Tennis has been left reeling after last week's BBC and BuzzFeed report sparked a succession of corruption revelations
MELBOURNE - Tennis authorities on Wednesday announced an independent review into their fight against corruption after a bombshell report alleging widespread match-fixing sent shockwaves through the sport.
In an announcement at the Australian Open, the ATP, WTA, ITF and the heads of all four Grand Slams said the review was aimed at shaking up tennis's under-fire anti-corruption body, and called for governments worldwide to make match-fixing a criminal offence.
Tennis has been left reeling after last week's BBC and BuzzFeed report sparked a succession of corruption revelations, putting the sport under the microscope after scandals also engulfed football and athletics.
The report "was widely written about and has caused damage to our sport. It is vital that we repair this damage and that we do so quickly," Tennis Integrity Board and Wimbledon chairman Philip Brook told reporters in Melbourne.
ATP head Chris Kermode said: "We're in a toxic environment for sport at the moment in terms of it's an easy target for people to have a go with recent allegations at other governing bodies.
"We want to be as open and transparent as possible to demonstrate that we will look at this thoroughly."
The main priority of the review, headed by Adam Lewis QC, a London-based leading expert on sports law, is to look at the structure of the Tennis Integrity Unit, including how to make it more transparent and better resourced.
Tennis authorities pledged to make the review's outcomes public and to "implement and fund all the actions recommended". There is no deadline for the review and its funding is also open-ended.
Not just a tennis issue
Tennis has poured US$14 million into its anti-corruption body, which was set up in 2008 and has secured 18 convictions including six life bans, mainly involving obscure and low-ranking players.
The corruption issue has consumed the Australian Open, the season's first Grand Slam tournament, with some players revealing previous match-fixing approaches including world number one Novak Djokovic.
It comes after the BBC and BuzzFeed report, citing leaked files, said players who had reached the top 50 had been repeatedly suspected of fixing matches but had never faced action.
On Sunday, two players were questioned by the Tennis Integrity Unit after a report of an unusual betting pattern surrounding a mixed doubles match in the Australian Open's first round.
Kermode, head of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), said tennis was keen to address the problem and not go down the route of "other sports" which have become mired in controversy.
Athletics' world governing body, the IAAF, has been hit by claims of a doping cover-up and football's FIFA has been rocked by a succession of bribery and corruption scandals.
"In light of what's happened over the past year with other sports governing bodies, we don't want to be another sports administrator doing that. Let's get someone independent in and we'll take it from there," Kermode said.
But Kermode also criticised the naming of players in relation to unusual betting patterns, especially after the bizarre citing of Australia's Lleyton Hewitt, a former world number one and two-time Grand Slam champion.
The naming of Hewitt "speaks volumes", he said. "I'm not sure he'd give his mother one point while he was playing," added Kermode.
Brook said governments also needed to help in the fight against match-fixing, which can take place at tournaments around the world, by making it a punishable offence.
"It's a criminal offence in certain parts of the world and not in others... This is not just a tennis issue," Brook said.
Chris Eaton, director of integrity at the International Centre for Sport Security, told AFP last week that betting analysis showed that signs of match manipulation were "heavy and regularly occurring" in the sport's lower levels.
Brook said the review would also look at the practice of letting betting companies sponsor tournaments, after the Australian Open caused controversy by making a leading bookmaker its official "wagering partner".