Tennis fixing allegations bring umpires under fire

Tennis player waiting to serve.

WIDESPREAD suspicion regarding tennis match-fixing has been partially confirmed by the recent banning of two umpires and the suspension of four others involved with the Futures Tour 2015. 

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) confirmed that the actions of a Kazakhstani and a Croatian umpire had resulted in disciplinary action in 2015, while four other umpires are still under investigation, suspected of receiving bribes for fixing scores.   

A joint statement released by the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) and the ITF confirmed that “Kirill Parfenov of Kazakhstan was decertified for life in February 2015 for contacting another official on Facebook in an attempt to manipulate the scoring of matches”.

The Croatian umpire, Denis Pitner, was slapped with a 12 month suspension in August 2015 for allegedly “sending information on the physical well-being of a player to a coach during a tournament and regularly logging on to a betting account from which bets were placed on tennis matches”. 

The remaining four people in the firing line have also been suspended pending investigation into their actions, which are reported to include a technique known as “courtsiding” a practice that involves gamblers at live events placing mid-game bets on scores before bookmakers have updated odds accordingly. 

The Futures Tour is the lowest rung of professional tennis, but its tournaments allow players to improve their professional profile, win titles and boost their ranking. However, some experts portray the sporting event as being vulnerable to corruption, since its umpires are badly paid, security measures are lacking and there is usually no live television feed, making it difficult for bookies to monitor scores very closely.   

Those umpires currently under investigation are accused of holding off updating scores for up to a minute, leaving a window of opportunity for gamblers to bet on outcomes they are already aware of.  

The latest allegations cast doubt on a recent statement by the President of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Chris Kermode, who told the BBC that match-fixing in tennis existed on an “incredibly small level”.  

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