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Gambling watchdog's figures are 'not proof' of corruption in tennis

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The Tennis Integrity Unit has insisted the latest worrying figures of suspicious betting activity in tennis are not necessarily proof of corruption.

Figures released by sports gambling watchdog ESSA show that, of 100 suspicious sporting events flagged up in 2015, 73 were tennis matches.

In a statement to Press Association Sport, a TIU spokesman said: "ESSA is one of the organisations that has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tennis Integrity Unit.

"All information supplied by betting operators is analysed by the TIU. This analysis includes many other factors that can influence results, including player fitness, fatigue, form, playing conditions and personal circumstances.

"If the analysis suggests suspicious activity, the TIU moves to investigation, which includes interviewing players, taking phones and laptops.

"An alert can be an indicator of suspicious activity. But it is not proof or evidence that corruption has taken place.

"On its own, betting data is not sufficient to bring forward a successful prosecution; it has to be considered, assessed and verified along with the TIU's many other sources of intelligence.

"Statistics of the kind released today by ESSA must be considered in that light."

The sport's anti-corruption practices have been under the microscope following allegations by the BBC and BuzzFeed last month concerning match-fixing at the top level of the game.

Tennis' world governing bodies subsequently came together to announce an independent review of integrity in the sport, which will be overseen by Adam Lewis QC and is expected to take at least 12 months.

Worryingly for tennis, more than a third of the suspicious matches took place in the final quarter of 2015 according to the figures released by ESSA on Thursday.

The ESSA report claimed 24 tennis matches were flagged up by betting companies compared to eight football matches, one snooker match, one ice hockey match and one greyhound race.

Suspicious activity in tennis in 2015 took place across five continents, including one match in the UK.

The highest number of ESSA alerts came from Turkey with eight, followed by seven each in Tunisia and Argentina.

An ESSA alert is issued when suspicious transactions are flagged up by the organisation's members.

Where evidence emerges of potentially fraudulent activity taking place, the relevant sports governing body is informed.

ESSA chairman Mike O'Kane said: "The start of 2016 has seen a worldwide focus on alleged match-fixing in tennis. The data contained in ESSA's Q1-3 reports has been used to highlight those concerns.

"The data in our Q4 integrity report reflects previous quarters and, whilst tennis constituted the largest proportion of suspicious betting alerts identified by ESSA members, it should be noted that the vast majority of tennis events are fair.

"ESSA has been working closely with the tennis authorities on this issue and remains committed to working with all of our partners in sport."

The TIU was set up in 2008 to enforce the sport's anti-corruption code of conduct and investigate possible breaches.

So far 19 players and officials have been sanctioned, with the most recent coming this week when unranked Thai player Jatuporn Nalamphun was banned for 18 months for betting on matches and failing to cooperate with an investigation.

Nearly all those punished have plied their trade predominantly at the lowest level of the game.