Sportradar: Tennis data blackout doesn’t stand up to scrutiny

Major data supplier Sportradar has criticised the conclusion of the Independent Review Panel (IRP) to have a data blackout on the lower levels of professional tennis, saying that such a recommendation doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. 

The panel, represented by the the four organisations principally responsible for governing professional tennis – the ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slam Board – reversed a previous proposal to discontinue the sale of live data at the $25k level of the sport, but reaffirmed its recommendation for a ban for the $15k developmental tier to protect the sport’s integrity.

The report also recommends “empowering the TIU to monitor betting markets and to disrupt betting based on unofficial live scoring data at ITF World Tennis Tour $15k developmental tier matches”, for which no live streaming or live internet coverage should be permitted. 

Sportradar, who has worked with the ITF since 2012 and now provides over 200 clients with data direct from the umpire’s chair, has issued the following response through David Lampitt, the firm’s Managing Director of Group Operations.

“We welcome the fact that the Panel has reversed their recommendation to discontinue sale of live data at the $25k level of the sport. However we believe that they could and should have gone further. This is for two reasons:

“A targeted approach should be applied across the whole sport; we have been consistent in our view that the Panel invites new risks and problems by recommending a prohibitive approach, when it has not succeeded as an effective regulatory tool in relation to the betting industry anywhere in the world, nor in any other sport. Adjusting their arbitrary line (between targeted approach and blanket discontinuance) down a level doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

“This is because the measures don’t match the risks; the Panel’s approach remains disproportionate. They now accept a targeted approach as the most effective response for almost every level of tennis, including quite correctly those levels above the ITF that evidence the highest level of risk. It then makes no sense that they have doggedly maintained a solution that is more draconian, expensive, complex and unpredictable for the $15k tournament level that has lower risk.

The panel has justified its proposals by claiming that an absence of betting markets at the $15k level would “reduce by many thousands the number of players whose matches can be bet on, and so who are vulnerable to temptation or corruption, as well as to online abuse”.

The report does at least acknowledge that such prohibition – as highlighted by Lampitt at this year’s Betting on Sports conference – does not work “…if the betting markets based on official data are simply replaced by parallel betting markets based on unofficial data derived from live broadcasts, obtained by scouts attending matches, or scraped from the internet”. 

Lampitt concluded: “Our experience borne of more than a decade investing in the best programmes to fight integrity corruption in sport, is that a targeted approach, where the key stakeholders cooperate and invest into detection, prevention and education rather than prohibition is the most effective way forward for all levels.

“Now that the Panel’s work is finally complete, we look forward to working with our trusted partners and the wider tennis family to deliver the best solutions to protect the integrity of the sport.”

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