Sportradar responds to tennis review with recommendations to tackle corruption

Sports data provider Sportradar says that it supports the majority of recommendations proposed by the Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis report, but warned that the discontinuance of data sales would cause further risk to the integrity of the game.

In its response to the report, released in April this year to address the sport’s integrity issues, Sportradar said it supported the majority of the panel’s recommendations but outlined concerns in relation to the recommendation regarding the discontinuance of data sales.

It stated that this approach would not only fail in practice but would cause further risk to the integrity of the game, with potentially irreversible consequences.

“Attempting a total data black-out on a sport has never been done, or even trialed or tested before,” explained Sportradar managing director group operations David Lampitt. “Counter evidence and expert analysis indicate that such an approach is likely to have a harmful effect on integrity, which would be hard to reverse if unsuccessful.

“So, the panel is staking its reputation, and that of the sport, on an uncertain ‘guess’, when there is good evidence that a different approach and an incremental process of implementing enhanced and targeted measures would be more likely to deliver successful outcomes and integrity benefits.”

Lampitt said that if the recommendations remain unchanged, they would push the betting market underground where the integrity issues would be out of sight.

“This may give the veneer of improving the situation but would not deal with the underlying issues,” he continued. “These must not be brushed under the carpet.”

Lampitt also pointed out that the relative risk that the review attributed to the different levels of tennis was also misleading.

“In 2017, and consistently over the last four years, ITF tennis has, in fact, had the lowest risk of corruption across all the levels of the professional game, including the Grand Slams,” he said. “Of course, integrity risks exist across all levels. But they are most prevalent at the mid-level of the Men’s game, so the rationale for applying the most draconian measures to the ITF Men’s and Women’s competitions and recommending relatively modest changes at the other levels doesn’t tally with the evidence.”

Sportradar has outlined a number of recommendations as part of its response to the review.

This includes implementing a proactive tennis-wide approach to restricting data distribution, targeting specific matches with an elevated risk of corrupt activity based on a consistent and analysis-led evaluation. Sportradar said that this was something the company was doing as part of its integrity partnership with the ITF.

The sports data provider has also proposed the creation of a new body made up of representatives from tennis, betting operators and sports data companies, to ensure a more concerted and collective approach to fighting corruption in tennis across related operational areas, which should include the application of the targeted data restrictions.

Other recommendations include increasing audio-visual (AV) streaming coverage, where possible, to help provide reliable evidence, creating new regulations to enable quicker sanctioning based on betting data and expert player analysis, and bringing in targeted measures to deal with online abuse of players, especially at lower levels, enabling players to escalate concerns.

Finally, Sportradar proposed to use technology to target risks, streamline processes, maximise impact and enhance intelligence-led enforcement action.

“Ultimately our interests, like the panel's and other stakeholders involved, including the tennis governing bodies as well as the betting companies, are focused on safeguarding a clean sport,” said Lampitt. “We want to be transparent about our submissions as we believe the evidence is important to ensure decisions are not taken that may have unintended and harmful consequences for the sport.”

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