Operator talk: Sportradar defends tennis system after corruption claims

Operator talk: Sportradar defends tennis system after corruption claims

Friday, February 12, 2016 Totally Gaming
Alex Inglot said that Sportradar's system decreases the risk of fraud in tennis

Sportradar has told  TotallyGaming.com that its tennis data system is the surest way of preventing betting fraud within the sport, despite allegations that corrupt umpires manipulated the service to aid illegal gambling syndicates.

Alex Inglot, Sportradar’s director of communications and public affairs, said that the creation of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Official Data service in 2012 introduced a more robust system, with the previous ad hoc collection of data replaced by umpire input. 

Inglot added that the system not only aids the collection of fast and reliable scoring, but checks and balances also give the ITF the opportunity to discover irregularities, including the amount of time it takes an official to input data.

Inglot was speaking after an expose in the Guardian newspaper this week led to the ITF admitting that two umpires had been banned, with further officials still under investigation, for manipulating scores on the Futures Tour.

“There is a misunderstanding among those that have questioned what we do,” Inglot said.

“Sportradar did not create an appetite for betting on tennis, it existed way before 2012. Back then it was a bit of a ‘wild west’ – scores were inaccurate, data collection was slow and would arrive in different places at different times.

“The ITF came to us in the first place because we are a big company that is the best in its field. Their objectives were clear, and we saw an opportunity to help a sport improve its data services in a stable and credible environment.

“We feel that this week’s story in the Guardian did not really given us an opportunity to express our position, and there is a sense that those that have questioned our relationship with tennis do not fully understand it.

“We have seen actions by umpires, players and teams that have caused us to suggest that further investigation is required, and our role is then to notify the appropriate body. We are then always on hand to support any process, and we have done that a number of times. We do not close cases, however, that is ultimately the responsibility of other stakeholders.”

Inglot would not confirm whether Sportradar was aware of the bans - which the ITF only admitted following the Guardian report – when it agreed a new deal to operate the ITF Official Data service until 2021 as recently as December 2015. Under the terms of the deal, Sportradar will offer live coverage of more than 50,000 ITF matches from the ITF Pro Circuit, Davis Cup and Fed Cup by BNP Paribas. It will also remain the preferred streaming partner for a range of ITF Pro Circuit events.

Inglot claimed that the $70m (€62.3m) value of the deal reported by the Guardian was exaggerated, but undoubtedly tennis is a huge sport for the gambling industry, with a global market estimated at $5bn. 

The hundreds of betting companies that use the ITF Official Data will be concerned by accusations of manipulation, although Inglot made it clear that no organisation was more determined to keep the sport clean than Sportradar, which also operates integrity systems, including its Fraud Detection System and Fraud Prevention Service.

“We’ve had conversations with the ITF so that both sides can understand what is going on," Inglot said. "The ITF expressed concerns about some of the accusations in the Guardian, such as the misconceptions about a conflict of interest and that we are creating the conditions in which match-fixing can thrive.

“Our relationship with the ITF remains good and positive. Ultimately, we are partners and want to work together to make things better. It’s still a beneficial relationship, and they know that we are fully committed to keeping tennis credible and honest.

“The bookmakers will, of course, be a little concerned that they are not offering markets on games that are fixed or manipulated. However, they continue to have full trust in us and they are well aware of how a range of our solutions are vital to a range of rights holders and law enforcement agencies who themselves are focused on protecting sport’s integrity.

“The idea that we are creating an environment that facilitates corruption simply does not make sense. We put so much time, energy and resources into providing indicators of integrity breaches, and we will continue to do that as clean sport is key to our business.”

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