ITF Plans Major Integrity Investment As Live Deal Reached

The International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA) has helped save the sale of live scoring data for the International Tennis Federation (ITF) World Tennis Tour (WTT) level of $25k.

In 2016, the four main organisations responsible for governing international professional tennis (ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slam Board) appointed an Independent Review Panel (IRP) to address betting and other issues related to the integrity of the sport.

Originally, for both ITF WTT $15k and $25k events, the panel proposed to discontinue all live scoring results. Then, following consultations between the IBIA and IRP, the latter’s final report updated its strategy to propose discontinuing only the sale of matches for ITF WTT $15k.

In approving the continuation of live data sales for $25ks under this updated data policy, the IRP’s final report states that it had been said that betting industry would not provide in-play betting for $15k matches by non-official live scoring information. In addition, operators would not provide $15k live betting until official data for that tour had been discontinued with the continuing availability of $25k live data.

Twelve months later, the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) Supervisory Board eventually agreed on this core data recommendation and approved a range of other steps as part of a major ITF investment plan aimed to “create a comprehensive integrity infrastructure for the ITF WTT”.

The ITF plans, the release said today, represent an investment of $8 million in a series of integrity-related projects covering key areas such as the introduction of accreditation and access control systems for WTT events, video recording, added security to deter unofficial data collection, the appointment of on-site integrity protection staff and enhanced channels for integrity reporting

In addition to this significant investment in tournament infrastructure, the ITF also prioritises creating more than $25k events to provide a balanced calendar and deter unofficial data collection at events for which live scoring data has been discontinued.

The Supervisory Board and the ITF settled on a timetable to minimise the availability of live scoring information for $15k matches for WTT–something that has been going on since December 2018. Under this agreed schedule, the betting markets will have access to up to 3,500 fewer matches in 2019 compared to 2018.

During 2020 and 2021, further reductions will continue leading to the complete discontinuation of live scoring data at WTT $15k events when all integrity protection measures are in place.

Khalid Ali, CEO of IBIA, commented: “In-play betting makes up 80% of IBIA members’ tennis markets and over 95% at ITF level,” he said. “Retaining live data for $25k matches and setting out an expansion of that tour is an overwhelmingly beneficial move by tennis both from an integrity and commercial standpoint.

“Removing all ITF World Tennis Tour data from regulated operators would have led to the undesirable situation of consumers seeking that product through unregulated channels, with the corresponding loss of market oversight and the ability to detect and punish corruption.

“Protecting the sport and operators against match-fixing is an ongoing challenge. However, IBIA is encouraged by the impact of recent criminal investigations and the allocation of additional resources to the TIU. That has seen a significant downturn in suspicious betting alerts, particularly at ITF level. It is the responsibility of all stakeholders to continue to work together to maintain that positive trend.

“IBIA and its members remain committed to protecting the integrity of tennis at all levels and will continue to work closely with the sport to meet that challenge.”

Via David Lampitt, the firm’s MD of Sports Partnerships, Sportradar, which has a deal to provide live scoring information until 2021, has provided its own response.

Lampitt said:

“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 interlocking measures, and its successful implementation is dependent upon a range of 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.”