Match-fixing report: Tennis ‘a fertile breeding ground for corruption’

The Independent Review Panel’s (IRP) Interim Report into match-fixing in tennis has at long last been released.

The Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis was set up in February 2016 to look into allegations that match-fixing was rife in the professional game, amid claims that matches at Wimbledon and all the major tournaments have been the subject of betting scams in recent years.

And the report, which was released on Wednesday, found that the sport is a “fertile breeding ground” for breaches of integrity while lower-level tennis has a “tsunami” of betting-related problems, mainly due to online gambling.

With players struggling to earn a living when competing in lower-tier events, the review panel found that there is a “very significant” amount of corruption in the “lower and middle levels of the sport”, especially in the men’s game.

There was also “evidence of some issues” at Grand Slams and Tour events, but the problem is not as widespread at the top level, but “tanking” has also become a major concern as authorities are not giving the issue enough attention.

“At the higher level – in other words, where people are watching it – there is very little incentive to breach integrity and therefore it is unlikely that it will happen,” Adam Lewis, a member of the three-lawyer review panel, said.

“Our conclusion, based on all of the evidence is that match-fixing is unlikely at the level of the Grand Slams.”

The report also found no evidence of a cover-up by the Tennis Integrity Unit or the governing bodies of professional tennis (ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slam Board), but there were “errors made and opportunities missed” in terms of getting rid of the problems.

“Following an initial review of the Interim Report we confirm our agreement in principle with the package of measures and recommendations proposed by the IRP,” read a joint statement from the organisations.

“These include the removal of opportunities and incentives for breaches in integrity, the establishment of a restructured, more independent TIU, enhanced education, expanded rules, and greater co-operation and collaboration with the betting industry and broader sports community.

“Each of these areas now needs detailed exploration and analysis. Our immediate priority is to provide the input requested by the IRP by carefully reviewing, considering and responding to the 12 recommendations put forward for consultation, ahead of publication of the Final Report.”

Key recommendations put forward were an end to the sale of official live scoring data at lower-level tennis to betting companies and stopping betting companies from sponsoring tournaments.

The panel revealed that it surveyed more than 3,200 tennis players at all levels and 464 said they had first-hand knowledge of match fixing.