I wish to make it clear from the outset of this blog that I think the TIU are useless. I’ll cover in detail why in this and any subsequent blog I write, but suffice to say that if I were match-fixing right at this moment I’d have little concern that the TIU in its current form would stop me unless I made an horrific mistake.
That said, I think it is important to note I feel like they’re fighting Hydra. Every single time they cut off a head many more are ready to grow back. They’re not to blame for that, the players are.
Whatever excuses a player wishes to use, I’m yet to hear of one being forced to fix matches at gun point. It’s a choice and when you make that choice you deserve the severest of all punishments available, namely losing the right to play professionally again.
Finally, I personally am someone who gambles on tennis matches. I have been on the right and wrong side of matches I have subsequently believed to be fixed. It’s the risk I run when betting on $15k events I cannot watch. I say this because any commentary I make below is not as a result of being a disgruntled gambler who feels a player has fixed every time I have lost. I therefore ask you keep an open mind when reading on because I am trying to be as fair and impartial as I can be.
The TIU from January 2009 to the present day.
The TIU came into existence in Jan 2009 and according to the IRP report have produced 59 successful convictions since then.
The report praises them for this which I find staggering. 59 convictions from January 2009 to December 2018 equates to 6 a year. By the end of this week there will probably be a minimum of 6 dodgy matches. It’s a drop in the ocean.
The next section of the report is even more confusing.
Whilst I accept there may not have been a cover-up, at best the above paragraph suggests there is a clear and obvious element of negligence when it comes to dealing with those matches that had been flagged up. It also mentions Sopot, which as I said in my previous blog is easily the most famous of the match-fixing scandals to engulf the sport and yet to this day nobody has been caught. We need explanations as to why and specifically as to what data was found and not used on the mobile phone.
These next two paragraphs are key.
Undoubtedly one of my biggest issues is with how seemingly difficult it is for a player to get caught. The TIU seem to adopt the level of proof expected in a criminal court trial. Is that necessary? I’m not a lawyer (obviously), but the report would suggest otherwise. Too often it seems like the negligence/stupidity of the player, e.g. Karim Hossam not deleting incriminating mesaages, is how the players are caught rather than gathering evidence that heavily suggests fixing has gone on and being brave enough to back that belief up in a court of law should it come to it.
I’ll give an example of what I mean now. Oliver Anderson was banned for two years, after being arrested and admitting to his crime. The evidence was a series of bets placed that heavily indicated something strange was taking place.
The match itself was broadcast and post-arrest when you looked at the footage it was clear as day he’d agreed to deliberately lose the first set.
Let’s play devil’s advocate for a minute and assume he had not been arrested and confessed. Well, at that point what evidence would the TIU need? Surely the match footage and the suspicious bets would suffice? I’m speculating here, but one suspects not.
I’m going to give one more absolutely blatant example of a fix that has gone unpunished and probably always will. I was also on the right side of this and won money.
The match in question took place in Italy at the back end of last year and was a Croatian derby between Duke Kekez and Franjo Raspudic (feel free to sue me boys, I dare you).
Raspudic took the first set 6-3, winning 28 of 48 points. It was then, with Kekez 2-1 up on serve in the second, that I decided to back him. I felt the price was too generous.
It’s worth noting the match continued on serve until 3-3. Kekez had won 16 of the 30 points in the set until that point. To be clear, at this stage Raspudic had won 42 points to Kekez’s 36.
From then on Raspudic seemingly forget to remember how to play tennis and proceeded to win 9 of the next 45 points, losing 3-6, 6-3, 6-0.
Now I couldn’t watch the match, so who knows, maybe he injured himself? Maybe Kekez just stepped up a level? Perhaps. But what struck me as strange was that the Bet365 website refused to offer in-play odds around the time Raspudic started to collapse and upon my bet winning I had this discussion with William Hill as I did not get paid my winnings.
The conversation would indicate outside forces were aware of the something nefarious going on.
So what happened to them? Well Raspudic played the following week and nothing since, whilst Kekez play a few tournaments after in 2018 and played a couple in January this year. So nothing, presumably.
It’s possible they were investigated and cleared. But from my years of following this shit I’d be more willing to wager that the TIU couldn’t find anything that meets their unnecessarily high threshold (which the IRP agrees with) and both players are free to do as they please.
Remember that’s one match I’m showing you. Thanks to the Sportradar deal there are over 60,000 live matches a year. If you thought the TIU’s success rate of 6 a year was even slightly close to the true number that are being thrown, I hope that puts it into perspective for you.
This is a plague on our sport and as I’ll discuss in the next blog, the ITF have still not implemented the one thing that could begin to slow this down.
As mentioned in my next blog I’ll tackle the recommendations that were made and query why some of those took only until the IRP report was published for them to come into effect.