Tennis: Independent report reveals a “tsunami” of corruption at lower levels of the game

By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw

An independent review of integrity in tennis, published on 25 April 2018, says that the sport has provided a “fertile breeding ground” for corruption.

The interim review authored by Adam Lewis QC – a final review is expected in the Autumn – has been two years in the making and is believed to have cost £20 million.

Lewis said that “tennis is responsible for more suspicious betting than any other sport”. A survey of 3,200 players found that 14.5% – that is, a total of 464 players – had first-hand knowledge of match-fixing.

The review found no evidence of a widespread problem in elite professional tennis or any cover-up by the game’s authorities.

According to Lewis, many of the problems can be traced back to the International Tennis Federation (ITF) decision in 2012 to enter into a US$70 million deal with the data company, Sportradar, to distribute live scores from small and intermediate tournaments around the world.

This, according to Lewis, meant that bookmakers could provide odds on those matches – particularly the lucrative in-play market – giving unscrupulous gamblers a prime opportunity for exploitation.

Not surprisingly, amongst the recommendations made in the review for tackling corruption in tennis, is no sponsorship of the sport by betting companies.

However, the review pointed out that there was “no simple solution or panacea” to the integrity problem in tennis.

It will be interesting to see what further instances of corruption in the game of tennis are brought to light in the final report, which, as noted above, is due out in the Autumn, and the extent to which the tennis authorities, particularly the ITF,  which has been criticised for not sufficiently carrying out investigations around ‘grand slam’ tournaments, implement its recommendations.

Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘ian.blackshaw@orange.fr’