London (AFP) – Wimbledon bosses have backed plans to restructure the lower levels of tennis in a bid to clamp down on match-fixing involving players struggling to make a living from the sport.
A recent ‘Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis’ report said the lower reaches of the men’s and women’s game provided a fertile breeding ground for betting-related corruption.
The problems stem from too many players in the lower reaches, such as the Futures and Challenger circuits, not earning enough to make a living, coupled with the rise of online betting.
A total of 14.5 percent of players who responded to the survey said they had first-hand knowledge of match-fixing but the panel found no evidence of top-level players being implicated in corruption.
The report recommended restructuring of the professional game with a significant reduction in tournaments deemed “professional”, discontinuing the sale of official live scoring data at lower-level tennis and eliminating betting sponsorship in the sport.
With Wimbledon due to get underway in July, the grass-court Grand Slam’s chiefs revealed they support the proposals.
“The AELTC (All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club) is fully supportive of the Independent Review Panel’s findings as set out in its interim report,” a statement read,
“In particular, the AELTC is fully supportive of the recommendation for a delineation of professional tennis.”
The AELTC’s chief executive Richard Lewis added: “It’s always been absurd to call thousands of tennis players professional.
“We have been lobbying for several years about players not earning sufficient prize money to cover expenses, or if they aren’t likely to be able to, or aren’t of a sufficient standard, then they shouldn’t be professional.
“I would agree with the IRP suggestion. The discussions we’ve had with the ITF, we are not a million miles apart (on what level should be recognised as professional).
“We might be quite hawkish and say the cut-off point should be higher at the Challenger Level, maybe the 500 level.”