Four tennis umpires suspended in anti-corruption investigation

They are believed to have been officiating on the lower-tier ITF circuits rather than on the main men’s and women’s tours

Two umpires have been disciplined and four more have been suspended as a result of investigations into corruption by the Tennis Integrity Unit. The umpires are believed to have been officiating on the lower-tier International Tennis Federation circuits rather than on the main men’s and women’s tours.

The ITF said that a Croatian umpire, Denis Pitner, had been suspended for 12 months in August for “sending information on the physical well-being of a player to a coach during a tournament” and for “regularly logging on to a betting account from which bets were placed on tennis matches”.

Kirill Parfenov, of Kazakhstan, was effectively banned for life last February “for contacting another official on Facebook in an attempt to manipulate the scoring of matches”.

Morgan Lamri, from France, was banned for life by the TIU two years ago. A spokesman for the ITF said that the TIU thought it “more appropriate” for Pitner and Parfenov to be dealt with by the ITF, which organises the tournaments where the officials had been working.

The sanctions, which were taken under the ITF’s code of conduct for officials, were not announced at the time because there had been no provision for such disclosure, though the wording has subsequently been changed.

Four more officials are suspended pending continuing TIU investigations. 

An investigation by The Guardian reported that some umpires had been alleged to have taken bribes from betting syndicates in exchange for manipulating the timing of the “live scores” which are fed around the world. The constantly updated scores of matches at ITF tournaments are distributed by a data company, Sportradar, under an agreement said to be worth $14m (nearly £10m) a year to the governing body.

Umpires input the outcome of each point into mini-computers. The resulting “live scores” are then beamed to a variety of organisations, including bookmakers so they can update in-play prices.

The allegation is that some umpires at low-key Futures tournaments in eastern Europe have delayed updating scores for up to 60 seconds, enabling gamblers who are in on the scam to place bets knowing what happened next. Some umpires are even alleged to have texted the gamblers directly before updating the scores.

The umpires are effectively being accused of “courtsiding”, in which on-site gamblers take advantage of the delay in scores being relayed. Tournaments have attempted for several years to stop  spectators communicating such information from court-side.

While the latest allegations involve neither match-fixing nor the highest levels of the sport, they are sure to be of interest to Adam Lewis QC, who is leading an independent review of anti-corruption measures in tennis.

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