Tennis IRP demands tough love on data supplies as a fix for integrity

Tennis’ Independent Review Panel (IRP) has published its much anticipated ‘Final Report’ on betting related-integrity issues, measures and protections commissioned jointly by the sport’s governing bodies of the ATP, WTA, ITF, and the Grand Slam Board.

The IRP concludes a two-year study headed up by leading UK sports QC Adam Lewis, whose research is supported by US attorney Beth Wilkinson and Swiss Judge Marc Henzelin.

Publishing the IRP’s interim report on evidence’ last April, Lewis highlighted a number of concerns with regards to tennis’ relationship with betting, detailing that IRP’s research to date, had proven thatcorruption had taken root at the lower levels of the game’.  

In its April update, the IRP provisionally advised tennis’ governing bodies to undertake major structural reforms to their ranking systems, professional athlete accreditations, tournament frameworks, prize pools and education programmes.

Moving to complete its research, the IRP would open its interim conclusions and recommendations to tennis and betting stakeholders as part of a consultation process. In its final report, the IRP credits Paul Leyland of Regulus Partners and Patrick Jay (independent advisor) as betting consultants assisting research.

“The Panel’s findings are based on its comprehensive analysis of betting-related and other integrity issues facing professional tennis, including interviews of witnesses, examination of records and documents, and consultation with experts in various fields. In producing its Final Report, the Panel has fully considered all of the submissions that it received through the consultation process” the IRP details in its press release.

With regards to its ‘final recommendations’, the IRP presents the frank response that there is no common panacea for tennis-betting’s integrity issues. Instead, the IRP presents a ‘package of measures’ (12 recommendations in total) aiming to strengthen tennis governing bodies’ frameworks, knowledge and systems against corruption and bad actors.

In its recommendations, the IRP states that breaches of integrity can be effectively reduced by restructuring live data supplier agreements, with the panel recommending the following data-led measures for tennis stakeholders:

  • Discontinuing the supply of official data for tennis’ development tour ‘The ITF World Tennis (“WTT”)’, which takes shape on 1 January 2019 and consists of former ITF $15,000 range tournaments.
  • Empowering the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) to better monitor betting markets, and gain the capabilities to disrupt betting markets/events based on unofficial data of tennis sanctioned professional tournaments/matches/events.
  • Allowing the TIU as tennis integrity supervisor to impose quotas/limits on the supply of live scoring data, in particular with regards to the lower levels of professional tennis.
  • Imposing a mandatory integrity-related contractual obligation’ on betting operators and data suppliers as a condition of the commercial use of official tennis syndicated live scoring data.

“The Panel considers, following consultation, that the significant limitations described above are necessary and strike the appropriate balance at this time between all the competing considerations. The Panel recognises that these recommendations will have an adverse impact on the ITF’s revenues, a substantial part of which is reinvested in promoting tennis at what is essentially a developmental level of the game.”

In its report the IRP recognises tennis governing bodies relationship with leading sports data firm Sportradar as the principal supplier of live ITF scoring feeds since 2012 – ‘a partnership which has generated tennis considerable funds’.

Strengthening its data provisions and future best practices, the IRP states that tennis should move to ‘establish a newly empowered TIU’ whose responsibilities will be monitored by an independent supervisory board – ‘in particular as to the extent of any future sale of ITF data after the Sportradar contract comes to an end’.

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