ITF to eliminate live-scoring data from $15k tournaments as part of anti-corruption drive

Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev

The ITF have announced a raft of new anti-corruption measures at the lower level of the sports, including the elimination of live-scoring data from $15k tournaments by the end of 2021

The ITF is set to eliminate live scoring from $15k tournaments as part of an anti-corruption drive.

A raft of new anti-corruption measures were announced by the ITF (International Tennis Federation) and the Tennis Integrity Supervisory Board, including the reduction and eventual elimination of live-scoring data from $15k tournaments.

Following the publication of the Independent Review Panel’s report into corruption and integrity issues in tennis last December, the ITF have committed themselves to delivering ‘new and improved anti-corruption protocols across the tour which will enable the progressive removal of live scoring data to be implemented at all WTT $15k events’.

These measures are aimed at reducing corruption and match-fixing in tennis, a problem which has become increasingly visible over the past ten years. The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) was set up in 2008, but BBC reports in 2016 and 2019 suggested that the issue was not being correctly addressed. Several players were banned in 2018, the most high-profile of which was top-100 player Nicolas Kicker of Germany who was banned for three years. Argentina’s Marco Trungelliti reported a match-fixing approach to the TIU in 2015 which led to several bans (including that of Kicker), but complained of feeling ‘abandoned’ by the TIU and of being cold-shouldered by his peers.

In recent weeks, news has broken of a Belgian investigation into a match-fixing group which has expanded to include authorities from other countries including France, Spain and the USA, with an ATP player ranked inside the top 30 who has won multiple titles rumoured to be among the suspects involved.

The Independent Review Panel, who delivered their report in December 2018, made seven key recommendations for enhancing integrity in tennis, including the elimination of live scoring data from $15k tournaments.

If live scoring data is not available, in-play betting on these tournaments will become impossible. The International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA) reports that in-play betting accounts for 80% of the market and over 95% at ITF level.

The ITF aims to ensure that official live scoring data is not replaced by unofficial data, with a raft of measures including the introduction of accreditation and access control systems for ITF World Tennis Tour (WTT) events, video recording, added security to deter unofficial data collection and ‘courtsiding’ and the appointment of on-site ‘integrity protection’ personnel. The ITF also aims to enhance its channels for reporting integrity concerns.

These are significant infrastructure investments for very small events.

The ITF has already been taking steps to reduce the supply of live scoring data for these events, and up to 3,500 fewer matches will have been made available to betting markets in 2019, compared to 2018.

Further reductions will continue during 2020 and 2021, until it has been phased out completely.

The ITF has not embraced initial recommendations to eliminate live-scoring data from $25k tournaments but will work to increase the number of $25k tournaments ‘to provide a balanced calendar and to deter unofficial data collection at events for which live scoring data have been discontinued’.

The IBIA campaigned against the elimination of live scoring from $25k tournaments, arguing that the move would push bookmakers to use unofficial data feeds in order to offer markets on these events, thus creating an unsupervised environment and a greater risk of manipulation.

Overall the ITF plan an $8 million investment to deliver these anti-corruption measures and improve the integrity of the sport.

ITF President David Haggerty said: ‘Our commitment to protecting the integrity of the World Tennis Tour is paramount.

‘[…] This is a programme that looks holistically at all aspects of integrity across the full World Tennis Tour calendar. We have also collaborated with the leading organisations representing the regulated betting industry to ensure the recommendations are implemented with support from all stakeholders.’