Tennis establishes Independent Review Panel to investigate allegations of corruption

 

An Independent Review Panel (IRP) has been established to investigate “thoroughly” the allegations of corruption in international professional tennis and the effectiveness of existing anti-corruption practices and procedures. 

The IRP has been formed as part of the terms of reference and protocols for the Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis, which have today been announced by international tennis’ four governing bodies – the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the Grand Slam Board.

The announcement comes after an investigation by the BBC and Buzzfeed claimed that 16 players, ranked in the top 50 in the world across the past decade, have been repeatedly flagged as having potentially thrown matches.

It was also alleged that the players were allowed to continue playing despite reports being made to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), a joint initiative of the ATP, WTA, ITF and the Grand Slam Board. 

The IRP will look to review the effectiveness and appropriateness of the TIU, as well as the Tennis Anti-Corruption Programme (TACP) and the Tennis Integrity Protection Programme (TIPP), and recommend any suggested changes.

It is said to have wide powers including the right to require the production of documents, the right to carry out interviews and to appoint experts, as it considers appropriate.

In carrying out its duties, it is claimed the IRP will engage with all relevant parties, extending beyond stakeholders in tennis to bodies outside of tennis, including international and state bodies, law enforcement agencies, betting operators and other relevant organisations.

While there is no fixed deadline for the IRP to complete its duties, it is expected that the full review will take at least 12 months with the publication of an interim report during that time.

Following the publication of the interim report, there is due to be a consultation process, through which the stakeholders in tennis, other relevant parties and the public will be able to submit comments on it for consideration by the IRP, which intends to produce a final report thereafter. 

This report will then be published by international tennis’ governing bodies, committing to funding and implementing all of the IRP’s recommendations.

The IRP will consist of three members, led by Adam Lewis QC, one of Britain’s top sports lawyers who has worked on a number of high-profile cases.

These included representing Qatar’s former FIFA vice-president Mohamed bin Hammam when he successfully appealed against the life ban imposed on him by FIFA in 2012.

Lewis will be assisted by two additional members who are due to be appointed by the end of this month. 

Earlier this week, The Guardian reported that the London-based ITF has been summoned to appear at a hearing of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in the spring after two umpires were supposedly banned for betting offences “in secret”.

Kazakhstan’s Kirill Parfenov was banned for life in February 2015 while Croatia’s Denis Pitner received a 12-month sanction in August of the same year, but details of the punishments only emerged on Tuesday (February 9). 

Four more umpires are also currently under investigation, it was revealed, with the ITF facing allegations that it has “covered up” the offences.

The organisation, however, claims a rule allowing it to make the names public was only changed in December.

It is alleged that bribes were taken by the umpires to manipulate matches on the ITF’s Futures Tour, a low-level competition.

This allowed gamblers to place wagers already knowing the outcome of points, it is claimed. 

According to The Guardian, the four umpires who remain under scrutiny are thought to have delayed the input of scores by up to a minute, which allowed syndicates to place their bets.

Parfenov received his ban for speaking to another official on Facebook in a bid to manipulate the scoring of matches, while Pitner was found to have sent details about a player’s well-being to a coach during a tournament.

The Croatian also logged on to a betting account from which bets were placed on tennis matches, with both of the banned umpires facing their punishment after an investigation by the TIU.

 

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