Tennis world displays united front following BBC and BuzzFeed match-fixing allegations

Tennis authorities have displayed a united front in rejecting claims from the BBC and BuzzFeed News that the sport's governing bodies are suppressing reports that match fixing may be widespread in the sport.

Dark clouds: Report alleges three matches at Wimbledon may have been fixed
Dark clouds: Report alleges three matches at Wimbledon may have been fixed

The two news outlets say a "cache of documents" show evidence that over the past decade, 16 players who have been ranked among the world's top 50 men have been repeatedly flagged to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) over their suspected involvement in fixing linked to betting.

All of the players, including winners of Grand Slam titles and some still playing, were allowed to continue competing, according to the BBC and BuzzFeed report.

The leaked documents reportedly include the findings of an investigation started in 2007 by men's tennis governing body the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), which suggest betting syndicates in Russia, northern Italy and Sicily had made hundreds of thousands of pounds betting on matches investigators thought to be fixed. Three of these matches were at the Championships at Wimbledon, according to the BBC.

The tennis world’s response to the news story has been led by the TIU, which was formed in 2008 as a joint initiative of the ATP, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), the Grand Slam Board and the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

A TIU statement said: "The Tennis Integrity Unit and the tennis authorities absolutely reject any suggestion that evidence of match fixing has been suppressed for any reason."

It said the investigation from 2007 found insufficient evidence of match fixing. It also said the TIU-instigated anti-corruption investigations have resulted in 18 successful disciplinary cases including five players and one official who have been banned from the sport for life.

Chris Kermode, executive chairman of the ATP and TIU board member, is quoted as saying: "Tennis remains fully committed to meeting the challenge that all sports face from corrupt betting practices. We have stringent procedures and sanctions in place to deal with any suspected corruption and have shown we will act decisively when our integrity rules are broken.

"No player or official is immune from investigation, regardless of their status or position in the sport. Investigations follow where evidence leads.

"All professional players, support staff and officials are subject to the terms of the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program which equips the TIU with substantial investigative powers. These include the right to interview any relevant person of interest and obtain their telephone, computer and bank records.

"No player or official is ever cleared by the TIU of potential involvement in corruption. By its very nature, corruption is difficult to prove, so while the process can often be lengthy, the TIU will continue to pursue evidence where it believes it is warranted."

The TIU statement has been issued by the organisation's PR consultant Mark Harrison, who runs the agency Mark Harrison PR. It has been co-ordinated with the other tennis bodies, many of whose senior figures are currently in Melbourne for the Australia Open, which starts today (Monday 18 January).

The individual governing bodies have linked to the statement from their social media accounts:

British tennis star Andy Murray has posted a tweet to the BuzzFeed story, with no comment.

This is not the first time the BBC and BuzzFeed have worked together on a major exclusive story. Last year they worked together to investigate the finances and operations of the charity Kids Company, which is now in liquidation.

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