Tennis bodies announce review of anti-corruption unit
ABS-CBN Sports on Jan 27, 2016 10:40 AM
Wimbledon Chairman Philip Brook, center, speaks, along with ATP Executive Chairman and President Chris Kermode, right, and International Tennis Federation President David Haggerty, left, during a press conference at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. Responding to reports that possible evidence of match fixing was not properly investigated, tennis' governing bodies are setting up an independent review of the sport's anti-corruption group. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
JUSTIN BERGMAN, Associated Press
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Tennis' governing bodies announced Wednesday they will commission an independent review of their anti-corruption unit to restore "public confidence in our sport" following media reports that possible evidence of match-fixing was not properly investigated.
The creation of the review, which was earlier reported by The Associated Press, was announced at the Australian Open.
The first Grand Slam of the year has been overshadowed from the start by BBC and BuzzFeed News reports alleging that match-fixing was widespread at the top level of the game and that authorities had failed to thoroughly investigate evidence of corruption involving 16 players who have ranked in the top 50 over the past decade. No players were named in the reports.
In announcing the review, ATP Chairman Chris Kermode said the reports had "caused damage to the sport," which compelled the major stakeholders in tennis — the International Tennis Federation, ATP and WTA tours, and the four Grand Slams — to take quick action to address the issue.
"If we sat back and had done nothing, we would have been accused that sport again is being complacent," Kermode said. "We want to be constantly vigilant. I think this is a very bold step. We need to address the perception, public confidence, hit it head on. We don't have anything to hide at all."
The independent review will be funded by the Tennis Integrity Board, which oversees the anti-corruption unit set up by the sport in 2008 to combat match-fixing, and led by Adam Smith, a London-based lawyer who is an expert in sports law.
Kermode stressed the review panel would have an open-ended deadline and budget and that its findings would be made public. He also said tennis' governing bodies were committed to acting on every recommendation of the panel.
"The last thing anyone wants is another sports body investigating itself," he said.
Tennis authorities vehemently rejected the allegations in the BBC and BuzzFeed reports after they were published on the eve of the Australian Open and pointed to the fact the Tennis Integrity Unit had sanctioned 18 people for match-fixing since its inception, including five players and one official who received lifetime bans.
But officials acknowledged Wednesday that the sports gambling world has evolved in recent years with the widespread expansion of online betting. Philip Brook, head of the Tennis Integrity Board, noted, for instance, that there are now some 68 different possible bets that can be placed on tennis matches, more than half of them during play.
"I don't think it automatically means we're behind the curve," Kermode said. "The landscape has changed. We're in a different world. This is clearly the time to have a look."
AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this story from Washington.