In early 2016, the four organisations principally responsible for governing professional tennis at the international level, the ATP, the WTA, the ITF and the Grand Slam Board (the "International Governing Bodies") appointed an Independent Review Panel (the "Panel") to address betting related and other integrity issues facing the sport. On 25 April 2018, the Panel published its interim report (the "Report"). A link to the Report can be found here.
The Report found that tennis faces a serious integrity problem for several reasons:
- the nature of the game makes detection difficult and as such, lends itself to manipulation for betting purposes;
- the disparity in player incentives between the lower and higher levels of the game creates a fertile breeding ground for breaches of integrity; and
- online betting and the sale of official live scoring data, which have exacerbated the problem.
As well as proposing integrity measures such as better education, tighter controls on tournament access and improving the resources of the Tennis Integrity Unit ("TIU"), the Report also made several proposals that directly concern betting operators. These proposals are summarised below.
1. RESTRICT OR PREVENT THE SALE OF OFFICIAL LIVE SCORING DATA
The Report recommends that the International Governing Bodies do not renew any data supply deals until the final report has been published. Moving forward, it recommends that a blanket discontinuance of such deals should apply to low-value ITF tour events as these are at particular risk of manipulation given player remuneration is low. According to Regulus Partners, the events targeted by this prohibition account for around 68% of tennis matches on which betting markets are currently available based on 2017 figures.
The prohibition would also mean that the ITF and its members would need to prevent the live streaming or publication of live data. The Report recognises the value of the data supply agreement ITF has with Sportradar and therefore, in its place, suggests the other International Governing Bodies contribute significant amounts to assist the ITF in promoting developmental tennis. In addition to the above, the Report recommends that the TIU impose targeted restrictions on the sale of unofficial live scoring data in particular circumstances at other levels of the sport, for example for certain matches or events.
The Report recognises that a secondary market based on unofficial data may develop due to the discontinuance of official supply agreements or added restrictions. To help combat this, it recommends that the International Governing Bodies impose obligations on any official data supply company in relation to its agreements with betting operators. For example, data supply companies should be required to impose obligations on each of the betting operators purchasing official data that it:
- will not make, or facilitate the making of, betting markets for tennis events or matches for which official data are not being sold;
- will not make, or facilitate the making of, markets for tennis events that the TIU orders should not be made; and
- will not resell any official data to anyone else.
The receipt of official data by a betting operator should also carry with it the obligation to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the TIU.
2. PROHIBIT GAMBLING SPONSORSHIP IN TENNIS
Tennis players themselves are currently unable to enter into sponsorship agreements with betting operators. The Report recommends that this prohibition be extended to International Governing Bodies. It states that in the current climate, betting operators' sponsorship of the International Governing Bodies "sends the wrong message" about the sport to its participants and spectators.
3. GREATER COOPERATION BETWEEN THE SPORT AND BETTING OPERATORS
The Report also calls for greater cooperation between the sport and the betting industry to ensure that betting operators play their part by, for example, not seeking to offer betting markets at the lowest levels of the sport in respect of which live scoring data are no longer to be sold. The Panel recommends the TIU should actively engage with betting operators and in turn, betting operators should fully cooperate with the TIU in its efforts to bring proceedings against those who breach the integrity rules of tennis.
The Report was published for consultation in conjunction with the Panel's Record of Evidence and Analysis. Interested parties are invited to make any comments on both by 25 June 2018. Once such comments have been considered, the Panel will issue a final report containing its final conclusions and recommendations.