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Allegations Of Rigged Matches Rock Tennis World


The Australian Open is underway, and it kicked off with a bang. The world's former number one player, Rafael Nadal, was knocked out in the first round by Fernando Verdasco. But even that news is overshadowed by a report by the BBC and Buzzfeed that professional tennis suppressed internal investigations into match rigging for nearly a decade, allowing players flagged in reports to keep playing - among them, some of the top-ranked players in the world. No names have emerged of any players, but the Association of Tennis Professionals denies that it suppressed any evidence of match fixing. Joining us now on the line from London is Paul Scotney. He's the director of Sports Integrity Services, and he's one of the lead investigators that issued an initial report to tennis officials about match fixing back in 2008. Thank you for joining us.

PAUL SCOTNEY: Yeah, good morning. You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: We should say here that tennis officials were the ones, again, that first commissioned you to look into match fixing.

SCOTNEY: Yes, that's right. I mean, at the time I was working for another sport - for horse racing - which we're very much used to dealing with issues around betting because we exist for betting purposes. So the tennis authorities wanted some assistance. And we helped them do it.

MONTAGNE: Well, there was one match in particular in Poland that had caught their attention. What raised red flags on that one?

SCOTNEY: The betting on it was so suspicious. In a tennis match where you have someone ranked five and someone ranked 80-something, you would normally expect the person ranked five to be the favorite in that match. But in this case, that wasn't the issue. The player ranked 80-something was trading as the favorite because of the volume of money for him. So the betting industry at the time thought that suspicious. And then the way the match itself played out, they were further suspicious about it. So it was the betting industry that reported it to the tennis authorities to say that they think there was something corrupt about the match.

MONTAGNE: Once you moved beyond that one match, what else did you find?

SCOTNEY: As we carried out the investigation, we came across - mainly through contact with betting operators - a variety of other matches that were suspicious, and suspicious in the same way as the one we originally investigated.

MONTAGNE: That's the beginning of the story, obviously, which now continues, or has emerged again, these years later.

SCOTNEY: Yes, I mean, again, you know, to be fair to tennis, I don't know what rules they had in the place at the time. But I suspect the rules were not in the same position that ours were in the sport that I was working, where we had very specific rules to deal and sanction players, to get access to telephone records, to get players to come to interviews. It may be that the tennis rules at that time were not fit for purpose because this was before they set up their integrity unit.

MONTAGNE: What do you think would be the next steps for tennis officials?

SCOTNEY: Yeah, I mean, it's - this isn't just an issue for tennis. It's an issue for all sports. The question is, what do sports need to do? They need to work with the betting industry and betting operators because betting across the globe is going to continue. So there needs to be an acceptance. And tennis is one of the three top sports for betting. And those three sports are horse racing, soccer and tennis. So the facts are, it's a bet-on sport and will continue to be a bet-on sport, and authorities need to understand that and work closely with the betting operators because of that.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you very much for joining us.

SCOTNEY: That's fine. That's all right.

MONTAGNE: That's Paul Scotney, director of Sports Integrity Services, speaking to us from London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.