What should have been a great start to the Australian open, a celebration of down under tennis and Lleyton Hewitt’s last, has turned into something else. Nadal, Venus and Halep may have all had shock exits, but what’s really on everyone’s lips is the exit of Tennis’ integrity.
Files have been uncovered and revealed just in time for the Australian open, which started on 18th January. The information which was discovered by Buzzfeed news and BBC contains indictments on 16 players, who currently sit in the top 50 of the game, as being suspicious. It is believed some of those who are being looked at have even won Grand Slam Doubles Titles.
The investigations into suspicious activity is done by the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), who were assembled in 2008, to deal with issues amongst gambling irregularities. It has not been the success that the ATP would have hoped for however when they were set up. In its seven-year history the TIU has only banned seven players and one official. This, despite the European Sport Security Association saying they had flagged up 50 incidents in 2015 alone, for the TIU.
It is difficult to accuse them of a lack of efficiency however; the unit only has five full time employees. The type of players who are usually mixed up in events such as this are usually low-level players. Only one of the players the TIU has banned made the top 200. If you are not in the top 200 you would make, at most, £40,000. This is before you take expenses such as travel and coaching. Some players barely make a living and therefore it is easy to see why they could be tempted by easy money.
Big Names Involved?
As stated some of the players who have been highlighted have won Grand Slam titles, and it is assumed some of them are taking part in the current Australian Open. The start of the TIU followed with one of the biggest incidents of match fixing allegations in the modern era. In 2007 a match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Arguello raised suspicions by a betting company. Mark Davies, an Executive of Betfair at the time, received information on millions of pounds from Russia being placed on Arguello to win the match. Davydenko proceeded to pull out of the match in the second round with a foot injury handing the win to Arguello. Betfair decided to void all bets due to the situation, and the players were duly interviewed. Despite a thorough investigation no hard evidence could prove the players had been in contact – no further action was taken. Mark Phillips who was one of the investigators at the time said they had an opportunity to ‘nip it in the bud’, unfortunately, we seem to be finding out what happens when a sport is left unregulated.
I Want To See a Strong Response
European Sport Security Association claimed that Tennis has more suspicious evidence than any other sport, when it comes to match fixing. The ATP needs to take action now. We are in the midst of an era of sporting scandal. FIFA are in turmoil, IAAF are dealing with a huge drug cheating scandal, and if you cast your mind back but a few years, the biggest lie in sporting history, Lance Armstrong, was unveiled.
Tennis can avoid going down these paths if it acts quickly and reprimands perpetrators heavily and with haste. Of course there could be harsh consequences. Tennis Player Daniel Koellerer was banned for life in 2011, despite protesting his complete innocence. The ATP needs to pull its finger out though, pass down the punishments, and then make sure the TIU are properly set up to deal with situations like this much better in the future.