MELBOURNE • Tennis officials yesterday launched an independent review into their anti-corruption practices after allegations that the sport's watchdog had not done enough to stamp out possible corruption in the game.
The announcement at the Australian Open came in the wake of media reports criticising the Tennis Integrity unit (TIU) for not adequately investigating some 16 players repeatedly flagged over suspicions they had thrown matches in the past decade.
Recent corruption scandals involving the world governing bodies of football and athletics have thrown those sports into turmoil and tennis was not keen to follow them down that path, Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) chairman Chris Kermode said.
"We are 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," he said.
The review would address issues of transparency and resourcing at the TIU, structural or governance issues, and how to extend the scope of tennis' anti-corruption education programmes.
Tennis authorities repeated they felt the allegations made in the report by the BBC and Buzzfeed News were historical, but could help the sport in the long run.
Prominent London barrister Adam Lewis QC will head the inquiry and its report will be made publicly available.
The review will also examine the sponsorship of tennis by betting companies. One prominent bookmaker is an official partner to the Australian Open and some players have questioned the relationship.
"The Australian Open is not in breach of anything that currently is within the rules," Tennis Integrity Board chairman Philip Brook said.
"I think one or two players (said) they didn't understand the relationship. I think it's one of the things we would expect the review to take a good look at."
Despite the report by the BBC and Buzzfeed News surfacing on the eve of the Australian Open, allegations of match-fixing were again raised at Melbourne Park when a global bookmaker suspended betting on a mixed doubles match last Sunday after unusually large amounts were wagered on it.
The players have denied any involvement and International Tennis Federation (ITF) president David Haggerty said they had spoken to the TIU afterwards.
Tennis great Martina Navratilova, who won 59 Grand Slam titles, said she was sceptical about the match-fixing reports and wanted proof.
"The first report was a bunch of baloney, because there were no specifics," she said.
"The only way to control it is for the ATP, WTA and ITF to work together and put money into the integrity unit, because they need more resources. But ultimately it's up to the players."
Former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic also demanded evidence. The report in part involved using an algorithm to cross-check thousands of tennis matches with those that produced irregular betting patterns.
Ivanisevic, however, said irregular betting patterns on matches only resulted in players being placed on a "maybe list".
"Maybe I'm going to have a date with Angelina Jolie," the Croat said.
"Maybe not. How can you say maybe? It's a serious thing, worse than taking drugs, worse than killing somebody.
"Don't give me a maybe, don't give me the mathematics, give me proof."
Wimbledon chief executive Richard Lewis has also challenged the allegations, claiming that the report had "questionable" aspects that "won't stand up".
He made his comments as it emerged that some leading players may decline to give interviews to the BBC because they are aggrieved about the timing and nature of the corruption allegations.
Ties between the All England Club and the BBC, which has the rights to show Wimbledon until 2020, have lasted more than 80 years, but were damaged by last week's report.
REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON