can to support them in ensuring that the game is absolutely clean, and I know they are committed to that as well. We will be holding a summit later in the year, looking at the challenge of tackling corruption across all sectors, including sport.”

Aussie Grand Slam winner Pat Cash expressed disappointment Thursday in how tennis’ image has been negatively affected by claims of match fixing, telling reporters the issue had been blown “way out of proportion.”

Pat Cash, at left, of Australia earlier this month. Rob Griffith / AP

The 1987 Wimbledon champion said that while there was always going to be a temptation to fix matches for lower ranked players struggling to make ends meet, authorities were well on top of the issue at the higher level.

“There’s some stuff at lower levels, but that’s human nature,” Cash said. “These players are struggling to make a living and that’s the bottom line. They’re really struggling and some people are going to be tempted to do the wrong thing.”

Cash added that it was unfortunate that world tennis had been unfairly lumped into a category with other sports that had experienced major corruption scandals.

“It’s tarnished tennis the same way as the [Pakistani] cricket things, boxing and wrestling. Tennis is absolutely not like that, I’m convinced of that,” he said. “It’s a bit of a ‘storm in a teacup,’ but officials do need to keep on top of this [at lower levels].”

If anything, the 50-year-old added, tennis will benefit from the “unfounded” claims, as authorities will step up the fight against corruption in order to save the sport’s image.

“The units in place by the governing bodies are on top of this, but if they need to put more money into it to make sure, then absolutely,” he told reporters.

Cash also refuted claims that allowing betting companies to sponsor tournaments was fueling a culture of corruption among players.

“Tennis players want prize money, and [tournament organizers] have to sign sponsors,” Cash said. “It’s part of sport. It’s big sponsorship money. The players are very aware they are not to be involved in gambling.”

Australian tennis legend John Newcombe on Thursday called for any player found guilty of fixing matches to be banned for life, as the fallout from tennis’ match-fixing scandal continues to spread.

John Newcombe in 1974. Anonymous / AP

Newcombe, a seven-time Grand Slam winner in the 1960s and 70s, has said corruption has no place in tennis, and match fixers cannot be allowed to tarnish the reputation of such a respected sport.

“Don’t do it, it’s not worth it,” Newcombe said. “Anyone who does it, there’s no second chances. You’re kicked out for life as far as I’m concerned.”

Newcombe, 71, added that young players don’t necessarily understand the long-term effects that taking part in corruption can have on their careers and lives.

“If you get involved with these people you’re in a steel trap — they won’t let you out,” Newcombe said. “Once you make a mistake of agreeing to do something, they’ll hold it over you for the rest of your life.”

However, Newcombe — a host broadcaster on Seven Network — refused to speculate on the potential image issues of having betting company William Hill as a major sponsor of the Australian Open.

“Gambling’s a fact of life,” he said. “You can’t fight it, you just have to control it as well as you can.”

William Hill’s debut as the Open’s first ever “wagering partner” was criticized by No. 2-ranked Andy Murray, who called earlier this week called it “a little bit hypocritical.”

Andy Murray on Wednesday penned an editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald, saying he “would really like to know” if he was ever unwittingly part of a fixed match.

Andrew Brownbill / AP

Citing a joint BuzzFeed News and BBC investigation that uncovered evidence of widespread match fixing, Murray, the world No. 2 in men’s tennis, said the story is not good for the image of the sport and it was important to get to the bottom of it.

I haven’t personally played a match where I’ve thought something was up. And I haven’t really watched a live match and thought ‘this is being fixed’. I would actually like to know if there was any match that I was involved in that had had irregular betting patterns around it or anything like that.

Murray also called for the prosecution of anyone involved match fixing.

I’m more pro ‘let’s get all of the information out there, get all of the evidence out there’ and as a player I want to know. I don’t want anything to be withheld. I just want to know everything that’s going on and I think a lot of the players do. If you’re innocent then you want to find out about the players who have been doing stuff, if there are any, and we want them to be prosecuted.

Read the full editorial here.

Mercedes Benz on Wednesday said it was keeping a close eye on investigations into the tennis world, becoming the first major sponsor to respond to evidence of widespread match-fixing that was exposed by BuzzFeed News and the BBC.

Johannes Eisele / AFP / Getty Images

The German automaker sponsors a number of tennis championships and counts Rodger Federer as a “brand ambassador.”

“We are keeping a close eye on the investigations,” Claudia Merzbach, a spokeswoman for Mercedes Benz said in an emailed statement to BuzzFeed News, “but kindly ask for your understanding that we will not comment further on the ongoing proceedings.”

BuzzFeed News contacted a number of tennis sponsors in the wake of the explosive allegations. So far, a Time Warner Cable spokesperson said the company had no comment on the matter and an ESPN spokesperson said that “no one pertinent is available” to comment.

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron gestures to Speaker John Bercow at a tennis event. Reuters

Members of the U.K. Parliament are planning to open a hearing into claims that world tennis officials failed to adequately respond to suspected of match-fixing, The Telegraph reported.

The plans by the parliament’s culture, media, and sport select committee come in the wake of a joint #TennisRacket investigation by BuzzFeed News and the BBC into evidence of match-fixing that was published this weekend.

Tennis officials have said evidence uncovered by a landmark match-fixing probe in 2008 was not strong enough to warrant further investigation. However, a former senior British police officer told BuzzFeed News that the Association of Tennis Professionals was presented with “extremely damaging evidence.”

Now tennis officials responsible for investigating corruption will be called before the select committee to explain their response.

Prime Minister David Cameron has also called for an independent investigation into the matter, with a spokesperson for his office calling the allegations “deeply concerning.”

Tennis authorities ignored “extremely damaging evidence” over fixing, a former senior British police officer who investigated match-fixing told BuzzFeed News.

The officer has spoken out for the first time to condemn the sport’s governing bodies for failing to pursue the “extremely damaging evidence” presented to them.

In the wake of the #TennisRacket investigation by BuzzFeed News and the BBC, the tennis authorities said evidence uncovered by a landmark match-fixing probe in 2008 was not strong enough to warrant any further investigation.

But now Albert Kirby, a retired detective superintendent who was on the team that conducted that investigation, has rejected the governing bodies’ claims and revealed that he told the authorities at the time that the evidence demanded a “vigorous inquiry”.

Read the full story here.

Robin Haase, world No. 65, told CNN that he “maybe” played against someone who was throwing a match. He did not provide details.

Unfortunately I lost in the first round of the Australian Open. Back to practice and trying everything in doubles.

— Robin Haase (@robin_haase)

Haase, who lost in the first round of the Australian Open, said he received more than 40 messages from “haters” following the allegations of match-fixing.

Last retweets were just to show that the media sometimes does not realize how much effect they can have.

— Robin Haase (@robin_haase)

Haase told CNN the allegations were “damning the sport for no reason.”

“I think it’s a very bad thing to put this out without coming out with evidence,” he said. “If you do this, come with facts. Then my answer would be different to the situation because right now I think it’s damning the sport for no reason.”

Haase said the Tennis Integrity Unit was the “place to go to” if “something is going on.”

He added, “If the players [were involved in match-fixing], they should be punished really hard. And I hope they don’t play at all.”

Former No. 1 ranked player Andy Roddick discussed the evidence of match-fixing on this Twitter feed Sunday evening, saying he was never approached about a bribe and that he thinks people who possibly took them will come to light.

Here’s Roddick’s initial tweet on the matter:

Text I got from another former tour pro "we should see how many of the 16 betting guys we can name. I think I got at least 8-9. "

— andyroddick (@andyroddick)

Here’s his answer when asked if he thinks the names of players who possibly were involved will be revealed:

In the age of leaks and social media, I don't think secrets exist .... https://t.co/jbE0Kwe6J6

— andyroddick (@andyroddick)

And here was Roddick’s response when asked “couldn’t some of these bribes players are being offered also include threats if they don’t do it? I mean these are criminals”.

Not the craziest question I've ever heard https://t.co/DgI4CR0Xwg

— andyroddick (@andyroddick)

And he even had time for some self-deprecating humor:

Hahahaha unfortunately the answer is yes ...... https://t.co/HEKOEKcnuu

— andyroddick (@andyroddick)

For the full exchanges check out his Twitter feed.

A representative for Roddick declined a request for comment to BuzzFeed News.

U.K. lawyers call for overhaul of world tennis’ anti-corruption policies

A prominent sport law QC has told The Brief international professional tennis authorities urgently need to review eight-year-old anti-corruption polices in light of the match-fixing allegations.

Kuldip Singh, QC, of Serle Court Chambers in Lincoln’s Inn, said world tennis needed to address issues with the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU).

Singh said the sport’s governing body need to ask “is the present system for dealing with corruption in tennis fit for purpose? The conflict of interest at the heart of the sport and the lack of transparency can be seen from the fact that representatives of the four governing bodies decide whether, in any particular case, the evidence justifies disciplinary proceedings.

“If it is not fit, what reforms are required and how quickly can they be made to ensure that any current wrongdoing is appropriately addressed? And did the TIU deal appropriately with the historic cases of corruption?”

Another specialist lawyer, Mark Gay, from Hamlins, the London law firm, described the allegations as “deeply disturbing”. He said: “Allegations of match fixing are totally toxic both to individual players and to the sport as a whole, as they can completely undermine public confidence in the sport. They have to be thoroughly investigated.”

And Christian Leathley, a lawyer with Herbert Smith Freehills, said: “An offense of match fixing can be constituted by an agreement between two people, directly or indirectly. The evidence required to establish that offense is varied, and might boil down to merely one person’s word against another. As a result, it becomes very challenging for the TIU to establish a basis for an investigation, let alone a prosecution of some kind.”

Former British professional tennis player Arvind Parmar has revealed he was not surprised to read about the allegations of match-fixing.

Julian Finney / Getty Images

“I’ve been offered tens of thousands of pounds to lose a match,” Parmar told The Times of London. “Only once during a ten-year career, but the circumstances were pretty dramatic, as I was offered an envelope full of euros to lose in two sets, only an hour before I was due on court.

“I was playing at a Challenger tournament in the Dutch city of Groeningen in 2004 when I was approached by a random guy as I was coming off the practice courts. He showed me the money and said that I had to lose in two sets. It was a large envelope full of euros — so shocking and blatant.

“I remember that he didn’t speak great English, but it was obvious what he was trying to do. He seemed anxious, nervous, and after a few quick words he began trying to press an envelope stuffed with euros into my hand.

“It was a substantial amount of money — tens of thousands — way more than I would have earned from winning the tournament and more than most players at that level would make in a year.

“But it wasn’t tempting at all. It was a split-second decision for me to say, ‘Absolutely not.’ I didn’t even consider it, and was in a state of complete shock afterwards.”

Parmar said he had heard “whispers” of match-fixing during his career but was only directly approached that one time.

Three board members have reportedly resigned from Tennis Australia.

Former Australian players Kerryn Pratt and Janet Young and businessman Peter Armstrong submitted their resignations to the board on Tuesday evening.

According to the report, the trio resigned for “confidential reasons.”

Andy Murray also called for greater transparency in sport following BuzzFeed News and the BBC’s investigation uncovering evidence of match-fixing in tennis.

Speaking after his Australian Open first-round win against Alexander Zverev in Melbourne on Tuesday, Murray said:

If there is corruption in any sport, you know, you want to hear about it… As a player you just want to be made aware of everything that’s going on. I think we deserve to know everything that’s sort of out there. Some of it will be true; some of it might not be true. But I’m always very curious with that stuff across all sports as well. I think sports could in general be much, much more transparent.

In 2009, Murray said in an interview he knew of a number of players who were offered money to lose matches, but he also went on to say ” I don’t necessarily think that there has been a huge, huge problem in tennis. I don’t think it ever will be.”

World tennis No. 2 Andy Murray on Tuesday said more had to be done to educate younger players on the tour about the dangers of corruption.

Andy Murray makes a backhand return at the Australian Open on Tuesday. Andrew Brownbill / AP

The Scot, who was one of the first players to tweet the joint BuzzFeed News and BBC investigation on Monday, said it was almost understandable for younger, more inexperienced players to be tempted into corruption if racketeers offered substantial amounts of money to fix matches.

He said junior and lower-level players struggling to make ends meet were most at risk, and called on the Association of Tennis Professionals to do more.

“I’ve been aware of the issue since I was quite young,” Murray told reporters. “I think when people come with those sums of money when you’re that age, I think sometimes people can make mistakes. I do think it is important from a young age that players are better educated and made aware of what they should do in those situations and how a decision [to match-fix] can affect your career and the whole sport.”

He noted that he was never warned or told about how to handle corruption as a young player.

“I don’t think [education] is done very well. I think you should be learning of [corruption] when you’re 15, 16, 17 years old. Because when you come on the tour, players need to have the right people to support them.”

Murray also slammed the Australian Open for signing on a new sponsor in William Hill Betting for the 2016 tournament.

“Yeah, I’m not really pro that,” Murray said, “I think it’s a little bit hypocritical really.”

Milos Raonic on Tuesday said the Tennis Integrity Unit seems to be doing all it can to stamp out corruption within tennis.

Milos Raonic of Canada reaches for a forehand return on Tuesday. Vincent Thian / AP

He also highlighted the process players are encouraged to follow if they are approached by someone to fix a match.

“We’re told that if anything comes up, you bring it up to the right authorities. There’s a hotline we have if this comes up,” Raonic, who is seeded 13th, said post-match. “I think there is enough, from my personal experience, being done regarding [match fixing].”

Until the players referred to in the BuzzFeed News story were named and proper investigations carried out, it’s just rumor and hearsay, he added.

“If the story has any validity to it, I hope the players — that were not named — are maybe weeded out,” Raonic said. “Tennis is a beautiful sport and [the situation] is a little bit shitty.”

The Canadian added that he had never been approached to take part in match fixing, instead joking that people who have lost money due to his poor form was the only reason people have approached him about betting.

“The closest I’ve ever come to is people cussing off at me for losing matches and they lose money,” he laughed. “[There has been] no kind of upbringing of anything like that before a match.”


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