8 reasons no one is surprised that tennis is (allegedly) fixed

The first day of the Australian Open was marred by revelations alleging widespread match-fixing and cover-ups in men’s tennis stretching

The first day of the Australian Open was marred by revelations alleging widespread match-fixing and cover-ups in men’s tennis stretching back more than a decade. World number one Novak Djokovic confirmed he was approached with a reported offer of US$200,000 in 2006 to throw a match.

Hyper-commercialised sport in the 21st century has resulted in a number of benefits for athletes and spectators. Athletes are able to make significant amounts of money; spectators can enjoy excitement of the highest order without having to leave their lounge rooms. But it is naïve to think that all changes have been beneficial.

In recent decades doping has consistently been the most-visible negative consequence of commercialised sport. So much pressure is now exerted on athletes that they are tempted, for whatever reason, to take performance-enhancing substances.

While the Australian public demands a level playing field, Australian athletes and sports have been caught up in doping. For the most part, though, Australian sports are heavily regulated and proactive in addressing doping. But the same cannot be said about gambling.

Gambling and sport are entwined

Online and live sports betting has become much more prevalent in recent years.

All major sports in Australia now have some kind of a relationship with sports betting agencies. Online bookmaker William Hill is the “official betting partner” of the Australian Open and – in a first for a Grand Slam tournament – it has been allowed to advertise inside stadiums.

For television and pay-per-view providers, sports betting agencies provide significant advertising dollars. Betting agencies, alongside junk food and alcohol, form an unholy trinity of sports advertising in Australia.

Gambling, particularly on poker machines, can be destructive. So too has sports betting been responsible for creating a new breed of problem gamblers. Sports gambling is accepted as a rite of passage for many Australian males.

However, sporting authorities are cautious about upsetting their sponsors. Tennis officials largely dismissed the revelations of match-fixing as old news.

Why tennis?

Tennis is a sport very suitable for corruption in this hyper-commercialised era. Here’s why we shouldn’t surprised that match-fixers have targeted the sport:

  1. Tennis is a one-on-one sport. If you wanted to manipulate an outcome, you would avoid team sports such as rugby league or netball. Too much can go wrong. Individual sports are different; corruption is easier to organise.
  2. It is very difficult to prove a tennis match has been fixed: a player withdraws in the second set “injured”; a player double-faults on crucial points; a player makes a number of unforced errors.
  3. Tennis players are taught and coached from an early age that they are professional and that they have only a limited time in the game. Money is a considerable concern for players and a great motivator. Those outside the top-ranked players would make more money by match-fixing than by playing on the tour.
  4. Betting markets on tennis matches provide gamblers with an opportunity to wager on a host of “exotic” markets, not just head-to-head betting. This includes markets such as whether there will be a tiebreak set, who will win the next game, or the total number of games played.
  5. It would seem that the authorities are keen not to address the issue. Sporting bodies, for publicity issues, are always keen to deny – just look at the recent FIFA scandal and allegations of widespread doping in Russian athletics.
  6. The lifestyle of professional tennis athletes brings with it lots of down time and boring periods in hotel rooms in foreign countries.
  7. In the commercialised world of tennis, sport has a different meaning. Kids are told about sport’s educational benefits, but they notice in the real world that it is really about making money.
  8. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, sport is a commodity. People’s involvement largely revolves around financial remuneration.

The ConversationAre you disappointed by the match-fixing scandal that has marred the Australian Open?

By Steve Georgakis, Senior Lecturer of Pedagogy and Sports Studies, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

  1. The ads I hate the most… Gambling, especially on line. “It’s so easy, download the app” etc etc. gambling is a scourge on society and can destroy sport.

  2. A Polkinghorne  

    Tennis has gradually become more irritating and predictable. It had always been a delight to watch any player in the top ten but today with these players being replaced with younger and more disrespectful brats (usually Australian) tennis has lost its excitiment and must see interest. Why follow tennis and watch with embarrassment the Australian brats play, why watch when you have to put up with the juvenile cheer squads which worsen each year, why watch when you can almost predict the outcome and now with the revelation of fixing why watch or follow at all. Like many thousands of tennis lovers we have completely switched off watching or following this now disreputable sport.

  3. What would really surprise me would be if a sport played at a high level didn’t have some sort of “fixing”. It is at the point where why bother watching when the outcome has already been decided?

  4. That’s why I stopped watching sport after the word amateur became derogatory.

    • Karen O'Brien-Hall  

      Such a good point you make Linda – The Davis Cup was amateur “back then” and you could not have hoped to get better players. For many years, I was involved in amateur theatre; we took the attitude that if the audience were paying good money at the Box Office they deserved good performances on stage. Yes, we were amateur, but our standards weren’t. Hence, there are many theatre groups all over Australia which have existed for 60, 70 and even 80 plus years – you don’t do that if you deliver poor quality.

  5. What the article fails to address ,if as it states, it’s all about money. Non successful or unpredicable players do not get the huge sponsorship monies which follow a big name. it was stated ten players were named that is a very small % and I’d guess they would be the ones who felt they couldn’t reach the top

  6. These findings need to name names. It is a blight on all players until they are prepared to name names. Sponsorship in any sport by betting agencies is a conflict of interest. That is also a problem.

  7. Nothing would surprise me anymore. So many sports are “fixed” these days. Disgraceful. Why watch or participate when the outcome has already been decided. Same as so many other things in life today.

  8. That is why I no longer look at the tennis any more another sport gone money has taken over all sports no longer on Merritt so sad

  9. Greed and self gratification, why do people need to behave this way, the reality it’s a false achievement.

  10. Maszki  

    You answered your own question Fred. There are very few sports today..most are business..BIG business; and as with all business the bottom line is that all that matters. Direct bribes are only one of the means of obtaining the needed result. Performance enhancing drugs is another (check the Essendon Football Club for further details). Other methods include performance reducing drugs (spiking of drinks) and deliberate performance limiting injuries (most AFL/VFL clubs have enforcers whose job it is to take out or negate the other teams better players)
    My only surprise is that it has taken so long for this bribery/inducement issue in tennis to come out
    Question. Did Djokovic report the incident to the sports authorities.?
    Sports business will always have its dark side. Even if gambling and prize-money were taken out of the scene, there will always be the individual who wants the bragging rights about who he defeated, or how fast he ran, etc
    Knowing the problem exists and will always exist means that the best we can hope for is to limit the impact

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