Some British tennis players allegedly took money from betting rings in exchange for inside information on other competitors, The Timescan reveal.
The players passed on details about injuries and the form of other competitors in the locker rooms at some of the grass-court events leading up to Wimbledon some years ago.
Senior figures in British tennis allege that gamblers then used the tips so that they could upset the odds and make as much money as possible. In return, the players received far more money than they would have earned from playing in the tournament.
The peak of the rule-breaking was about ten years ago, when anticorruption measures were poor, and there is no suggestion that the problem continues.
Passing on inside information would be a breach of the contract that professional players are required to sign. Each person must sign up to the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program each year. The programme states: “No Covered Person shall, directly or indirectly, solicit or accept any money, benefit or Consideration, for the provision of any Inside Information.” A similar prohibition was in earlier versions of the programme.
Anti-corruption methods are much more sophisticated now, with each player having to complete a Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) questionnaire and video before they register as a player, with more than 23,000 players doing so. The Lawn Tennis Association gives extra training to all British players so that they know what to do if they are approached by anyone trying to bribe or manipulate them.The Times can also reveal that some players — not believed to be British — allegedly deliberately lost in final qualifying rounds of grand-slam events in return for money.
Each grand-slam has three qualifying rounds, with some players seeded. On occasions, the players ranked Nos 1 or 2 allegedly deliberately lost their final match, taking a share of the winning fee from their opponent. The seed, however, would still be likely to end up in the main draw of the event because they were top of the list of lucky losers if a player from the main draw had to, or already had, withdrawn through injury, something that is common.
The issue is no longer a problem because the International Tennis Federation (ITF) sensibly changed the rule in 2006 to ensure that lucky losers were not automatically decided by seeding. Instead, the four top-seeded losers are put into a draw, reducing the chances of the top seed progressing from 100 per cent to 25 per cent.
The change followed Wimbledon qualifying in 2005, when Justin Gimelstob, an American who was the top-ranked player, hurt his back and planned to withdraw. However, he was allegedly advised by officials to play at least one game because if someone withdrew, he would then enter the main draw. Gimelstob — who broke no rules and took no money for withdrawing — played one game. He was awarded a lucky-loser spot and reached the third round of the singles.
Despite several requests, the ITF was not available for comment.