The BBC and BuzzFeed News alleged that the Tennis Integrity Unit, the sport’s anti-corruption body, had failed to thoroughly investigate a group of 16 players that bookmakers, foreign police and other investigators had warned it about. The BBC and BuzzFeed News have not named the players because without access to their phone, bank and computer records it was not possible to determine whether they took part in match-fixing.
Tennis authorities have denied suppressing evidence of match-fixing or overlooking suspected cases amid reports on the opening day of the Australian Open alleging widespread corruption at the top level of the sport. The BBC and BuzzFeed News quoted Nigel Willerton, director of the TIU, as saying: “All credible information received by the TIU is analyzed, assessed, and investigated by highly experienced former law-enforcement investigators.”
The news organizations said they had obtained a cache of documents that included the findings of an investigation set up in 2007 by the organizing body, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).
The documents show the 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. Three of these games were at Wimbledon.
Among the accusations:
- Winners of singles and doubles titles at Grand Slam tournaments are among the core group of 16 players who have repeatedly been reported for losing games when highly suspicious bets have been placed against them.
- One top-50 player competing in the Australian Open is suspected of repeatedly fixing his first set.
- Players are being targeted in hotel rooms at major tournaments and offered $50,000 or more per fix by corrupt gamblers.
- Gambling syndicates in Russia and Italy have made hundreds of thousands of pounds placing highly suspicious bets on scores of matches – including at Wimbledon and the French Open.
- The names of more than 70 players appear on nine leaked lists of suspected fixers who have been flagged up to the tennis authorities over the past decade without being sanctioned.