Tennis match fixing: ATP chief Chris Kermode rejects claims that corruption allegations were not investigated

A report by the BBC and Buzzfeed claims that a core group of 16 players have repeatedly been brought to the attention of tennis authorities over suspicious betting movements and results

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The Independent Online

ATP president Chris Kermode has rejected allegations of match-fixing in tennis being ignored by officials after an investigation into corruption within the sport was released on the same day as the first Grand Slam of the year began, with the Australian Open overshadowed by claims of a betting scandal.

An investigation carried out by the BBC and Buzzfeed was made public on Sunday night, with allegations that a core group of 16 players have repeatedly been brought to the attention of tennis officials over a suspicion of fixing matches throughout the last 10 years.

It’s added that all 16 players at the centre of the investigation have been ranked in the world’s top 50 at some point in their careers, while half of them were in the first round of the Australian Open. They also contain “winners of Grand Slam titles”.

The investigation alleges that tennis chiefs were alerted to the corruption in 2007 after 26,000 matches were analysed, with enough evidence supplied to identify the offenders and take the necessary action against them. However, no action was taken, despite three of the matches taken place at Wimbledon.

Kermode held a press conference on Monday morning at Melbourne Park, in which he denied any claims of a cover-up or that the ATP failed to take the relevant action.

"The Tennis Integrity Unit and the tennis authorities absolutely reject any suggestion that evidence of match fixing has been suppressed for any reason or isn't being thoroughly investigated," Kermode said.

"And while the BBC and BuzzFeed reports mainly refer to events from about 10 years ago, we will investigate any new information, and we always do.

"In its investigations, the Tennis Integrity Unit has to find evidence as opposed to information, suspicion, or hearsay."

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Kermode added: "Let me just say that all of us here in tennis are absolutely committed to stamp out any form of corrupt conduct in our sport. There is a zero tolerance policy on this."

It’s claimed that one current top-50 player repeatedly loses his first set on purpose, although Nigel Willerton, the Tennis Integrity Unit’s director, was unable to confirm if any current Australian Open players were under investigation.

"It would be inappropriate for me to make comment as to whether any players are under investigation at the present time,” Willerton said.

In 2008, a confidential report was given to the ATP and suggested that 28 players should be investigated over match-fixing allegations, but no action was taken. One match that was looked at following suspicious betting patterns was between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello, though both men were acquitted.

Kermode also addressed the revelation of previous information being handed to officials, and he claimed that it is one thing launching an investigation off suggestions of corruption and another actually “obtaining evidence” to sanction guilty players.

"We have heard this quite a bit, that there are certain allegations and information about various players, and they can be sometimes seen to be a consistent group.

"But it's about obtaining evidence. You can have lots of information, lots of anecdotal reports, but it's about getting evidence that we can use.

"So anything that is reported to the Tennis Integrity Unit is acted upon and is investigated, and that's, again, a very important message to get across.

"This doesn't just sort of filter out somewhere. It is acted upon."

Prime Minister David Cameron addressed the allegations on Monday morning and called for an immediate and thorough investigation into the match-fixing claims, and admitted that the sport now needs to rebuild its reputation much like other sports such as football and athletics are currently attempting to do.

“It’s deeply concerning that another sport is facing such serious allegations,” a spokesperson for Cameron said. “The most important thing is that action is taken now in response and that the independent authorities get on with that. They’ve got to build their credibility and confidence of those who want to know the real truth behind such allegations.”