Tennis has been hogging the limelight ever since the first news regarding a number of players, including Grand Slam winners, being involved in match-fixing broke. Now reports suggest that the international umpires, who are one of the most respected in tennis, have also collaborated with various betting syndicates to skew odds in their favour in the past, which draws a thick black cloud over the sport.
Umpires from countries such as Kazakhstan, Turkey and Ukraine are said to have been involved in such acts, where they made money from betting syndicates manipulating the live scores in the International Tennis Federation's Futures Tour. The Guardian reported that the tennis authorities chose to inform just a few people such as tournament directors and national federations, and never made such cases public.
Umpires like Kirill Parfenov was stripped of his certificate for life due to his involvement in such cases in February 2015, while Denis Pitner was reportedly banned from the circuit for 12 months in August 2015.
One wonders why the ITF did not release the cases to the public. Are they guilty of having signed a huge deal with betting company Sportsradar, to distribute live scores from all over the world?
The umpires, who were also in direct contact with the gamblers, notified them about the scores, before making the changes in the scores official. The umpires are asked to change the scores after every point on the official IBM tablet, which they are provided with. Such a delay in updating the live scores -- officially -- give the punters time to make their desired bets, knowing beforehand the score.
Richard Ings, a former professional umpire, is not surprised with such news coming out in the open.
"It is deeply troubling, but not at all surprising, that the risk to the integrity of tennis driven by gambling has expanded beyond players and their entourages to now include umpires and other tournament officials," Ings was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
"Over a 15-year period I have been involved in professional tennis officiating both as a professional umpire and administrator of officiating for the ATP.
"During that period I have seen tennis umpires breach the code for officials for relatively minor offences. But I have never before seen umpires breach it for tennis integrity issues related to gambling on tennis and courtsiding."
The ITF, after these revelations, have been forced to come up with a statement.
"In order to ensure no prejudice of any future hearing, we cannot publicly disclose the nature or details of those investigations," the statement read. "Should any official be found guilty of an offence, it will be announced publicly."