Two umpires suspended for corruption
Four officials reportedly facing life bans
Bribed to fix scores on Futures Tour
ITF's contract with Sportradar questioned
Tennis’ match-fixing scandal has taken a fresh twist.
Authorities revealed Tuesday that two international umpires have been banned on charges of corruption in the past year, while four others are suspended pending the completion of an investigation.
A statement sent to CNN from the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) said Kirill Parfenov, an umpire from Kazakhstan, was decertified for life in February 2015 for “contacting another official on Facebook in an attempt to manipulate the scoring of matches.”
Croatian umpire Denis Pitner, meanwhile, was banned for 12 months from August 1, 2015 for “regularly logging on to a betting account from which bets were placed on tennis matches.”
CNN contacted the Tennis Federation of Kazakhstan and Croatian Tennis Association for a response, but both failed to comment.
Parfenov and Pitner have also yet to respond to CNN.
Meanwhile, British newspaper The Guardian reported that umpires from Kazakhstan, Turkey and Ukraine received bribes from betting syndicates in exchange for fixing scores on the ITF’s Futures Tour – the lowest rung of the professional tier.
The Guardian claimed the Parfenov and Pitner cases were originally kept quiet, while the cases of four more officials facing corruption charges were also never made public, and only have been now following its own investigation.
“Four officials are currently suspended pending the completion of ongoing investigations by the TIU,” the ITF and TIU statement said. “In order to ensure no prejudice of any future hearing we cannot publicly disclose the nature or detail of those investigations.
“Should any official be found guilty of an offense, it will be announced publicly.”
Regarding the Parfenov and Pitner cases, the statement added that the ITF Code of Conduct for Officials did not previously “allow public dissemination of officials sanctioned,” but that it was amended in December to “ensure public reporting of officiating sanctions from 2016 onwards.”
The Guardian’s report also raised questions over a five-year deal worth $70 million signed with data company Sportradar in 2012 to distribute live scores from small tournaments around the world.
It claimed umpires had deliberately delayed updating scores for up to 60 seconds, allowing gamblers to place bets knowing what was going to happen next.
Umpires are alleged to have texted gamblers before updates, effectively giving them an edge before betting markets reacted to changing scores.
The ITF and TIU, however, dismissed such claims, stating that the Sportradar deal “acts as a deterrent to efforts by anyone trying to conduct illegal sports betting and/or unauthorized use of data for non-legal purposes.”
“Sportradar are excellent partners and share with the ITF the goal of ensuring the integrity of our sport,” the statement added.
The issue of match-fixing in tennis exploded last month after a report from BuzzFeed News and the BBC claimed corruption was rife in the sport.
It stated that a core group of 16 players who have been inside the top 50, including one grand slam singles winner, “have repeatedly been reported for losing games when highly suspicious bets have been placed against them.”
No names were mentioned but an online blog named former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt as the grand slam champion in question.
The two-time grand slam champion angrily denied the claim after the final singles match of his career.
“I think it’s a joke to deal with it,” the Australian told reporters. “You know, obviously, yeah, there’s no possible way. I know my name’s now been thrown into it.
“I don’t think anyone here would think that I’ve done anything, corruption or match-fixing. It’s just absurd.
“For anyone that tries to go any further with it, then good luck. Take me on with it. Yeah, it’s disappointing. I think throwing my name out there with it makes the whole thing an absolute farce.”
Men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic became entangled, too, when an Italian newspaper suggested he didn’t try in a match at the Paris Masters in 2007, losing to Frenchman Fabrice Santoro in straight sets.
Like Hewitt, the six-time Australian Open champion denied any wrongdoing.