World ten­nis cer­tainly was not broke but they fixed it any­way

Dubbo Photo News - - Opinion & Analysis. - Tony Web­ber

SO what’s left? Ten­nis has now joined the im­pres­sive list of sports that are rot­ten with cor­rup­tion.

We long knew about old sink-holes like horse rac­ing and mi­nor level pro­fes­sional box­ing.

But that seedy duo has been joined by soc­cer and league, trot­ting, bas­ket­ball, soc­cer and cricket, just to skim the muck off the top.

That is aside from sports like cy­cling, and more re­cently, Rus­sian ath­let­ics that have been deeply dis­cred­ited with per­for­mance-en­hanc­ing sub­stances use and cover-ups.

The Essendon saga con­tin­ues to belch nox­ious gas like a sec­ondary volcanic out­let, even though there is noth­ing ap­proach­ing ev­i­dence that the witch’s brew of sup­ple­ments made any sub­stan­tive dif­fer­ence.

I can only think of golf, maybe rugby union, net­ball, mo­tor-rac­ing and lawn bowls that have not been as­so­ci­ated with match-fix­ing at high lev­els.

And even as I say that in this era of allper­va­sive cor­rup­tion I can see the huge po­ten­tial to cheat for money in all those sports: a fluffed shot here, a clumsy pit change there.

The re­cent UFC 193 cage-fight­ing tour­na­ment in Mel­bourne fea­tur­ing Ronda Rousey and friends was not sanc­tioned by Vic­to­ria’s gam­bling au­thor­i­ties as it was not con­sid­ered to have ad­e­quate anti-match-fix­ing safe­guards in place.

But it was the cricket ex­poses over the years that showed the worst of the in­flu­ence of gam­bling on sport: build­ing from sus­pi­cion (re­mem­ber the pitch in­for­ma­tion and weather con­di­tions help­fully pro­vided by top level Aus­tralian play­ers to book­mak­ers who ap­par­ently couldn’t af­ford a TV to find out for them­selves?), to Cronje’s con­fir­ma­tion of some episodes, to the re­al­i­sa­tion via court con­vic­tions that it has per­vaded the sport for many decades and con­se­quently no dropped catch, bun­gled runout or rash shot should ever be viewed the same way.

Even the “big bash” games this sea­son have fea­tured spectators armed with IT devices to re­port ev­ery on-field oc­cur­rence of any use back to gam­bling as­so­ciates.

But it is the abil­ity for gam­blers to bet on not the out­come, but the mis­cel­la­neous events in the sport that is far more in­sid­i­ous, be­cause a player can bowl a no-ball, drop the first point against a lowly op­po­nent, fake an in­jury, give away a penalty or what­ever with­out los­ing the game al­to­gether.

But the ten­nis be­ing bent, and, we are told by au­thor­i­ties, by what seems to be a greater mar­gin than all other sports put to­gether in the past 12 months at least, while not re­ally shock­ing, was none­the­less out of char­ac­ter.

Ten­nis is less di­verse than the Os­cars: the only non-white faces you ever see in the stands are the Wil­liams’ sis­ters’ fam­ily.

So such low class be­hav­iour there is like the Syd­ney to Hobart be­ing won by a yacht that turns out to be stolen.

And so out­raged was the ten­nis es­tab­lish­ment when the story first broke (by the on­line Buz­zfeed site, not main­stream me­dia) that they took the well­trod­den path of deny­ing re­al­ity.

While a host of high pro­file play­ers came for­ward to say it was not only wide­spread, that they per­son­ally re­ceived such of­fers, and that the feel­ing among play­ers was that to come for­ward was to risk the wrath of the game and fu­ture ca­reer prospects, the ten­nis hi­er­ar­chy cast doubt on it all.

If it moves like a snake, looks like a snake, and wears and T-shirt with no sleeves that reads “SSSSSSSSSSSSHIT hap­pens” then it’s a snake, Adam.

Sadly it seems it has been the gam­bling cor­po­ra­tions that have been the most ef­fec­tive de­ter­rent, by track­ing and ex­pos­ing du­bi­ous bet­ting plunges, ob­vi­ously to pro­tect their busi­ness in­ter­ests and sus­tain the con­fi­dence of the reg­u­lar sap punter upon whom they feast.

For their part the In­ter­na­tional Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion last year con­firmed Bet­way as a spon­sor for the Davis Cup and Fed Cup com­pe­ti­tions and dis­play ads for on­line UK gam­bling firm, Wil­liam Hill fea­ture on all three main show-courts at the 2016 Aus­tralian Open for the first time.

So you know they’re tak­ing it se­ri­ously.

If it moves like a snake, looks like a snake, and wears and T-shirt with no sleeves that reads “SSSSSSSSSSSSHIT hap­pens” then it’s a snake, Adam.

Tony Web­ber is a Dubbo res­i­dent and for­mer sports jour­nal­ist.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.