What the deuce?
Amid allegations of financial shenanigans in athletics, football and cricket, the ‘gentleman’s game’ of tennis is the latest sport to be tarnished by rumours of widespread match fixing. As the Australian Open got underway this week, news emerged of a core group of 16 top players, half of whom will be playing in this tournament, who may have been engaged in fixing results.
World tennis authorities were first handed compelling evidence about this network of players, following a landmark investigation in 2008 but all of them have been allowed to carry on playing. The investigation into the men’s game is based on a cache of leaked documents from inside the sport called the Fixing Files. It also hinges on an original analysis by forensic investigators of the betting activity on 26,000 matches and interviews across three continents with gambling and match-fixing experts, tennis officials, and players.
The investigators devised an algorithm to analyse gambling on professional tennis matches over the past seven years. They identified 15 players who regularly lost matches in which heavily lopsided betting appeared to substantially shift the odds, which flagged up possible match fixing.
Four players showed particularly unusual patterns, losing almost all of these red-flag matches. Given the bookmakers’ initial odds, the chances that the players would perform that badly were less than 1 in 1,000.
Forensic accountants are trained to pick up on such anomalies and using sophisticated software, honed investigative methods and a vast amount of experience, they will find tiny threads of evidence and follow them to their natural conclusion, uncovering the truth in the process.
Author: Roger Isaacs, 22 January 2016
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