The first three months of 2020 saw a worrying tendency for the London-based group tasked with monitoring suspicious activities in tennis, the Tennis Integrity Unit /TIU/, as the cases submitted during the period for unusual betting patterns spiked up to 38, compared to 21 for the same period in 2019.
Spike Related to the Pandemic
Though there is no clear evidence that the spike in suspicious activity is related to the ongoing health crisis that halted major sports leagues around the world, neither specific data allocating the occurrences to the exact month of the quarter, TIU is convinced that the increase is tied to the coronavirus-dominated sporting environment.
In general, alerts do not indicate match-fixing, but only unusual betting activities around a specific game that would require an assessment, and sometimes even a full investigation into the game to be launched. The 38 alerts received so far come from the ATP Challenger Tour, 6, and from the men’s and women’s International Tennis Federation World Tennis Tour, 16 each.
“The increase of reported matches in the first quarter of 2020 is an indication that the entry levels of professional tennis were deliberately targeted by corruptors, as the sport moved towards suspension due to the Coronavirus pandemic. In anticipation of heightened integrity concerns when tennis resumes, the TIU, in conjunction with the governing bodies of tennis, is developing an education and awareness campaign to inform and support players, officials and tournament staff.”Official statement, Tennis Integrity Unit
Much like most other sports, tennis has also been affected by the adopted measures to contain the spread of the disease caused by the coronavirus, and TIU believes the lack of professional events have resulted into switching the focus of persons and organizations dealing with match-fixing to the lower levels.
Indeed, tennis tournaments started getting cancelled off since early March, and even the tournament that has never been cancelled since World War II, Wimbledon, has been called off by the All England Club, the venue the tournament takes place every year. In addition, all pro tennis tours have been placed on hold until at least mid-July.
Match-Fixing In Tennis
The latest scandal in tennis related to match-fixing was from December 2019, when an investigation by the German media, ZDF, found out a German player was involved in an international betting scandal. 135 other players plus 1 top 30 player were also involved. No names were cited, though.
Tennis has a history for match-fixing, especially on the lower circuits, as these matches do not pay enough to the players and make them easily targeted by organized crime, but the TIU is determined to sustain integrity as it banned more than 20 players in 2019 alone.