After cricket and soccer, now the world of tennis has been rocked by the match-fixing scandal. It has been alleged that 16 players including Grand Slam winners had thrown away matches in the last decade. Not just that, reports also say that the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) had been repeatedly flagged about the players but the policing organisation failed to take action.
According to a report by BBC and Buzzfeed News the TIU, which is set up to police illegal activities in tennis, either failed to act upon information that identified suspicious behaviour among players, or impose any sanctions.
Reports also said that 8 of the 16 players accused, are playing in the Australian Open which began today. The scandal, as expected, created a stir among players and authorities at Melbourne Park.
The Tennis authorities, however, have refuted all allegations of widespread fixing.
“The Tennis Integrity Unit and the tennis authorities absolutely reject any suggestion that evidence of match fixing has been suppressed for any reason or isn’t being thoroughly investigated,” said ATP chairman Chris Kermode.
“While the BBC and BuzzFeed reports mainly refer to events from about 10 years ago, we will investigate any new information,” Kermode told a hastily arranged media conference at Melbourne Park.
Even though most news organisations were unable to independently verify the allegations, BBC and BuzzFeed News said that they had obtained documents that included the findings of an investigation set up by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the governing body of men’s professional tennis, in 2007.
The reports further said that the 2007 ATP inquiry found betting syndicates in Russia, northern Italy and Sicily making hundreds of thousands of pounds betting on games which investigators thought to be fixed. And to make matters worse, three of those games were at the Wimbledon.
In a confidential report for tennis authorities in 2008, the inquiry team said 28 players involved in those games should be investigated but the findings were never followed up, the news organisations alleged.
BBC and BuzzFeed News revealed that they did not name the players as they didn’t have access to their phone, bank and computer records to determine if they were in involved in match-fixing.
Some of the players also expressed shock after they heard the allegations.
“When I’m playing, I can only answer for me, I play very hard, and every player I play seems to play hard,” women’s world number one Serena Williams told reporters.
“If that’s going on, I don’t know about it,” she added.
Meanwhile, Craig Tiley who is Tennis Australia’s Chief Executive and Tournament Director of the Australian Open said that the Melbourne event had robust anti-corruption systems place.
“All involved in the administration of the Australian Open will not tolerate any deviations from our values and rules at any level,” Tiley said.
(With inputs from agencies)