Tennis accused of 'fig leaf' integrity unit

Tennis accused of 'fig leaf' integrity unit

Friday, February 26, 2016 Totally Gaming
Nigel Willerton said the number of suspicious betting alerts had almost trebled over the last three years

Tennis’ anti-corruption unit has a budget of just $2m (€1.8m), its head told a group of UK MPs in a Parliamentary hearing.

Nigel Willerton, director of integrity at the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), said that the organisation, which has responsibility for monitoring 120,000 matches per year, currently has just six employees, although this will soon rise to nine.

Willerton also told the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which is investigating match-fixing claims made by the BBC and Buzzfeed news agencies in January, that the number of suspicious betting alerts related to tennis had almost trebled from 91 in 2014 to 246 in 2015.

MP Damian Collins described the TIU as “a fig leaf”, adding: “I feel sorry for Mr Willerton. He’s not quite a lone ranger but it’s a very small team on a small budget.”

Willerton linked the rise in suspicious betting alerts to the expansion of markets on lower-level competitions since the end of 2014, and added that Argentina, Chile and Russia are the most common locations for questionable results. He also added that Pinnacle Sports – the bookmaker who take the largest volume of bets on Futures level matches – is the only operator that has so far refused to sign a memorandum of understanding with the TIU.

Willerton explained that just five of the suspicious alerts over the last three years had related to Grand Slam events – with none at Wimbledon.

The Select Committee, which launched its investigation in January, also questioned Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) executive chairman and president Chris Kermode and Mark Young, the vice-chairman and chief legal and media officer of the ATP. It will produce a report to outline its findings and make recommendations to the UK Government.

Following the BBC and Buzzfeed reports, tennis’ stakeholders set up an independent review panel to investigate the allegations and the effectiveness of existing procedures, including the role of the TIU.

The TIU was set up in 2008 to enforce the sport's anti-corruption code of conduct and investigate possible breaches.

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