Head of women's tennis raises spectre of mafia interference

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The Independent Online

The head of women's tennis yesterday reiterated his suspicions about the possible involvement of the Russian mafia in fixing matches as he warned that corruption would be the first item on his agenda when he addresses players before the start of the Australian Open next week.

Larry Scott, the chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association, expressed fears last month about the involvement of organised crime in betting on matches and admitted to the BBC: "One has to assume that people running organised crime would be involved in trying to gain an advantage by corrupting the competition. We have to be prepared for the possibility [of Russian mafia involvement] but we have no proof.

"We have identified that there's an awful lot of gambling on tennis and that players have been approached by people who are trying to persuade them to throw a match or provide information about a match with incentives of money.

"We've got no proof of corruption having taken place, so I don't believe there is any corruption in women's tennis now, but we are taking all reasonable steps to combat the threat and have been focusing a lot of attention on educating players on the importance of coming forward to share information with us.

"Several players have come forward to talk to us about the approaches [to throw matches]. They have acted very, very responsibly by coming to us and ensuring we have this information. I think we must have the right to impose a lifetime ban on any athlete that was associated with corruption."

Earlier this week the men's and women's tours, the Grand Slam tournaments and the International Tennis Federation announced the appointment of two former London policemen to head an investigation into corruption allegations. Jeffrey Rees, who runs an anti-corruption unit for the International Cricket Council, and Ben Gunn, who has a similar brief in horse racing, will seek to restore the credibility of a sport dogged by recent claims of match-fixing and illegal betting.