After a detailed two year study spearheaded by leading UK sports QC Adam Lewis, Tennis’ Independent Review Panel (IRP) has released its ‘Final Report’ on betting related-integrity issues, measures and protections.
The report, which was jointly commissioned by the sport’s governing bodies of the ATP, WTA, ITF, and the Grand Slam Board, underlined a number of issues over the potential for corruption in the lower levels of the game.
The IRP emphasised that corruption can be minimised by restructuring live data supplier agreements, with the panel recommending the following data-led measures for tennis stakeholders:
Discontinuing the supply of official data for tennis’ development tour ‘The ITF World Tennis (“WTT”)’, which takes shape on 1 January 2019 and consists of former ITF $15,000 range tournaments.
Empowering the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) to better monitor betting markets, and gain the capabilities to disrupt betting markets/events based on unofficial data of tennis sanctioned professional tournaments/matches/events.
Allowing the TIU as tennis integrity supervisor to impose quotas/limits on the supply of live scoring data, in particular with regards to the lower levels of professional tennis.
Imposing a mandatory ‘integrity-related contractual obligation’ on betting operators and data suppliers as a condition of the commercial use of official tennis syndicated live scoring data.
In its release, the IRP stated: “The Panel considers, following consultation, that the significant limitations described above are necessary and strike the appropriate balance at this time between all the competing considerations.
“The Panel recognises that these recommendations will have an adverse impact on the ITF’s revenues, a substantial part of which is reinvested in promoting tennis at what is essentially a developmental level of the game.”
The IRP also recognised that the partnership with leading sports data firm Sportradar as the principal supplier of live ITF scoring feeds since 2012, has generated tennis significant revenue.
However, moving forward the IRP underlined the importance of tennis establishing a new, stronger Tennis Integrity Unit, whose responsibilities will be monitored by an independent supervisory board – ‘in particular as to the extent of any future sale of ITF data after the Sportradar contract comes to an end’.
Issuing its response, Sportradar was sceptical as to whether a data blackout on the lower levels of professional tennis would stand up to scrutiny: “We welcome the fact that the Panel has reversed their recommendation to discontinue sale of live data at the $25k level of the sport. However we believe that they could and should have gone further. This is for two reasons:
“A targeted approach should be applied across the whole sport; we have been consistent in our view that the Panel invites new risks and problems by recommending a prohibitive approach, when it has not succeeded as an effective regulatory tool in relation to the betting industry anywhere in the world, nor in any other sport. Adjusting their arbitrary line (between targeted approach and blanket discontinuance) down a level doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
“This is because the measures don’t match the risks; the Panel’s approach remains disproportionate. They now accept a targeted approach as the most effective response for almost every level of tennis, including quite correctly those levels above the ITF that evidence the highest level of risk. It then makes no sense that they have doggedly maintained a solution that is more draconian, expensive, complex and unpredictable for the $15k tournament level that has lower risk.”
GLMS President, Ludovico Calvi, also responded to the study: “Supporting every effort towards transparency and integrity, GLMS welcomes the decision of the tennis governing bodies to proceed to an independent review. The recommendation for enhanced cooperation with the betting sector is of great importance and we are pleased that GLMS has in place an agreement since May 2018 for this purpose with the TIU and we look forward to providing the TIU with further active support in the coming months and years.
“In addition, we highly welcome the call to national authorities for betting regulation and especially for the ratification of the Macolin Convention. Recalling that sports betting is regulated at a national level by the respective national public authorities, GLMS calls for legalised, well-regulated, sports betting environments, complemented by concrete measures against illegal sports betting.”
As for the concerns regarding betting sponsorships in tennis, Calvi added: “Although we understand the concerns expressed by the Panel on the risks related to betting sponsorship, GLMS recalls that sponsorship is not a problem per se. However, conflicts of interest need to be prevented. Taking in serious this matter, GLMS recently published its Codeof Conduct on Sports betting, which includes clear provisions in terms of the avoidance of any conflicts when it comes to its members sponsoring sport organisations.”