Professional tennis is overwhelmed by corruption based on the game’s close relationship with gambling firms, alleges a new report.
The problem stems from too many professional players at a low level trying to make a name in the game.
Huge prizes paid to top professionals are encouraging more players to take up a racket, but they are chasing small prizes and barely earn a living.
Although 14,000 players are trying to make a living from tennis, at least half earn nothing.
Reducing the number of professional players to a pool of around 1,500 competitors.
This has led to some questionable resultsin matches where players are suspected of tanking – deliberately losing in return for a cash back-hander from gamblers betting on the result of the game.
The Tennis Integrity Unitscanned more than 2 million pages of data relating to tens of thousands of games worldwide and concluded some players are corrupt – but not at the elite level.
The unit says suspicious betting patterns were detected involving some games and players, but the report did not identify any suspected thrown matches.
However, the suggestion is two or three matches a day are fixed in the betting season – which peaks during the final three months of the year.
The report cautioned not all unexpected results came from match-fixing as injury, weather and other issues could affect the outcome of a game.
And the unit warned that the governing bodies do not have enough staff to scrutinise vast numbers of suspicious results and that more investigators are needed to root out corruption.
Call to ban betting on Futures Tour
The unit voiced concerns about tanking, which is an offence in the game.
The rules say players can be punished for failing to give their best in a match, but proving a player had intent to lose is difficult.
The researchers consider banning betting on the Futures Tour could root out much of the alleged corruption.
“The nature of the game lends itself to manipulation for betting purposes,” says the report. “The player incentive structure creates a fertile breeding ground for breaches of integrity. Today, tennis faces a serious integrity problem.
“Detection is difficult, not least because at many lower levels there are no spectators and inadequate facilities to protect players from potential corruptors. Moreover, under-performance is often attributed to tanking, which is often tolerated.”