The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) Supervisory Board and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) have announced the formation of a comprehensive integrity infrastructure for the ITF’s World Tennis Tour (WTT).
As part of the new collaboration, tennis integrity will benefit from significant investment as well as a host of new and improved anti-corruption protocols, enabling the progressive removal of live scoring data at all WTT $15k events.
The move builds on the sport’s continued efforts to eradicate corruption, a battle which was accelerated in 2016 when the four organisations principally responsible for governing professional tennis at the international level (ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slam Board) appointed an Independent Review Panel (IRP) to address betting-related and other integrity issues facing the sport.
Initially, the panel proposed completely discontinuing live data for the tour, comprising both $15k and $25k events. However, after discussions between the IBIA and IRP, it published its final recommendations in December 2018 which included limiting the sale of data at the $15k level on the basis that the $25k remained – a core data recommendation finally approved today.
The ITF plans to invest $8 million into a series of integrity-related projects covering key areas such as the introduction of accreditation and access control systems for WTT events, video recording, added security to deter unofficial data collection, the appointment of on-site integrity protection personnel and enhanced channels for the reporting of integrity concerns by players and officials.
Alongside this substantial investment in tournament infrastructure, the ITF is also prioritising the creation of more $25k events to provide a balanced calendar and to deter unofficial data collection at events for which live scoring data have been discontinued.
The Supervisory Board and the ITF have agreed to a timetable for reducing the supply of live scoring data for WTT $15k matches – something that has been ongoing since December 2018. Under this agreed timetable, up to 3,500 fewer matches will have been made available to the betting markets in 2019 compared to 2018.
Sportradar, which has a contract to supply the live scoring data until 2021, responded to the story, through David Lampitt, the firm’s MD of Sports Partnerships.
He said: “Sportradar continues to support measures that enhance the integrity of tennis and we have played an active role in the process towards implementation of the IRP recommendations over the last 12 months. The ITF should be applauded for its proactive approach in addressing the concerns raised and building an integrity programme that is second to none in the sport.
“The statistics for 2019 show that there has been a significant decrease in integrity issues at ITF competitions. ITF events were already amongst the least likely to be corrupted in the sport and we therefore trust that the TIU Supervisory Board will now work with equal focus on delivering the recommendations to address the integrity concerns that exist across all levels.
“The discontinuance of data sales at ITF $15k events was just one of a package of interlocking measures, and its successful implementation is dependent upon a range of other recommendations being implemented in parallel.
“We will continue to contribute to the ongoing developments and have been encouraged by the collaborative approach taken by the Supervisory Board, reflecting the recommendation for closer relationships between the TIU and key stakeholder groups.”
Khalid Ali, CEO of IBIA, added: “In-play betting makes up 80% of IBIA members’ tennis markets and over 95% at ITF level. Retaining live data for $25k matches and setting out an expansion of that tour is an overwhelmingly beneficial move by tennis both from an integrity and commercial standpoint.
“Removing all ITF World Tennis Tour data from regulated operators would have led to the undesirable situation of consumers seeking that product through unregulated channels, with the corresponding loss of market oversight and the ability to detect and punish corruption.
“Protecting the sport and operators against match-fixing is an ongoing challenge. However, IBIA is encouraged by the impact of recent criminal investigations and the allocation of additional resources to the TIU. That has seen a significant downturn in suspicious betting alerts, particularly at ITF level. It is the responsibility of all stakeholders to continue to work together to maintain that positive trend.
“IBIA and its members remain committed to protecting the integrity of tennis at all levels and will continue to work closely with the sport to meet that challenge.”