Professional tennis, reeling from allegations of match-fixing by players, received another blow when the Guardian newspaper reported several umpires have been banned or are facing lifetime bans for conspiring to manipulate scores of tennis matches.
Worse yet, the newspaper reports the International Tennis Federation never publicly released details of its corruption probe, alerting only a small number of tournament directors and national tennis federations. The respected publication raises fresh concerns about corruption in tennis and the lack of transparency at the tennis federation, and indeed questions whether the tennis body ‘s lucrative deal with a data company might have made it possible for umpires to manipulate scores of live matches.
To date, none of the governing bodies in tennis have called for establishing comprehensive integrity and compliance programs to nip such corruption. Evidently, they are under the impression it is enough to announce codes of conduct for players and umpires. One might well ask: and how is that working out so far?
From what we know of this latest scandal it appears that under the terms of the deal with Sportradar, a company specializing in sports data, tennis umpires are asked to immediately update the scoreboard after each point using their official IBM tablets. This score is then transmitted around the world to live-score sites and bookmakers, allowing the latter to update their prices as the match proceeds.
However , according to the Guardian, “the umpires are alleged to have deliberately delayed updating the scores for up to 60 seconds – allowing gamblers to place bets knowing what was going to happen next.” In some cases, umpires are alleged to have texted the gamblers directly before updating the score on their tablet computer.
A gentlemanly code of conduct is not enough to root out such sophisticated abuses. As compliance professionals know only too well, it takes all three components of an integrity program – prevention , detection, correction – to keep an organization from sliding into trouble.
Professional tennis is about to find out the bitter truth in Ben Franklin ‘s observation that glass, china, and reputation are easily cracked and never well-mended.