Betting scam claims overshadow British victory

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The Independent Online

Claims of a betting scam involving a British tennis player's match were today overshadowing his first-round victory at Wimbledon.

Wildcard Richard Bloomfield, 23, from Norwich, beat Argentinean Carlos Berlocq in straight sets yesterday, with more than £300,000 placed on the Betfair exchange before the game for his opponent to lose.

This equates to about 30 times more than had been placed on similar British players and foreign opposition, and saw Bloomfield's odds slashed from 1-2 to 1-10 with online betting company Betfair, with similar odds on the Blue Square exchange.

Bloomfield was ranked 259 in the world, while Berlocq was 170 places higher.

Betfair alerted the International Tennis Federation and Lawn Tennis Association to the patterns.

Spokesman Tony Calvin is reported as saying: "We contacted the ITF Grand Slam Committee and the LTA to make them aware of betting patterns before the match.

"We have information-sharing agreements with both these bodies.

"Although the amounts involved were not unusual, the betting patterns were.

"Bloomfield was backed from an opening 1-2 on Betfair to a low of 1-10 pre-match, and this led us to contact the ITF."

A spokesman for the Grand Slam Committee, which would carry out any investigation if it got to that stage, said it has an agreement to receive confidential information about any irregularities but could not comment further.

There is no suggestion Bloomfield, who was knocked out in the first round at Wimbledon in 2003 and 2004, was aware of the alleged irregularities.

Following his first ever win in the tournament, Bloomfield faces Germany's former world number two Tommy Haas today in the second round.

In his post-match press conference yesterday he said: "Obviously, it's going to be a very tough match. Hopefully, I can put up a good show. We'll see what happens."

Graham Sharpe, from William Hill bookmakers, also confirmed there had been a gamble on Bloomfield to win the game but he added that this was not unusual at Wimbledon.

"If a squirrel dressed in a British tennis kit played at Wimbledon there would be a gamble on him to win," he said.

The odds on Bloomfield went from 2-5 to 1-7 which is fairly drastic, he added.

"However, it is fair to say when you are talking about early round games it's not going to take much money to shift the odds than it would if it was Roger Federer and Tim Henman," he said.

"In two person sports, if one person has an injury and just a few people know about this then they may be able to predict better the likely outcome of the game.

"There is a thin divide between insider information and skulduggery - but the effects are the same. You can't ask someone why they are placing a bet."

Berlocq said after the match he had been suffering from an ankle injury.

A spokesman for Blue Square said it had not spotted any irregularities. Bloomfield's odds began at 2-5 and were moved to 1-6 as money came in, he said.

"The opponent was injured, his ranking is 89 and he is not renowned for being good on grass," he added.

"Also, everyone always bets on a home player. The amount of money we were dealing with is nowhere near as much as Betfair's, so we think it is an issue for them rather than us."