Two professional tennis umpires have been banned and four more are under investigation for fixing games to assist betting syndicates, it has emerged.
According to The Guardian newspaper, umpires from Kazakhstan, Turkey and Ukraine are among those said to have accepted bribes from a number of betting syndicates in exchange for manipulating live scores on the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) Futures Tour, the lowest level of the professional tennis ladder.
Kirill Parfenov from Kazakhstan was decertified for life in February 2015 after contacting another official on Facebook in an attempt to manipulate the scoring of matches, while Denis Pitner of Croatia was handed a 12-month suspension in August of last year for regularly accessing to a betting account from which bets were placed on matches.
When contacted by The Guardian, the ITF only acknowledged the cases of the two umpires, along with the four under investigation.
The ITF said in a letter: “In order to ensure no prejudice of any future hearing we cannot publicly disclose the nature or detail of those investigations.
“Should any official be found guilty of an offence, it will be announced publicly.
“The ITF code of conduct for officials was amended in December 2015 to include public reporting of officiating sanctions from 2016 onwards.”
The newspaper also raised the issue of the ITF’s partnership with Sportradar, which in 2012 signed a deal to provide the organisation with various services, including the distribution of live scores from small tournaments.
The Guardian said this arrangement has allowed bookmakers to provide odds on such matches, particularly on the in-play market.
The terms of the Sportradar partnership state that umpires must immediately update the scoreboard after each point via tablet devices, with such information then relayed globally to live-score sites and bookmakers.
However, the umpires are alleged to have deliberately delayed updating the scores for up to 60 seconds, which allowed gamblers to place bets knowing what was going to happen next in the game.
Some umpires were alleged to have texted gamblers before updating the scores.
Commenting on the partnership, the ITF said: “Our deal with Sportradar, like those in place with ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) and WTA (Women’s Tennis Association), by creating official, accurate and immediate data, acts as a deterrent to efforts by anyone trying to conduct illegal sports betting and/or unauthorised use of data for non-legal purposes.”
The allegations come after it was announced last month that an independent review into anti-corruption procedures in tennis is to be launched.
The Tennis Integrity Board (TIB), which oversees the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), will fund the review.