By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw
A joint BBC/BuzFeed Report has claimed that match-fixing in world tennis is widespread, including the pinnacle of tennis tournaments, Wimbledon, and that the tennis authorities have been slow to act and appear to have turned a blind eye.
The Report alleges that 16 out of the 50 top-ranked players have been repeatedly reported to the Tennis Integrity Unit, which was set up in 2008, for allegedly throwing matches, but no action has been taken. Eight players, who are under suspicion as a result of past or current investigations into match-fixing in tennis, it is further claimed, are in the main draw of the current Australian Open. The Report also alleges that a confidential study carried out in 2008 recommended investigations into 28 players, but the findings were never pursued!
Match-fixing has been defined by the Council of Europe in 2014 as:
“An intentional arrangement, act or omission aimed at an improper alteration of the result or the course of a sports competition in order to remove all or part of the unpredictable nature of the aforementioned sports competition with a view to obtaining an undue advantage for oneself or for others.
As Yihuan Chang in a forthcoming article on ‘Spot-fixing and Match-fixing in Individual Professional Sports and How to Combat them’ to be published in the March 2016 issue of ‘Global Sports Law and Taxation Reports’ remarks:
“Certain individual sports make them very susceptible to fixing: less people are needed to fix compared to team sports; low-ranked players can earn more with fixing than with prize money; not all matches on the tour matter; and fixes are relatively difficult to detect.”
Chang also points out:
“One major threat is ‘betting motivated match-fixing’. The development of this kind of match-fixing is greatly fuelled by the increase of online betting companies in recent years.”
Having a betting company as a sponsor of your sport may add another dimension to this problem. In November 2015, the International Tennis Federation, which organises the Davis Cup and the Federation Cup, entered into a three-year sponsorship with Betway, one of the world’s biggest on-line betting companies. Furthermore, the Australian Open has, for the first time this year, a gambling sponsor, William Hill!
Of course, the ATP President has strongly denied the allegations made by the BBC and BuzFeed, saying that the threat of match-fixing in tennis is at an “incredibly small level.” But, let us wait and see how this story actually unfolds!
Sadly, it seems that no sport is immune from one kind of corruption or another, including athletics, cricket, football and snooker, to name but a few. The latest claims of alleged cover up or inaction in tennis mirror the current doping scandals in athletics. As the late Jogi Berra might have remarked in relation to the latest tennis match-fixing claims: “It’s déjà vu all over again!”
Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw is an International Sports Lawyer, Academic and Author and may be contacted by e-mail at ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’