Betting companies ‘must continue their efforts’ to protect the integrity of sports, says ITIA

Betting companies should play a central role in the fight for integrity in sports, particularly relating to gambling-affiliated corruption, according to the CEO of the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA).

Speaking to the Integrity Insight Podcast, Jonny Gray, CEO of the organisation, discussed the threat posed to tennis and other sports by corrupted players and officials, as well as organised criminals, and the role betting companies play in assisting with the fight against these illicit activities.

Gray stated: “I think betting companies, other data companies and others involved in the supply of live scoring data to the betting industry need to continue their efforts to innovate in the way that they detect anomalous betting patterns, to ensure that they vary in the algorithms they’ve got so that they’re not predictable or easy to easy to counter, and to really engage with us, and other sports, in this battle in this adversarial situation.”

Adding to these comments, Gray remarked that data from betting companies ‘formed the backbone of our intelligence collection’ throughout 2020, as the Agency dealt with the hurdles created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Making sure that the betting industry continues to innovate and invest in its detection system is really important,” he continued.

Tennis, like many other sports, relies heavily on betting data as an initial source of suspicion around a potentially corrupted match, whilst education of players and officials is another key preventative measure.

The use of this data and intelligence has enabled the ITIA – as well as its predecessor the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) – to successfully sanction a number of corrupted tennis officials and players in a range of countries such as France, Algeria, Slovakia, Ukraine and the UK.

Additionally, Gray was questioned on the results of an International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA) report published last month, which highlighted that football and tennis are the two sports most likely to be under threat from corruption. Of the 98 tennis alerts recorded by the IBIA in 2020, 39 were provided by the ITIA as intelligence reports.

When asked why tennis in particular is a target by betting corrupters, Gray stated: “Unlike team sports, it only takes one player to be corrupted to influence the outcome of the match, and the nuanced betting that was impossible is possible now with in-play betting.”

Furthermore, Gray commented on the dynamic nature of betting-related threats, which range from ‘unsophisticated people, potentially within the sport itself, through to organised crime’.

“Europol just warned us a few months ago that organised crime is really focusing on the lower professional levels of tennis and football as well, and trying to corrupt it,” he continued.

The CEO also discussed the recent creation of the ITIA, highlighting the rationale behind its transition from the original TIU.

“The International Tennis Integrity Agency has been established by the governing bodies of professional tennis to safeguard the sport of tennis, and safeguarding it from corruption, especially betting related corruption,” he explained.

“The name has been adjusted to reflect more clearly the international, global nature of our remit, and from the point of view of what is that impact, I think the impact is primarily confidence with stakeholders that tennis understands that there was a potential of conflict, if you like, and it’s removed that, and fully established this independent body.”