Tennis' governing bodies acknowledge 'vulnerabilities' after independent integrity review
Tennis' governing bodies have acknowledged the existence of "vulnerabilities" after an independent review into possible corruption concluded the sport faces a "serious integrity problem".
The four organisations principally responsible for the governance of professional tennis - the ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slam Board - appointed an independent review panel in early 2016 to address betting-related and other integrity issues facing the sport, after BuzzFeed and the BBC claimed to have uncovered evidence of suspected match-fixing through a joint investigation.
An interim report was released on Wednesday by the panel, led by Adam Lewis QC, revealing that no evidence had been found to indicate that the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) had acted to cover up breaches of integrity.
The report did, however, warn that integrity issues were "particularly acute and pervasive at the lower... and at middle levels of the sport, especially on the men's circuits".
One TIU investigator described the extent of the problem at some lower-level events as a "tsunami".
A statement released on behalf of senior figures at the WTA, ATP, ITF, Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open accepted the findings and recognised existing shortcomings.
"The governing bodies of professional tennis (ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slam Board) announced today their agreement with the principles of the findings of the Independent Review Panel's (IRP) interim report," read the statement.
"The IRP was set up by the governing bodies to investigate thoroughly allegations of corruption in the sport. We are pleased with the panel's findings that they have seen no evidence of any institutional corruption or cover-up by the tennis authorities or the Tennis Integrity Unit.
"We are also pleased that the IRP has recognised the positive actions taken by the sport to address the integrity issues it faces: 'The International Governing Bodies are to be commended for the introduction of rules specifically aimed at dealing with the integrity problems faced by tennis.'
"However, we also recognise that there are vulnerabilities, particularly at the lower levels of tennis. We are committed to seizing the opportunity to address these concerns through firm and decisive action. We support the IRP's identification that the betting industry's role is critical to ensure that betting operators play their part.
"Following an initial review of the interim report we confirm our agreement in principle with the package of measures and recommendations proposed by the IRP. These include the removal of opportunities and incentives for breaches in integrity, the establishment of a restructured, more independent TIU, enhanced education, expanded rules, and greater co-operation and collaboration with the betting industry and broader sports community.
"Each of these areas now needs detailed exploration and analysis. Our immediate priority is to provide the input requested by the IRP by carefully reviewing, considering and responding to the 12 recommendations put forward for consultation, ahead of publication of the final report.
"At the same time we will continue to implement existing initiatives to enhance and expand tennis's governance of the sport in relation to betting-related integrity.
"In commissioning the IRP to provide an independent review of betting-related integrity in the sport, we committed to making appropriate resources available to carry out that work. We are confident that this investment in time and financial resources will substantially improve the ability of the sport to meet the challenges it currently faces.
"The governing bodies thank the IRP for their hard and important work."