The history of tennis and match-fixing

After the BBC/BuzzFeed investigation into match-fixing at predominantly the lowest levels of the sport there was a report commissioned and put together by the Independent Review Panel (IRP). This process began in early 2016 and the final draft was released in December 2018. It’s this final report I am going to focus on and dissect.

As I discussed in my last blog, there’s a myth that surrounds match-fixing in that it began when the Sportradar deal was signed in 2012. It’s simply not true. We can go back as 2005 as the IRP passage here shows:

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As you can see, as far back as 2005 there were concerns related to the game’s integrity. The passage then goes on to mention a match in Sopot 2007. This is arguably the most famous case of match-fixing that exists, even to this day. It involved Nikolai Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello. I’ll add a newspaper report as a reference below, but the long and short of it was that the match was so obviously fixed that Betfair cancelled all bets on the match (over £7m was wagered, nearly two and a half times more than a match being played at the same time). That match in Sopot is something I’ll come back to later on.

The next part of the report that interested me was their conclusion as to why tennis is so vulnerable to match-fixing. It’s something I touched on in my last blog and I wholeheartedly agree with their assessment.

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The section 8.3 is crucial to consider. Again if I refer to my last blog I mentioned there’s little doubt that whilst match-fixing existed previously, it has dramatically worsened since the Sportradar deal opened up 10’s of thousands of matches to live in-play betting.

I’m going to skip ahead in the report, but I feel this graph shows to what extent the above statement is true.

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It’s obvious to conclude that as 10’s of thousands of matches became available for in-play betting the instances of potential match-fixing rose sharply.

I would also like to reiterate that those within the ATP who are pushing the agenda of the ITF and Sportradar being the problem seem to have curiously forget the IRP made it clear there’s match fixing at the ATP level too.

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I made it clear before why I believe the problem is so much greater at the ITF level. More tournaments, more players and lower prize pools. But I know this problem goes up into ATP events too, so I’d say again that their live data sales also need to be discussed.

Next let’s look at the response to match-fixing historically and I tend to find section 14.2 incredibly troubling.

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Why do I find it so troubling? Well let’s next consider what they did back in 2003.

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The man in question has been named in numerous media reports as Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

He is being inducted into the Hall of Fame this year.

To conclude this section, for me it’s fairly clear the tennis authorities were way behind the curve on the issue. The Ings Report back in 2005 was not treated with the respect it deserved and lip service was paid to problem as a whole.

There surely has to be serious questions asked over the Kafelnikov incident also. We need to know exactly what happened and why.

In my next blog I’ll look at what happened from 2009 onwards once the TIU was created.

Links:

Davydenko – Arguello match: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2007/aug/03/tennis.sport

Kafelnikov: https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/tennis/103548811/grand-slam-winner-yevgeny-kafelnikov-was-player-b-who-retired-amid-betting-scandal

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