Tennis match-fixing: suspicious betting alerts rise in 2015 - TIU

Silhouette of a tennis player
Tennis authorities are conducting an independent review of anti-corruption practices

There were 246 alerts of suspicious betting on matches in 2015, including three at Grand Slams, the head of the Tennis Integrity Unit has told MPs.

Nigel Willerton described the increase from 91 in 2014 - and just 14 two years earlier - as "obviously concerning".

He also said he had not seen a list of 16 players flagged as suspicious.

Tennis authorities are conducting an independent anti-corruption review after a BBC/BuzzFeed News investigation into suspected illegal betting.

The investigation found that the 16 players, who have all ranked in the top 50, were repeatedly flagged to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) over suspicions they have thrown matches, but were allowed to continue competing.

Willerton also told a culture, media and sport select committee that the TIU does not have a betting analyst seven years after a review said it should have one.

He said tennis had "without a doubt" been damaged by the revelations of the investigation, but that the sport was not "hiding behind any shell".

At the hearing, Willerton and Chris Kermode - the head of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) - revealed that:

  • Only £2m, or 0.4% of the ATP budget, is spent on anti-corruption
  • The TIU can "never be 100% independent" from tennis authorities
  • Pinnacle, the leading tennis bookmaker, refuses to share its betting data with the TIU
  • Only 0.2% of ATP matches (the top level of men's tennis) triggered alerts, and none at Wimbledon
  • Most alerts are triggered by low-level matches in South America and Russia

TIU 'should have Wanted posters in office'

Willerton's revelation that he was not aware of the identities of the 16 players was described by the committee's chair Jesse Norman as "extraordinary".

"I was not in place at the time," Willerton said. "The director in charge at the time would have looked at the material and decided if it warranted further investigation. Clearly he didn't. There's been no further investigation on the previous material."

But Norman told him: "I'd have 'Wanted' posters up in the office."

Anti-corruption budget 'extraordinarily low'

Norman also told Willerton that the TIU budget "does seem extraordinarily low, relative to the 120,000 matches that you need to preserve the integrity of".

Willerton said he had requested an increase.

"We have six staff [including] three investigators," he said. "I've secured funding for the addition of two further staff, one investigator and one analyst. I do think that's adequate at this point in time."

TIU 'would welcome greater independence'

Willerton said he was hopeful that the independent review would recommend a greater degree of independence for the TIU from the sport's governing bodies.

But he denied he was currently compromised by what Norman called the "tacit interest to protect the sport by ignoring embarrassing truths".

Willerton said: "I have a free rein to go and capture anyone who is guilty of corruption in tennis. My job is to catch the cheats."

Kermode said the ATP was trying to keep the TIU "as independent as possible", but added: "It's never going to be 100% independent because we're paying for it."