Investigation unit has banned only a handful of small fry in nine years
Published 19/01/2016 | 02:30
Professional tennis's anti-corruption unit insists it has both the ability and the determination to nail miscreants big and small.
Yet its list of catches is very modest for a global sport that the BBC study says is the third most vulnerable to betting fraud through match-fixing, because of the proliferation of low-level tournaments and the difficulty of proving that any player has lost deliberately.
The London-based Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) was set up in 2008 by all the sport's four governing bodies - the men's ATP, women's WTA, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the Grand Slam Board - to address concerns that the betting frauds besetting cricket and soccer were also targeting tennis.
The ATP had convened an independent review after a match between Russian former world number three Nikolay Davydenko and Argentina's Martin Vassallo Arguello in 2007 in Poland raised suspicions. Although neither player was found to have committed an offence, the online bookmaker Betfair was forced to void all bets.
Since then, the work of the TIU's five full-time investigators and one data analyst has led to 17 professionals and one official, almost all from the lower rungs of the tennis ladder, being banned for corruption, some of them for life.
A TIU source said the governing bodies had never turned down a request for extra funding to fight corruption, and ATP chairman Chris Kermode rejected the idea that the TIU lacked teeth.
He said it had the right to "interview any relevant person of interest and obtain their telephone, computer and bank records."
However, TIU head Nigel Willerton, a former senior detective in London's Metropolitan Police, said players could refuse to reveal phone records, albeit at a cost. "That's called non-cooperation, and they can be reported and sanctioned."
Willerton declined to say whether any players on the pro tour were under investigation.
The team works with players and tournament directors in prevention, education and investigation, but can only scratch the surface of the 21,000 or so professional players covered by the TIU's code.
Bookmakers offer odds not only on matches in the high-profile grand slams and ATP and WTA tournaments, but also in a host of lower-level tournaments in far-flung locations.