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Wimbledon fears match-fixing scandal in massive betting scam


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Eight matches at Wimbledon have been reported to the tennis authorities on suspicion that their results have been fixed by professional gambling syndicates.


The matches are named in a dossier compiled by leading bookmaking companies, which monitor suspect betting patterns and players thought to be willing to throw games.


Four of the matches are from last year’s men’s singles at Wimbledon and involve foreign players who each lost by three sets.


The dossier identifies sudden spikes in the sums wagered. More than £450m was bet on Wimbledon matches last year through just one British internet site, Betfair. Many suspect matches show huge rises in the money pledged, compared with similar games.


Match-fixers can exploit the odds to share out six-figure sums, leaving significant profits even after paying off a player the loss of prize money for throwing a match. One player has gone on record saying he turned down a £70,000 bung to lose in the first round at Wimbledon. The prize for losing in the first round this year is £10,250.


It is believed Russian and eastern European gamblers are behind much of the illegal betting, although the dossier also names a gang of Austrian gamblers.


An official with detailed knowledge of the dossier of 140 “suspect” matches from tournaments around the world said: “If you look at a tournament, you might see one match for £23,000 [in betting turnover], one for £27,000, one for £36,000 and one for £4.5m. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that something is going on in the last one.”


All the losers singled out from last year’s Wimbledon are alleged to have been involved in suspect matches at other tournaments. One, who is ranked in the top 150, was the loser in eight games on the full list.


The disclosure of suspected match fixing comes amid increased concern about the influence of criminal betting syndicates.


The All England Club has tightened security this year to prevent players’ entourages from gaining access to insider information that could be used in gambling. Only the player and their coach will now be granted entry to the changing rooms.


The club’s intervention followed a report last month commissioned by the ruling bodies of tennis, which concluded that “criminal elements” and possibly organised gangs were seeking to “corrupt” players or officials.


The former police officers who compiled the report, Jeff Rees and Ben Gunn, had been given access to the match-fixing dossier. It is understood that the dossier was originally created as an internal guide for a group of British and overseas bookmakers so they could blacklist certain players’ matches and bets from suspicious accounts.


The dossier identifies games involving male and female players since 2002 that are considered to be suspect because of betting patterns.


A tennis source, who is familiar with its contents, said: “The result was decided before the players came onto court. They all conform to the same pattern. There is a very dramatic shift in the market and there are enormous volumes traded.”


A number of Argentine, Russian, Italian, Spanish and Austrian players are named in the dossier, which covers events around the world including the four Grand Slams.


Five of the losing players from the eight Wimbledon games listed in the dossier are in this year’s men’s singles competition, which begins tomorrow. A total of 18 players competing in this year’s tournament appear as losers in the dossier.


The dossier makes repeated allegations that players “tanked”, or deliberately tried to lose, a match. “X tanked losing nine games in a row,” says one entry.


It frequently refers to a network of Austrian gamblers with links in eastern Europe. One game was bought by “German fixers”, but their player’s opponent was so poor, he was forced to win. “\ apologises to the fixers and says he will get the money back in the future, most likely when he is a big favourite,” says the dossier.


The potential gains of a match-fixer can far outweigh the loss of prize money in the early rounds of the biggest tournaments. A player at last year’s Wimbledon would earn £10,000 for competing in the first round, with extra prize money of only £6,325 for progressing to the second round. On the other hand, bets of £400,000 — a figure mentioned in the dossier for just one internet site — could net £80,000 or more, depending on the odds.


Last September Gilles Elseneer, a Belgian player, said he turned down a locker-room offer of about £70,000 to lose a first-round match against Italy’s Potito Starace at Wimbledon in 2005.


Andy Murray, the British men’s No 1, claimed last October that “everyone knows that match-fixing takes place” although he later said he had been misquoted.


Corrado Tschabuschnig, an Italian players’ agent, said last week that players were being offered sums far greater than the prize money for getting through to the next round — “I think, like 10 times the money you would make the round after”.


Tschabuschnig and senior tennis administrators argued the losing players could be innocent. They believe the players could be victims of leaks of inside information from members of their entourage to gamblers.


It could be that the bookmakers are being overly suspicious about matches as they have to protect their business from large


payouts. But the dossier provides a weight of evidence requiring further investigation.


Betfair, a British-based internet exchange, closely monitors suspicious betting on tennis and sends reports to the sport’s governing bodies. A spokesman for the company said many bookmakers operated blacklists and refused to accept bets on particular players. He said this was not Betfair’s policy, but added: “We certainly monitor the market where certain players are involved far more closely than we would with others.”


It was Betfair that prompted the latest inquiry into match-fixing when it declared void £3.4m of bets last August on a single match. Large sums had been placed on Martin Vassallo Arguello, a low-ranked Argentinian, to beat Nikolay Davydenko, the Russian ranked No 4 in the world.


The spokesman said: “Davydenko was winning very, very easily. He had won the first set 6-1 and was a break up in the second but he was still not the favourite . . . and then he goes on to lose the second set and pull out \ in the third.” The inquiry into the match is continuing and both players deny any wrongdoing.


The incident prompted the sport’s governing bodies — the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the ATP, the WTA Tour and the four Grand Slams — to commission the Rees and Gunn report.


The bookmakers’ dossier was given to the ATP and the ITF last autumn. Last month, Rees and Gunn identified 45 matches between 2002 and 2007 in which the betting activity was suspicious and recommended further investigation.


This weekend one player, who lost four of the matches highlighted in the dossier, said: “If they \ have suspicious activity, they should ask the people that bet, not me. They should have the names and account numbers of the people who bet and it would be easy to know if they have some relationship with the players.”


An agent for another player also denied any involvement in match-fixing. “He’s not involved in nothing. I’m sure because I know the guy from when he was 14 years old.”


Bill Babcock, a Grand Slam tournament co-ordinator, said: “We have systems to examine unusual betting activities and as soon as we receive notice we look at each case that has been brought to our attention.”


An ATP statement said the Rees and Gunn report had “confirmed the sport is not institutionally or systematically corrupt”.


An integrity unit is to be set up to tackle corruption and the tennis authorities are likely to announce penalties including three-year bans and fines of up to £50,000 for any player involved in match-fixing.



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