Sportradar has published its official response to last April’s ‘Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis’ commissioned by the ‘Tennis Integrity Unit’ (TIU) representing pro tennis’ governing bodies the WTA, ATP and the ITF.
In its response Sportradar supports the majority of the independent panel’s recommendations, however, the leading sports data firm outlines its concerns ‘in relation to the recommendation regarding the discontinuance of data sales’.
Published last April, the independent integrity review garnered high media coverage for recommending drastic changes to tennis’ operating structures and partnerships.
Seeking to eliminate match-fixing at the lower levels of professional tennis, the panel recommended that tennis governing bodies drastically reduce live data information supplied to the betting sector.
At present, ITF syndicated live match data is supplied by Sportradar AG, under the terms of a $70 million five-year agreement. Sportradar monitors all-levels of professional tennis including ‘Challenger’ and ‘Futures’ tournaments.
Sportradar believes that the proposal would fail in practice, and would lead to irreversible negative consequences for the sport, placing its athletes at further risk of integrity harms.
Seeking to help tennis’ ruling bodies and stakeholders, Sportradar proposes the following recommendations
- Implement a proactive tennis-wide approach to restricting data distribution, targeting specific matches with an elevated risk of corrupt activity based on a consistent and analysis-led evaluation. This is something that Sportradaris doing as part of their integrity partnership with the ITF
- Create a new body made up of representatives from tennis, betting operators and sports data companies to ensure a more concerted and collective approach to fighting corruption in tennis across related operational areas that should include the application of the above-targeted data restrictions
- Increase AV streaming coverage, where possible, to help provide reliable evidence
- Create new regulations to enable quicker sanctioning based on betting data and expert player analysis
- Bring in targeted measures to deal with online abuse of players, especially at lower levels, enabling players to escalate concerns
- Use technology to target risks, streamline processes, maximise impact and enhance intelligence-led enforcement action
David Lampitt, Sportradar Managing Director Group Operations, explained the factors outlined within the company’s response.
“Attempting a total data black-out on a sport has never been done, or even trialled or tested before,” he said. “Counter evidence and expert analysis indicate that such an approach is likely to have a harmful effect on integrity, which would be hard to reverse if unsuccessful.
“So, the Panel is staking its reputation, and that of the sport, on an uncertain ‘guess’, when there is good evidence that a different approach and an incremental process of implementing enhanced and targeted measures would be more likely to deliver successful outcomes and integrity benefits.
“If the recommendations remain unchanged, they would push the betting market underground where the integrity issues would be out of sight. This may give the veneer of improving the situation but would not deal with the underlying issues. These must not be brushed under the carpet.”
He added: “It’s important to point out that the relative risk that the Review attributes to the different levels of tennis is also misleading. In 2017, and consistently over the last four years, ITF tennis has, in fact, had the lowest risk of corruption across all the levels of the professional game, including the Grand Slams.
“Of course, integrity risks exist across all levels. But they are most prevalent at the mid-level of the Men’s game, so the rationale for applying the most draconian measures to the ITF Men’s and Women’s competitions and recommending relatively modest changes at the other levels doesn’t tally with the evidence.
“Ultimately our interests, like the Panel’s and other stakeholders involved, including the tennis governing bodies as well as the betting companies, are focused on safeguarding a clean sport. We want to be transparent about our submissions as we believe the evidence is important to ensure decisions are not taken that may have unintended and harmful consequences for the sport.”