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Corruption in tennis (Relevant for GS Prelims, GS Mains paper II and III)

A new report details the problem of match-fixing

Why was the IRP set up?
The Independent Review Panel (IRP) was set up in 2016 after investigations by BBC and Buzzfeed claimed that there was widespread match-fixing and illegal betting in tennis. Reports also suggested that the governing bodies such as the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the Association of Tennis Professionals, the Women’s Tennis Association, the Grand Slams and the Tennis Integrity Unit did little to combat the problem. The panel published a draft report last month, titled the “Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis”, after surveying more than 3,200 tennis players and interviewing 200 others, over a span of two years.

What are its findings and recommendations?
The report does not give any specific details of players or matches that were fixed but says the sport has been engulfed in a “tsunami” of match-fixing and corruption in the “lower and middle levels of the sport” (particularly the Futures circuit) where the prize money is so low that the players struggle to make a living. This, according to the report, provides an incentive for players to fix matches for a reward.

The most urgent recommendation is that the ITF stop sharing official live scoring data with Sportradar, the sports data company that sells information to betting companies, which in turn enables betting during low-level tennis matches.

Gambling in tennis?
Tennis has always been attractive to betting agencies. For many years, bookmakers were a common sight at tournaments, including Wimbledon. Tennis, as an individual sport, also lends itself to betting; you can bet on full matches, individual sets and sometimes even just games. That, coupled with super-fast Internet, has made the sport lucrative for gambling.

The governing bodies in tennis also find themselves in an ethical dilemma because sponsorship from betting agencies have become an integral part of the sport.

Are Grand Slams fixed?
News reports in 2016 claimed that winners of singles and doubles Grand Slam titles are among the “core group of 16 [suspected players]” to have repeatedly lost games when “highly suspicious bets have been placed against them.” The IRP report says there is some “evidence of some issues” at higher levels, such as Grand Slams and Tour events, but it does not reveal a “widespread problem” in elite professional tennis. Most players who compete at the highest levels are those who play for a living.

The report, however, claims ‘tanking’ — players deliberately giving up or throwing away the match — has become a feature at some high-profile tournaments and has been tolerated too often by the tennis authorities, making it tough to detect actual corrupt play.

(Adapted from The Hindu)

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