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16th March 2018
The Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office is investigating alleged corruption within professional tennis matches across the world, reported Belgian financial newspaper De Tijd. According to the paper, the Federal Prosecutor has knowledge of hundreds of suspicious bets placed from Belgium on various matches.
As reported by the Sports Integrity Initiative earlier this year, tennis dominated suspicious betting alerts recorded by ESSA, an integrity body which represents the regulated betting sector. “Tennis has become a growing concern”, said Khalid Ali, Secretary General of ESSA. “Our Q1 and Q2 integrity reports show tennis as representing 71% and 83% of all cases of suspicious sports betting referred to regulatory authorities during those periods. There is clearly an issue within the sport that needs addressing.”
Last year, Chris Eaton, a former Interpol officer and now the Director of Integrity at the International Centre for Sports Security (ICSS), was reported by The Guardian as warning that tennis was the ‘third most susceptible sport in the world’ to match-fixing and that the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Challenger Tour, the men’s professional tennis tour one level below the main ATP World Tour, was ‘especially vulnerable’ due to its comparatively low prize money.
De Tijd said that ensuing investigations by the Federal Prosecutor’s office had uncovered ‘concrete evidence’ of match-fixing in tennis matches in the ATP Challenger Tour and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Futures tournament. According to the paper, the Federal Prosecutor will work in conjunction with local prosecutors and other bodies, such as Great Britain’s Gambling Commission, to discuss how to proceed further.
The fixed matches – understood to number in the hundreds – are alleged to have taken place throughout last year. Bets were apparently placed in betting shops throughout Belgium, as well as in Switzerland, Germany and the United Kingdom. The matches were played across the world, and included both men’s and women’s matches in Tunisia, Spain, Israel and Mexico. According to the paper, none of the players involved are thought to rank in the top 300 and come from a number of different countries.
On contacting the Belgian Federal Prosecutor’s Office, the Sports Integrity Initiative was told that, unfortunately, they could “now not communicate” on the matter at hand. Both the ATP and ITF have been contacted for comment. ESSA is planning to host an integrity event in the European Parliament in Brussels on 14 October to debate the role of sports bodies, betting operators and regulatory authorities in combating match-fixing, and in particular the importance of enforcing good governance principles.