Independent inquiry needed to address tennis match-fixing claims - Blake


A journalist involved in the publication of match-fixing allegations that have rocked tennis has called for an independent inquiry into the issue. 

Hours before the start of the Australian Open in Melbourne, the BBC and BuzzFeed News revealed details of a joint investigation, alleging that tennis authorities had failed to act upon repeated warnings regarding claims of match-fixing involving a number of players on the professional circuit.

In a subsequent news conference, ATP executive chairman and president Chris Kermode said the governing body of men's tennis "absolutely rejects any suggestion that evidence of match-fixing has been suppressed for any reason or isn't being thoroughly investigated".

Yet Heidi Blake, BuzzFeed News' UK investigations editor and a contributor to the explosive report, believes tennis fans will only be satisfied if greater transparency is provided by authorities.

Explaining the decision not to name players alleged to have regularly lost matches when heavily lopsided betting was apparent, Blake told Omnisport: "It's not for us to make accusations of fixing against any individual player.

"What needs to happen is these players need to face full investigations - their bank details need to be scrutinised, their phone records need to be scrutinised, their computer and internet logs should be looked at, to find out if they are connected to any of these gamblers who are placing such suspicious bets on their games.

"We're not in a position to do that as a media organisation, but we're calling on world tennis to take this seriously and properly investigate these cases.

"The prime minister [of the United Kingdom, David Cameron] has called for an independent inquiry and I think that would be a great thing."

Kermode had earlier stated: "In its investigations, the Tennis Integrity Unit [TIU] has to find evidence as opposed to information, suspicion, or hearsay. This is the key here, that it requires evidence."

However, Blake argued: "Because world tennis is so untransparent about the way it goes about policing match-fixing, it's very hard for the public to have any confidence that when they say, 'we looked at the evidence and we concluded there wasn't enough there', there wasn't actually enough to go ahead and look at it, because we just don't know.

"I think it's probably a case of short-term pain for long-term gain. I think it would be very painful to have a period of truth and reconciliation and to say these are some of the players that have come under suspicion and we're going to investigate.

"I imagine many of them would be cleared and there wouldn't be enough evidence, but I think some of them wouldn't be. I think that would be painful, but ultimately the fans would be grateful to the sport for being honest, being open and once that process was finished, they would then feel they could have much greater confidence in what they could see going on out there on court."