'Tsunami' of match-fixing in lower-level tennis, says report

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The problems stem from too many players in the lower reaches, such as the Futures and Challenger circuits, not earning enough to make a living, coupled with the rise of online betting.

Set up in response to a 2016 report by the BBC and BuzzFeed News that found suspected illegal betting in the sport, the IRP study was carried out over a period of two years and included more than 100 players.

As well as banning betting companies from sponsoring lower-level tournaments, it is recommended that the sale of live scoring data is discontinued and better security for players is provided at such events.

While there are around 15,000 registered professional players, the report said only the top 250 women and 350 men can break even after coaching and travel costs.

The report was released Wednesday.

The report surveyed over 3,200 tennis players and found that 14.5% indicated they had first-hand knowledge of match-fixing.

It added that there are no simple solutions but called on the sport "to address and limit the betting markets that ultimately drive, and give expression to, the problem; and to improve the systems of preventing and disrupting breaches of integrity, and for detecting and sanctioning them when they occur".

"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'".

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"Detection is hard, not least because at many lower levels there are no spectators and inadequate facilities to protect players from potential corruptors", the review added.

"According to experts, since 2015 tennis has been responsible for more suspicious betting than any other sport".

In fact, according to the TIU's annual report of 2017, the numbers of prima facie "betting alerts" actually went down past year. But as part of its proposals for change, the review proposed eliminating sponsorships from tennis."Players are precluded from having such sponsorship", it said.

The advent of betting and live scoring data is adjudged to have greatly exacerbated the issue as thousands of games at all levels are now open to speculation.

There is a mixed report on the TIU's activities, accusing it of being "overly conservative" in its investigations on occasions while acknowledging that progress has been made.

'The Panel has not discovered any evidence demonstrating a cover-up in relation to these issues by the worldwide governing bodies, the TIU or anyone else, ' it concludes about a sport that is now the fourth most bet upon in the world.

Historically, allegations of some widespread cover-up has been dismissed, although going back to the last decade it says 'the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) on occasion failed to exhaust potential leads before ending its investigations'.

"At the higher level - in other words, where people are watching it - there is very little incentive to breach integrity and therefore it is unlikely that it will happen", he said.