Sportradar Executive Defends 2012 Sports Data Deal with ITF
arlier this year, the London-based Independent Review of Tennis Integrity (IRTI) called for a number of reforms that would combat corruption in tennis and match-fixing. One of those recommendations targeted a prominent sports data company, Sportradar, which has worked with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) since 2012.
The Independent Review of Tennis Integrity, headed by sports lawyer Andrew Lewis, announced its findings and recommendations after a two-year probe of international tennis. The Anzac Day report was Lewis’s brainchild after charges of match-fixing overshadowed much of the coverage of the 2016 Australian Open.
Many of the suggested policy changes by the IRTI were measures that had been suggested before. Some where common sense fixes that most anyone would agree is workable. One suggestion stood out from the rest, because it called for a radical change. It also criticized two generally respected organizations in the tennis world.
ITF-Sportradar Deal Comes under Fire
Andrew Lewis’s report criticized the 2012 tennis data deal between the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and Sportradar, a sports data firm which provides live streaming data to many of the largest pro sports organizations in the world.
The five-year contract was worth more than $90 million, and it was extended in 2017. The partnership between the ITF and Sportradar allows live scoring results on tennis matches from around the world to be streamed online. Events from the ATP and WTA grand slam tournaments all the way down to the $15,000 Futures tournaments have results live streamed.
That sounds like a positive thing to most fans, because they get up-to-the-minute tennis news from around the world. Sportradar helps fans have real time tennis news of events happening all over the globe. According to the Independent Review of Tennis Integrity, Sportradar’s live streamed tennis results also has fueled a huge expansion in sports betting on low-level international tennis matches.
That, in turn, threatens the integrity of the sport, according to Andrew Lewis’s organization.
Sportradar Exec Defends Company’s Services
David Lampitt, the managing director of Sportradar’s group operations, took exception to the Independent Review of Tennis Integrity’s charges. In a recent interview with The Australian, Lampitt cited the “Review of Australia’s Sports Integrity Arrangements“ report, which conflicts with IRTI’s charges and recommendations.
The Review of Sports Integrity was released in early 2018. Lampitt said IRTI should read the report and take them to heart. The Sportradar executive said a blackout of global tennis results would be impracticable, if not impossible. Lampitt also said a global ban on Internet results is unnecessary, while also a disservice to fans and the young tennis players they follow.
Lampitt said, “Australia’s review into sport integrity made a series of practical recommendations to better protect integrity in sport through national co-ordination and collaboration.”
“Attempting a total data blackout on a sport has never been done, or even trialled or tested, before. Counter evidence and expert analysis indicate that such an approach is likely to have a harmful effect on integrity, which would be hard to reverse if unsuccessful.”
Do Futures Players Throw ITF Tennis Matches?
While most high-ranked ATP and WTA tennis stars have too much on the line to work with match-fixers, that is not always the case with players at the ITF’s Futures events. It goes beyond players, though, to the umpires and line judges who officiate the game of tennis.
Most of the ITF’s lower level players have integrity. They are athletes who compete at high levels and have a natural competitiveness to them, so they would never throw a match for money. Beyond players’ ethics, most have the dream to become big time pro tennis players on the ATP and WTA circuits.
Once again, they have a lot to lose by fixing matches. Being caught would end in a lifetime ban and an end to their dreams of accomplishment, wealth, and fame. With umpires at the ITF Futures level, match-fixing is a definite problem. A recent case where three Thai chair umpires were banned for life underscores the danger.
David Lampitt Calls IRTI Report an “Uncertain Guess”
With that in mind, David Lampitt continued his criticism of IRTI’s previous recommendations. The Sportradar exec compared Andrew Lewis’s report to a “guess”, stating to The Australian publication, “So, the panel is staking its reputation, and that of the sport, on an uncertain ‘guess’, when there is good evidence that a different approach and an incremental process of implementing enhanced and targeted measures would be more likely to deliver successful outcomes and integrity benefits.
Lampitt also suggested a ban on sports data would only push tennis betting underground, which would harm more punters than the current system. He stated, “If the recommendations remain unchanged, they would push the betting market underground where the integrity issues would be out of sight.”
“This may give the veneer of improving the situation but would not deal with the underlying issues. These must not be brushed under the carpet.”
Ban or Regulate Tennis Betting?
It is the classic argument between proponents of legalized and regulated sports betting and the advocates of a total ban on sports betting. In this case, the twist is the blackout would involve a ban on sports data for Futures-level events.
The Independent Review of Tennis Integrity is probably correct in saying that quick reporting of Futures events might lead to better opportunities for match-fixers. A short delay for low-level events might be in order, though a total ban misunderstands how global match-fixers work in 2018.