Tennis Tries to Hit This One Outa HerePublished October 15, 2007 by OCR Editor
Representatives from the across the tennis world's governing bodies will meet on Friday to discuss how to best manage online gambling and prevent match-fixing incidents.
A year is a long time in tennis. Reigning #1 tennis player Roger Federer has won three Grand Slam singles titles in the past year. The tennis world has undergone a major change over the past year in another respect. From considering accepting an Internet betting company as an official tour sponsor, the tennis governing bodies have joined forces to keep a safe distance from betting altogether.
Match Fixing Scare
The main event of the past year, which turned attention from allowing betting on tennis matches as a matter of course to raising concerns and awareness of match-fixing dangers, was an August match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martín Vassallo Argüello in Poland. Although it was an early round match in a minor tournament, it attracted over $7 million in wagers. Suspiciously, most the wagers were place on Davydenko, the favorite, to lose, even after he has won the first match.
Betfair, which accepted the wagers, took the unusual step of voiding all bets after the Russian has withdrawn from the match with a leg injury. It then notified the ATP, which has launched an investigation.
Let's Talk About It
Now the tennis governing bodies are about to sit and update their anti-corruption program which was introduced in 2003 to handle Internet gambling. Representatives from the men's and women's tours, International Tennis Federation and Grand Slams will meet on Friday in Roehampton, England, to create an integrity unit.
Speaking before the representatives will be experts who have worked on anti-corruption in horse racing and cricket. The focus will be on improving intelligence gathering and player education on the matter. It should be noted that players have come up since and told of match-fixing offers they were made, though they said this to the press and not the tennis organizations.
Bill Babcock, the ITF's executive director, said the effort is not directed at combating sports betting altogether. "We're not here to stop betting," he said. "But we are here to make sure there is no match-fixing."
Gambling More Disconcerting than Doping
Tennis officials admit gambling is a greater concern than other negative sports phenomena as doping. There are ways to combat match-fixing, an interest of the betting companies as much as it is that of the sport's. Any unusual trend is an interference with sports betting as much as it is for tennis.
Doping, though Major League Baseball tells us differently, can be tested. The sports needs "resources and punishments" to prevent such incidents from occurring, said Etienne de Villiers, head of the men's tour.
One of these measures will include a harsh two-year penalty for failing to report allegations. Match-selling offers can come from everywhere and reach anyone. It is up to the sport, its officials and the players themselves to fight it.