A massive betting scam, instead of the traditional rain and dark clouds, has hit Wimbledon this year. On the first day, June 23, a clampdown on corruption in professional tennis is being announced. This is in the wake of revelations that match-fixing and illegal betting are rife and some results were fixed by professional gambling 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 players and their coaches will now be granted entry to the changing rooms.
An integrity unit is to be set up to tackle corruption and the authorities are likely to announce penalties including three-year bans and fines of up to £50,000 for any player involved in match-fixing. Gilles Elseneer, a Belgian player, had said last year that he turned down a locker-room offer of about £70,000 to lose a first round match against Italy's Potito Starace in 2005.
Andy Murray, the British No. 1, also claimed last October that "everyone knows that match-fixing takes place" although he later said he had been misquoted. Investigations have shown that at least 45 matches played in recent years are under suspicion, as are a number of players, including some of the top international professionals.
Eight Wimbledon matches, four of them from last year’s men’s singles, are among those singled out for scrutiny in a gambling industry dossier of suspect matches played since 2002. Sources said five losing players from the eight Wimbledon matches are playing in this year's men's singles competition. This year features a total of 18 players who lost games on the list. 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. 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.
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. It was Betfair, an English site company 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 MartinVassallo Arguello, a low-ranked Argentinian, to beat Nikolay Davydenko, the Russian ranked No. 4 in the world.
The inquiry into the match is continuing and both players deny any wrongdoing. 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 could net £80,000 or more, depending on the odds.