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"Ban Them For Life": Tennis Stars Say More Must Be Done To Stamp Out Corruption

As more players and officials open up about corruption in the sport, the game's administrators remain silent.

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"Top level match fixing claims are laughable, just rehashed old news with a new spin, no proof at all = JOKE," tweeted Pat Cash on Monday.

top level match fixing claims by BBC and Buzz Sport are laughable, just rehashed old news with a new spin, no proof at all = JOKE

The 1987 Wimbledon champion was responding to a BuzzFeed News and BBC investigation exposing secret files containing evidence of match-fixing and inaction at the highest levels of tennis.

But on Thursday, at a media event at the Australian Open, Cash allowed that "there's some stuff [match-fixing] at lower levels, but that's human nature".

He said that while there was always going to be a temptation to fix matches for lower-ranked players struggling to make ends meet, he believed authorities were well on top of the issue at a competitive level.

"These players are struggling to make a living, and that's the bottom line," he said. "They're really struggling and some people are going to be tempted to do the wrong thing.

"It's a bit of a storm in a teacup, but officials do need to keep on top of this [at lower levels]."

One of those lower-ranked players, Australian Nick Lindahl, will face a Sydney court on Monday, accused of intentionally throwing a match at a 2013 tournament in Toowoomba, Queensland.

Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

The loss was flagged by a betting agency after it detected unusual betting trends against his lower ranked opponent, sparking an investigation by NSW police.

Lindahl, who reached a career-high ranking of 187, allegedly told a friend, Matthew Fox, himself a former player and coach, that he would throw the match. Fox has pleaded guilty and been fined for using corrupt information to bet on the match.

Those involved in ensuring the integrity of the sport agree with Cash's assessment that it's these lower-ranked players who are most at risk of corruption. But this week, a host of past and present players and officials have accused the game's administrators of sitting on their hands when it comes to match-fixing.

One of the most outspoken players on the ATP tour is men's world No. 2 Andy Murray, who this week blasted tennis officials for the way corruption issues have been handled, saying the game has suffered as a result.

Robert Prezioso / Getty Images

Murray wrote a scathing editorial saying tennis officials needed to be more transparent about the scale of corruption in the game.

"I don't care whether the tennis authorities are seen to be doing enough; I care whether they are doing enough," he wrote. And I don't know if they are because I have no idea how much money is invested in the Tennis Integrity Unit [TIU].

"So much money is gambled in tennis during a year – it's a huge industry. Maybe more could be done prevent corruption but I have no idea how much money tennis spends in comparison to other sports."

Murray also called on officials to work with younger players, who are seen as more vulnerable to match-fixing.

John Newcombe, a seven-time Grand Slam winner, said any player found guilty of fixing matches should be banned for life.

"Anyone who does it, there's no second chances," he said. "You're kicked out for life as far as I'm concerned."

Newcombe added that young players don't necessarily understand the long-term effect that taking part in corruption could have on their careers as well as their 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."

One of Australia's up-and-coming talents, Thanasi Kokkinakis, revealed on Tuesday he had been approached on social media and offered money to throw matches.

Jordan Mansfield

"I have [been offered money]," the 19-year-old told radio station 3AW. "Not face-to-face, but on social media. You have these randoms from nowhere saying, 'I'll pay you this much money to tank a game.'"

Richard Ings, former head of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority and a former executive vice president for rules and competition at the Association of Tennis Professionals, says up-and-coming players are more at risk from corruption and more money needs to be invested into the TIU.

"Grand Slams tournaments are not immune from match-fixing, but in my experience events on the day-to-day circuit are more at risk than matches at Grand Slam events," he said.

"Tennis launched the TIU in 2008. That unit is critical to effectively dealing with the risk of match fixing. At this time we know little about the unit and its resourcing seems to be much less than the resources invested in anti-doping. That resourcing needs to be increased."

BuzzFeed News contacted Tennis Australia and the Australian Sports Commission with a list of questions regarding the risks to young players. They declined to comment.

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The TIU said in a statement on Monday, "All of us here in tennis are absolutely committed to stamping out corruption. There is a zero-tolerance policy on this and we are not complacent."

Another sports administrator who has experience with match-fixing scandals is former Cricket Australia boss Malcolm Speed. He says the government must intervene to ensure Australian sport is not corrupted. One idea is to legalise and heavily regulate in-play betting.

"Part of the push from Australian sports is to have online, in-play betting legalised so as to minimise the attraction for Australian punters to bet with unregulated, offshore betting operators with whom the Australian sports do not have integrity agreements and the right of veto over bet types,'' Speed told News Corp.

When asked if the federal government had any plans to begin an inquiry into corruption in sports in Australia, minister for sport Sussan Ley said, "I'm confident Australia has a strong sports integrity system."

"Under our National Policy on Match-Fixing, there is close collaboration between sports and betting providers on integrity matters, with serious offences facing penalties. including up to 10 years imprisonment."

– Additional reporting from Matt Walsh

Rob Stott is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Rob Stott at rob.stott@buzzfeed.com.

Nicola Harvey is Managing Editor of BuzzFeed Australia and is based in Sydney.

Contact Nicola Harvey at nicola.harvey@buzzfeed.com.

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