Live data collection being phased out at minor events in tennis integrity drive
By Simon Ward
The International Tennis Federation in conjunction with the Tennis Integrity Supervisory Board today approved a ban on the collection of official live scoring data at the lowest-tier professional events as part of an initiative to deter corruption in the sport.
Live data will be removed from $15,000 tournaments on the World Tennis Tour in line with a recommendation of the final report, published at the end of last year, of an Independent Review Panel appointed for the task by the sport’s international governing bodies.
The move follows concerns over the threat of match-fixing, with these minor events organised by the ITF seen as vulnerable because of the low prize money and lack of spectators, at a time when online betting and sales of live scoring data have increased opportunities for foul play.
To help counter this, the ITF plans to create more $25,000 events, and to deter unofficial data collection at events for which live score data have been discontinued.
The ITF pointed out that the supply of live scoring data for WTT $15,000 tournaments has been progressively reduced since the publication of the report last December.
Under the timetable agreed between the ITF and the Supervisory Board, up to 3,500 fewer matches will have been available to betting markets in 2019 compared to 2018, with further cuts to come in 2020 and 2021, concluding with a complete stop to the collection of live scoring data at the lowest-tier events.
The ITF plans form part of an $8-million investment in integrity-related projects that will also entail: introduction of accreditation and access control systems for WTT events; video recording; added security to deter unofficial data collection; appointment of on-site integrity protection personnel; and enhanced channels for the reporting of integrity concerns by players and officials.
These measures are being enacted following consultation with Sportradar, the international sports data and digital content company, which has been providing live data from the ITF’s lower-tier tournaments in a partnership dating back to 2012.
In a statement, David Haggerty, the president of the ITF, said: “Our commitment to protecting the integrity of the World Tennis Tour is paramount. The comprehensive package of measures we have agreed with both the ITF Board and the Tennis Integrity Supervisory Board go beyond the Independent Review Panel’s (IRP) recommendations for removing the supply of live scoring data at WTT $15k events.
“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. The scale of this project is unprecedented. We are confident that it will deliver real benefits for all participants and will contribute to the trend of reducing corruption risk seen in 2019.”
Sportradar has also seen significant progress this year, saying in a statement: “Sportradar continues to support measures that enhance the integrity of tennis and we have played an active role in the process towards implementation of the IRP recommendations over the last 12 months. The ITF should be applauded for its proactive approach in addressing the concerns raised and building an integrity programme that is second to none in the sport.
“The statistics for 2019 show that there has been a significant decrease in integrity issues at ITF competitions. ITF events were already amongst the least likely to be corrupted in the sport and we therefore trust that the TIU Supervisory Board will now work with equal focus on delivering the recommendations to address the integrity concerns that exist across all levels.
“The discontinuance of data sales at ITF $15k events was just one of a package of inter-locking measures, and its successful implementation is dependent upon a range of the other recommendations being implemented in parallel. We will continue to contribute to the ongoing developments and have been encouraged by the collaborative approach taken by the Supervisory Board, reflecting the recommendation for closer relationships between the TIU and key stakeholder groups.”