NEW corruption scandals hit the sporting world last night as an independent investigation panel revealed that widespread match-fixing was reportedly linked to several high profile tennis matches.
The secret files, which flagged up suspected events of match-fixing at Wimbledon back in 2007, were made available to the BBC and BuzzFeed News.
The investigation, which spanned over a decade, was carried out by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), during which time 16 players, all of whom were ranked inside the top 50 were under suspicion of match-fixing.
All of the suspected players, some of whom were Grand Slam winners, were allowed to continue competing without further questioning. Two of these players have been identified as Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello, who were cleared of any match-fixing claims, although this prompted the investigation to be much more widespread, analysing a network of gamblers affiliated with elite players.
The results from the investigation were then passed to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) – a body which is committed to monitoring corruption in the sport. According to documents passed to the BBC, the investigation revealed several betting syndicates from Russia, northern Italy and Sicily, all of whom made hundreds of thousands of pounds by betting on games that were supposedly fixed.
It also emerged that three of these games had taken place at Wimbledon.
A confidential report for the tennis authorities set up in 2008 also revealed that 28 players were linked to match-fixing claims and advised the TIU that these players be investigated, but these findings were never followed up. This was in part due to a new anti-corruption code that world tennis had introduced in 2009, which stated that no further enquiries concerning previous corruption offences could be chased.
It was also revealed that in previous years, repeated warnings had been sent to the TIU concerning a third of these players, but none were ever reprimanded by the unit.
The BBC and BuzzFeed News received the names of other current players the TIU have repeatedly been told to watch by a wealth of betting organisations, anti-corruption units and even professional gamblers – which link some players back to suspicious matches that were played as far back as 2003. But, more alarmingly, reports of match-fixing scandals appear to be just as present in world tennis even now – with the European Sports Security Association indicating more than 50 suspicious matches to the TIU in 2015.
The organisation even went as far to suggest that tennis attracts higher rates of betting and gambling than any other sport.
Nigel Willerton, director of the TIU, commented that while the organisation welcomed the support of the betting industry, “it is not the role of betting companies to make judgements about corrupt activity”.
He also added: “All credible information received by the TIU is analysed, assessed, and investigated by highly experienced former law-enforcement investigators.”
The news coincides with the start of the first major event in the tennis calendar today – the Australian Open – and it has emerged that eight of the players repeatedly flagged to the TIU over the past decade are due to play in the tournament.
Although the TIU does not have the authority to demand evidence from suspected individuals, questions will nevertheless be raised over the forthcoming days as to why no further action was ever taken in response to ATP’s findings.
It is not yet known whether Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association – recently criticised by Andy Murray for not doing enough to grow the game at grass roots level in the UK – will pressurize the TIU in developing further enquiries into suspected match-fixing events at Wimbledon matches.
What is clear, however, is that this report – the conclusive details of which have yet to be fully publicised – could potentially have detrimental effects on the image of world tennis.
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