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Live data deal reached as ITF plans major integrity investment

The International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA) has helped to salvage the sale of live scoring data for the $25k level of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) World Tennis Tour (WTT). 

In 2016, the four organisations principally responsible for governing professional tennis at the international level (ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slam Board) appointed an Independent Review Panel (IRP) to address betting-related and other integrity issues facing the sport. 

Initially, the panel proposed discontinuing all live scoring data for both ITF WTT $15k and $25k events. However, after discussions between the IBIA and IRP, the latter’s final report instead revised its approach to recommend that only the sale of ITF WTT $15k matches be discontinued.

Under this revised data recommendation, in permitting the continuation of live data sale for $25ks, the IRP’s final report notes that it had been told that the betting industry would not provide in-play betting through unofficial live scoring data for $15k matches. In effect, with the ongoing availability of $25k live data, operators would not offer $15k live betting once official data for that tour had been discontinued.

12 months on, the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) Supervisory Board has finally agreed to this core data recommendation, while confirming a range of other measures as part of a major investment project with the ITF designed to “create a comprehensive integrity infrastructure for the ITF WTT”.

The ITF plans, said today’s release, represent an $8 million investment into a series of integrity-related projects covering key areas such as the introduction of accreditation and access control systems for WTT events, video recording, added security to deter unofficial data collection, the appointment of on-site integrity protection personnel and enhanced channels for the reporting of integrity concerns by players and officials.

Alongside this substantial investment in tournament infrastructure, the ITF is also prioritising the creation of more $25k events to provide a balanced calendar and to deter unofficial data collection at events for which live scoring data have been discontinued.

The Supervisory Board and the ITF have agreed to a timetable for reducing the supply of live scoring data for WTT $15k matches – something that has been ongoing since December 2018. Under this agreed timetable, up to 3,500 fewer matches will have been made available to the betting markets in 2019 compared to 2018. 

Further reductions will continue during 2020 and 2021, leading to complete discontinuance of live scoring data at WTT $15k events, when all integrity protection measures are in place.

Khalid Ali, CEO of IBIA, commented: “In-play betting makes up 80% of IBIA members’ tennis markets and over 95% at ITF level,” he said. “Retaining live data for $25k matches and setting out an expansion of that tour is an overwhelmingly beneficial move by tennis both from an integrity and commercial standpoint. 

“Removing all ITF World Tennis Tour data from regulated operators would have led to the undesirable situation of consumers seeking that product through unregulated channels, with the corresponding loss of market oversight and the ability to detect and punish corruption.

“Protecting the sport and operators against match-fixing is an ongoing challenge. However, IBIA is encouraged by the impact of recent criminal investigations and the allocation of additional resources to the TIU. That has seen a significant downturn in suspicious betting alerts, particularly at ITF level. It is the responsibility of all stakeholders to continue to work together to maintain that positive trend. 

“IBIA and its members remain committed to protecting the integrity of tennis at all levels and will continue to work closely with the sport to meet that challenge.”

Sportradar, which has a contract to supply the live scoring data until 2021, has issued its own response through David Lampitt, the firm’s MD of Sports Partnerships.

He said: “Sportradar continues to support measures that enhance the integrity of tennis and we have played an active role in the process towards implementation of the IRP recommendations over the last 12 months. The ITF should be applauded for its proactive approach in addressing the concerns raised and building an integrity programme that is second to none in the sport.

“The statistics for 2019 show that there has been a significant decrease in integrity issues at ITF competitions. ITF events were already amongst the least likely to be corrupted in the sport and we therefore trust that the TIU Supervisory Board will now work with equal focus on delivering the recommendations to address the integrity concerns that exist across all levels.  

“The discontinuance of data sales at ITF $15k events was just one of a package of interlocking measures, and its successful implementation is dependent upon a range of other recommendations being implemented in parallel.

“We will continue to contribute to the ongoing developments and have been encouraged by the collaborative approach taken by the Supervisory Board, reflecting the recommendation for closer relationships between the TIU and key stakeholder groups.”

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