Tennis authorities have responded to allegations of widespread match-fixing by appointing an Independent Review Panel to examine the sport’s anti-corruption programmes.
In a press conference lasting 45 minutes at the Australian Open on Wednesday, it was announced the panel will analyse the effectiveness of the Tennis Integrity Unit, which was criticised in an investigation released by the BBC and Buzzfeed last week.
The investigation claimed 16 players were repeatedly flagged up to tennis authorities as suspicious with regards to match-fixing but no further action was taken.
Governing bodies said the panel would be headed by London-based attorney Adam Lewis and would scrutinise the TIU’s transparency, funding, structure and education programmes.
They also committed to making public the outcomes of the review and pledged to implement and fund all its recommendations.
ATP chairman Chris Kermode said: “The last thing anyone wants is another sports body investigating itself, which is why we have taken this very bold step to commission a completely independent review.”
He continued: “This will be an open review. Nothing is off the table. Adam Lewis QC and the review panel can look at anything. They can talk to anyone, investigate anything.
“The four important points are: there is no deadline to this review, it will take as long as it is needed; it will cost what it costs; the results will be made public and will be published; and the most important point is we have committed to act on every recommendation.”
Lewis will be assisted on the panel by two members, whom he will appoint “to reflect the global nature of the sport”.
Lewis has previous experience in EU law as well as sports law and has served on tribunals involving the FA, UEFA, the RFU, UK Athletics and the London 2012 Olympics.
The BBC and Buzzfeed’s allegations have cast a shadow over the first 10 days of the Australian Open, with several players made to answer questions on the issue.
World number one Novak Djokovic and retiring Australian Lleyton Hewitt came under particular pressure after an Italian newspaper claimed Djokovic had voluntarily lost a match in 2007, while an online blog alleged Hewitt was one of the players linked to irregular betting patterns.
Both players strenuously denied any links to corruption.
Philip Brook, chairman of Wimbledon and of the Tennis Integrity Board, said he was “disappointed” with the BBC’s decision to release the investigation, while Kermode said it was “irresponsible” for the media to make unsubstantiated claims.
“Speaking as the current chairman of the Tennis Integrity Board, I was disappointed in the programme,” Brook said. “I don’t think we felt that it revealed anything new.”
Kermode said: “The difficulty this last week has produced, I’ve seen more lists in the last week of various names and matches.
“It’s important to point out that having lists, which are mainly compiled by suspicious betting patterns, do not mean corruption. They are a red flag and they are investigated.
“Personally I think it’s irresponsible for anyone to publish names, (it is) verging on libel. We believe that any player, until they are proven guilty, should be allowed to play and shouldn’t have their reputation damaged at all.”
Within its broader scope, Brook said the panel would consider the role of gambling companies in sponsoring major tournaments as well as the high number of outcomes it is possible to bet on in tennis.
British number one Andy Murray said last week it was a “little bit hypocritical” that major tournaments could partner with gambling players but players could not.
Haggerty, however, suggested increasing prize money at lower-level events was not a solution he would advocate.
“We have a moral compass issue,” Haggerty said. “I don’t think we can argue about the amount of money that someone will be corrupt at. I just think someone is corrupt or they’re not.”
It was also confirmed by Kermode that “conversations had started” about adding to the panel an expert in how electronics now affect the sport.
Kermode said players were angry their reputations had been tarnished by the controversy.
“All the players that I’ve spoken to this week are very concerned,” Kermode said.
“Some are very angry about the story because they do believe in the integrity of the sport. They’re taking it quite personally.
“It’s their image and reputation that’s on the line, so they are fully supportive of anything we do and actually want this to happen.”
In the wake of the BBC and Buzzfeed’s investigations last week, Kermode had said tennis authorities “absolutely reject” any suggestion evidence of match-fixing had been suppressed and claimed the allegations “mainly refer to events from about 10 years ago”.
Asked if the implementation of the panel showed the problem to be greater than first thought, Kermode said: “No, not at all. The intention of doing this is to be really, really proactive and take this head on.
“If we sat back and had done nothing, we would have been accused that sport again is being complacent. We don’t want to be complacent. We want to be constantly vigilant.
“I think this is a very bold step. We need to address the perception, public confidence, hit it head on. We don’t have anything to hide at all.”