Less Balls Please - Why Tennis Should Keep Pay Equal

Jenny Laville   |   March 21, 2016    3:38 PM ET

When is equal not equal? When it's tennis prize money apparently. Tennis is one of the few sports where the women's game is treated with the same gravity and reward as the men's. You'd have thought that this is something the tennis world would be proud of, but sadly, it's something that continues to be questioned more than it's celebrated.

It's probably not worth going into the comments made by Raymond Moore, Indian Wells CEO, on the subject recently because they were ridiculous involving 'coat-tails' and 'getting down on knees' and other such nonsense, which he retracted with an apology soon after. However his statement triggered questions asked to Novak Djokovic who makes a more interesting and coherent argument largely based on the same premise, but without the needless misogyny. Djokovic basically says, good on the women for working hard and getting equal pay, but men should ask for more money because they get more spectators.

Now the problem with this argument is that it is based on a transient quantity. As Chris Evert tweeted: 'Now is the Golden Era 4 men, no doubt, but women have worked, fought harder, and have been bigger draws many times.'

Serena Williams points out that she and her sister are massive draws to the game and that the women's final at the US Open sold out before the men's. Regardless of gender, some players are more interesting to watch or have more support than others. If prize money is based on ticket sales, why draw the distinction along gender-lines? Why not pay more to players bringing in a large home crowd, or the prettier players or the more dynamic players?

The fact is that 'bigger-draw' tennis players already earn more because of sponsorship and endorsements. This is where Djokovic's popularity-related pay is currently at work and it is far more responsive to the market-place than prize-money ever could be.

There is always the old argument that women should get a smaller prize because they play shorter three-set games rather than the standard men's five sets, which on the face of it sounds fair enough. However the WTA have repeatedly offered to play the longer game, but have been turned down by the ITA presumably because sport generally is moving towards shorter games to attract more spectators. Many people still maintain that these highly trained dedicated athletes couldn't handle five sets because they are female. Everyone knows that their breasts would fall off by the forth and if it went to a tie-breaker their wombs would explode.

Tennis governing bodies need a reality check, women don't run shorter distances in athletics or play on smaller pitches in football. The 3 sets/5 sets difference should be addressed, but not by restricting how long women can play and then docking their pay accordingly. Only nutters would argue that's fair and nutters shouldn't really be entertained in the debate *side-eye to Raymond Moore*.

If you are giving someone a lower rate of pay because of their gender, that is wrong. Djokovic may say it's based on popularity of players, but it's gender he is using as the dividing line, not gate receipts. Men and women tennis players get the same prize money because, as Djokovic acknowledges, they do more-or-less the same job. There are many who argue that there are significant differences in style of play not to mention length of game (take it up with the ITF), but I would compare the situation to modelling where, unusually women generally get more than men. Defenders of this disparity say that more demands are placed on female models in terms of weight, nudity etc, and that a woman's career is shorter, which is all true, but pay should be defined by the job not the gender, be it in the court or the catwalk.

Ultimately what is prize money for? It's not wage or profit sharing. It's to attract the best players and draw the biggest audience. If you raise the men's pot, what do you achieve? The same players will play, the same spectators will go, but you will have dramatically undermined the women's game, and lost one of the sports' greatest qualities- it's equality.

(And for everyone itching to tell me that it's 'fewer balls' - I'm using balls as an adjective.)

Novak Djokovic's Comment Shows Why a Business Case Perspective May Actually Harm Gender Equality

Jawad Syed   |   March 21, 2016    1:34 PM ET


In a controversial yet thought provoking comment, world number one Novak Djokovic has questioned equal prize money in tennis, suggesting men should be paid more as they have more spectators. Djokovic made these remarks after winning the BNP Paribas Open final on 20 March 2016. He said:

"Stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men's tennis matches. I think that is one of the... reasons why maybe we should get awarded more. As long as it is like that and there is data and stats available and information... upon who attracts more attention, spectators, who sells more tickets and stuff like that, in relation to that it has to be fairly distributed."

He further said that male players should follow in the footsteps of the female players who "fought for what they deserve and they got it. On the other hand I think that our men's tennis world should fight for more because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men's tennis matches. Women should fight for what they think they deserve and we should fight for what we think we deserve."

The comment can be analysed from two perspectives on diversity, i.e., business case and social justice case.

From a purely business perspective, the argument that 'the viewing statistics may be used to determine fair distribution of prizes at joint events' seems to be credible. This is broadly consistent with the human resource management principle of pay for performance or commission for sales.

However, the argument also highlights why a purely business perspective may not be enough to promote equality and diversity. Indeed, such perspective seems to ignore two interconnected issues:

(a) The historical stereotyping and disadvantage of women in all fields of life including sports; and

(b) Diversity of women and men. A neglect of gender diversity results in the sameness paradigm, which is problematic because women's and men's issues and life cycles are not and must not be treated as identical.

Interestingly while Djokovic alludes to physical differences between women and men ("Their bodies are much different to men's bodies. They have to go through a lot of different things that we don't have to go through...the hormones and different stuff."), he does not mention the historical disadvantage that women have been sustaining since time immemorial until today due to these very differences. He seems to ignore that these differences need to be valued and accommodated to create greater equality and inclusion, instead of being used to reinforce and augment the existing gender gaps not only in sports but also in entertainment, employment, politics and leadership.

From a social justice perspective of diversity, it is unfair that women should be evaluated and paid less for their anatomical differences. The fact that hormones, implying period, do affect women's training and performance is not in dispute. However, life cycle and anatomical differences should not be used to penalise women, such as those women whose careers are adversely affected due to maternity leave and traditional family roles. Instead such differences should be valued and accommodated in organisational structures and routines. For example, an inclusive approach to gender diversity is reflected in Grand Slams where women play only three sets compared to men who are required to play five.

The fact that the resale prices of Wimbledon debenture seat tickets for men's finals' tickets are usually two to three times costlier than those for women's final is perhaps not only a measure of popularity but also indicates gender differences in total and disposable incomes. For example, in the UK the gender pay gap for median earnings of full-time employees is more than 9% and may be as high as 54% in top-level highest-paid jobs. Thus, ticket sales and viewership may reflect and reinforce social inequalities and stereotypes, and are a poor measure for actual performance.

There is also an issue of male vs. female binary which is at times emphasised at the cost of a complementary view of men and women. Indeed, many events are more successful when they combine women and men, which is why the trend has been toward combining rather than separating them.

Last but not least, there is also an issue of equity and class across the field, i.e., to distribute more money to the lower rungs of the sport. There is allegedly massive discrepancy between the top tier and lower tier earnings in Tennis and other sports which merits urgent attention.

Photo credits: By Tatiana from Moscow, Russia (via Wikimedia)

Sarah Harris1   |   March 21, 2016    9:08 AM ET

Novak Djokovic has found himself facing a deluge of criticism after weighing in with his view on equal pay in the world of tennis this weekend.

A huge number of people, including Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips, expressed their exasperation after the world number one questioned whether female players should be awarded equal prize money, although suggested that they deserved “respect” for going through “hormones and different stuff”.

The Serbian star said that men’s tennis pulls in more spectators, indicating that this meant it was acceptable for male players to be awarded more prize money.

Speaking after his victory at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, Djokovic said: "As long as it is like that and there is data and stats available and information... upon who attracts more attention, spectators, who sells more tickets and stuff like that, in relation to that it has to be fairly distributed."

However, he was quick to add that he had “tremendous respect” for female players, according to the Guardian, adding “Their bodies are much different to men’s bodies. They have to go through a lot of different things that we don’t have to go through. You know, the hormones and different stuff, we don’t need to go into details. I have great admiration and respect for them to be able to fight on such a high level.

Equal pay in tennis

Women now earn equal prize money in the four major tennis tournaments.

Wimbledon was the last major to achieve gender parity, equalising the prizes in 2007.

The US open led the way in 1973, while the Australian Open followed in 2001 and Roland Garros in 2006.

 “Many of them have to sacrifice for certain periods of time, the family time or decisions that they make on their own bodies in order to play tennis and play professional sport. I have had a woman that was my coach and that was a huge part of my tennis career. I’m surrounded by women. I’m very happy to be married with one and to have a child. I’m completely for women power.”

However, his comments attracted a barrage of criticism on social media, with Labour MP Stella Creasy leading the charge:

Although some men claimed that since women play fewer sets, they should be paid less…

His comments come after a top tennis chief claimed that if he was a woman he would “go down every night on my knees” in thanks for male players like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Indian Wells Tennis Garden CEO Raymond Moore said that the women’s WTA Tour “ride on the coat-tails of the men".

Moore added: "If I was a lady player, I'd go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.”

He comments were slammed by Serena Williams as “offensive” and he later apologised.

Sarah Ann Harris   |   March 7, 2016    8:58 PM ET

Tennis star Maria Sharapova has been suspended from tennis after revealing she failed a drug test at the Australian Open.

The 28-year-old said she tested positive for meldonium, which she said she has been taking for 10 years for numerous health issues, the Associated Press reported.

Meldonium became a banned substance this year under the WADA code, and Sharapova claims she didn't notice its addition to the banned list.

Making the announcement at a news conference Monday in Los Angeles, the former world No. 1 said: “I know that with this, I face consequences."

maria sharapova

Maria Sharapova speaks at a news conference today

"I don't want to end my career this way, and I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game."

Sharapova's penalties could range from a multiyear ban to a minimal sanction with no suspension if officials believe she made an honest mistake.

The International Tennis Federation announced a provisional suspension starting 12 March, Sky News reported.

"I have to take full responsibility for it," Sharapova said. "It's my body, and I'm responsible for what I put into it."


Sharapova said she tested positive in an in-competition test at the Australian Open, where she lost to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals on 26 January Sharapova hasn't played since while recovering from a forearm injury.

Meldonium, also known as mildronate, is a Latvian-manufactured drug popular for fighting heart disease in former Soviet Union countries. Several athletes have tested positive for the drug since it became illegal in January, including two Ukrainian biathletes and Russian cyclist Eduard Vorganov. Earlier Monday, Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova, a European champion ice dancer, told local media she had tested positive for meldonium.

Sharapova is a former world No 1 and is currently No. 7 in the WTA rankings after playing just three tournaments and the Fed Cup final in the last eight months since Wimbledon due to injuries. She dropped out of the upcoming BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells last Thursday, citing injury.

Caribbean Retreats: The Coral Reef Club, Barbados

The Spa Spy   |   February 17, 2016    7:40 PM ET

Entering The Coral Reef Club, the first thing that strikes you are the lush green gardens surrounded by beautiful quaint white colonial buildings. The resort is set in 12 acres of tropical paradise with direct access to the Caribbean sea. The hotel has an elegant old school understated luxury - the clientele is well heeled and discerning. The spa is renowned as one of the finest in Barbados, and is truly an idyllic haven.

On arrival we were greeted by Cynthia O'Hara. The resort has been owned by the O'Hara family for over half a century and it maintains a friendly family atmosphere and a refined and personal service. Cynthia's love of nature is reflected in the fact that the rooms have names such as bougainvillea, gerbera and orchid rather than numbers.

As one would expect from a hotel that has earned its place as one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, there are little touches which add to the experience; sorbets on the beach, clean towels in the morning and the evening, beautiful fresh flowers in your room on arrival, a selection of books to enjoy and luxurious White Company products in the beautiful bathrooms.


The Rooms
We stayed in a one bedroom luxury junior suite with a private terrace and beautiful view of the gardens and sea. Every part of the room exudes luxury - the style is very New England with clean white doors and shutters, forest inspired soft furnishings - there's a wonderful attention to detail.


The Spa
The Spa is housed within a more contemporary style building and is set within the tropical gardens. With waterfalls weaving throughout the spa the ambience is very tranquil. Fine sand sheers, soft creamy linens and woven grasscloths sit with coral stone walls and dark chocolate wood - the spa has a super-luxe feel. The open walkways emphasise that the exterior and interior are one and the open style of the spa creates a light, airy atmosphere. Facilities include an 'open sided' relaxation room, an outdoor hydro-pool, a thermal suite with a holistic crystal steam room and an invigorating experience shower. The spa lounge is a great place to chill - take a good book from your room and order a delicious spa smoothie.


The Treatment
The Caribbean Calm. Each treatment room has a private terrace so my treatment started in the open air. The therapist performed a cleansing foot ritual, using a rich lemongrass soap. This was followed by a classic Swedish massage and eye therapy treatment by Natura Bisse, which felt extremely soothing - my tired jet lagged eyes seemed to literally soak up the rich moisture. A great treatment for weary travellers as it reduces swelling, soothes tired muscles and combats eye bags.

Other Treatments:
Pineapple and Coconut Crème Brulee is designed to exfoliate sensitive dehydrated skin, rehydrate and create a golden glow. Oxygen Awakening is a facial designed to benefit skin that has been exposed to pollution - great after a long flight.

To Eat
The elegant restaurant overlooks the tranquil Caribbean sea and is led by Executive Chef, Graham Licorish. The buffet style breakfast offers an excellent choice and for dinner an a la carte menu is served. This changes daily and combines classical cuisine with Caribbean ingredients and flavours. Every Monday the hotel serves a West Indian/International buffet and Thursday is barbecue night, offering a great selection of grilled meat and fish.


Don't Miss
The complimentary tennis lessons with a visiting tennis pro.
The manager's cocktail party, which is hosted in the owner's personal villa on Monday evenings.
The Lone Star restaurant, a short taxi ride from the hotel, is a great spot to have dinner - Michael Winner deemed this the 'The Ivy of the Caribbean'.

The Deal
The hotel is one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. The diverse collection of over 520 properties are found in 80 countries around the world, and match independently minded guests with the same spirited hotels. The Reservations for the hotel can be made online at www.slh.com, via the iPhone app, or calling a Small Luxury Hotels of the World reservations office.


Words: Amanda Camilleri


Amy Packham   |   February 2, 2016    3:25 PM ET

Novak Djokovic might have just won the Australian Open, but it's his toddler who has stolen the show.

The tennis star, who played against Andy Murray in the final match in Melbourne, was watched in awe by his son Stefan back at home in Serbia.

A seven second video, posted by Djokovic's wife Jelena on Twitter, shows Stefan pointing at his dad on the TV with excitement.


The toddler wasn't interested when Andy Murray came on screen

As soon as he recognises his dad, Stefan starts shouting "Mum" and runs up to the screen.

However he soon loses interest when a close-up of Andy Murray comes on screen.

Jelena tweeted the video with the caption: "We are watching mummy - daddy #teamdjokovic #nolefam #AusOpen #final."

The adorable video has been retweeted 3,200 times in two days since being uploaded on 31 January 2016.

Djokovic and his wife welcomed their son in October 2014. The couple have been together since 2006 and married in Montenegro in July 2014.


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Eve Hartley   |   January 27, 2016   11:20 AM ET

Becoming the first British woman to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since Jo Durie at the 1983 US Open is quite the super-human effort, so perhaps it shouldn't surprise that rising tennis star Johanna Konta was comparing herself one of Hollywood's most famous hitmen today.

Konta, who is making her debut in the main draw at the Australian Open in Melbourne, had a 6-4, 6-1 win over Chinese qualifier Zhang Shuai earlier this morning.

Joining Andy Murray in the semifinals, it's the first time since the December 1977 version of the Australian Open that two British players - John Lloyd and Sue Barker that year - have advanced to the final four of any major.

After the match, the well-travelled Konta, ranked 47th in the world, was quizzed on her passport credentials.

Born in Australia but living in Britain since her early teens, the 24-year-old, also has Hungarian citizenship and calls herself a "tri-citizen."

johanna konta

Johanna Konta is through to the semi-finals of the Australian open

"I’m pretty much the female Jason Bourne," she joked.

Fellow Briton Murray also triumphed during his quarter final match, beating Spain's David Ferrer 6-6, 6-7, (5-7), 6-2, 6-3, marking his place in his sixth Melbourne semi-final.

The pair will play the next round on Friday, with Konta facing German seventh seed Angelique Kerber and Murray playing Canada's Milos Raonic.

Novak Djokovic and Federer will contest the other men's semifinal while six-time champion Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska will meet in the other women's semifinal, also on Thursday.


Sarah Ann Harris   |   January 23, 2016    9:35 AM ET

British tennis coach Nigel Sears - who is also Andy Murray’s father-in-law - was rushed to hospital on Saturday morning after collapsing during a match.

Sears, who coaches Ana Ivanovic, was watching the Serb’s Australian Open third-round match against Madison Keys when he was taken ill.

Medical staff arrived quickly on the scene as the match was halted and Sears was stretchered off.

nigel sears

Nigel Sears collapsed during Ana Ivanonic's third-round Australian Open match

Ivanovic could be seen looking distressed on court while medics attended to Sears.

The match was suspended but later recommenced.

Sears was said to be conscious as he was taken to hospital, the BBC reported.

nigel sears

Sears was stretchered away by medics

His son-in-law, whose wife Kim is expected their first child in the coming weeks, was playing on a nearby court and, unaware of Sears’ collapse, continued with his match against Joao Sousa.

Murray has previously said that he would leave the Open early if his wife goes into labour.

How Curious Bedfellows BBC And BuzzFeed Became A Perfect Media Match

Louise Ridley   |   January 18, 2016   11:50 AM ET

The BBC has teamed up with BuzzFeed News for a landmark investigation exposing evidence of tennis match-fixing, in a media move which has both excited and baffled commenters.

"BuzzFeed is hardly the place for serious journalist investigation" remarked one on Twitter, while another quipped that they were waiting for the signature '10 matches you didn't know were fixed' list-style article from BuzzFeed.

The BBC's own James Allen thought the partnership had "gotta be a first" for the decades-old broadcaster and the digital-born platform, but in fact it's not the first time they have formed what would appear to be an unlikely alliance.

In 2015, BuzzFeed worked with BBC Newsnight for an investigation which revealed the pressures on the charity Kids Company, starting one of the biggest charity scandals of the last decade.

At the time, the Evening Standard's Londoner's Diary gossip section called the two organisations "curious bedfellows".

"BuzzFeed, as any bored office worker knows, is a mine of listacles and cat pics," it noted, "but over the past year it has been on a mission to toughen up its news offering."

janine gibson

Buzzfeed's coverage of the joint investigation

Like many online success stories, BuzzFeed is now known for its serious news coverage just as much as its lists, last year hiring Heidi Blake, the former Sunday Times assistant editor, who won awards for uncovering allegations of bribery surrounding Qatar's bid for the 2022 Fifa World Cup.

Blake was just one of a series of heavyweight hires from more traditional media groups in the past year, which also included former Guardian deputy editor Janine Gibson, now Editor-In-Chief of BuzzFeed UK, Panorama journalist Jane Bradley, Guardian special projects editor James Ball and Sunday Times journalist Michael Gillard, who unmasked the powerful London crime boss Dave Hunt in 2013.

The Evening Standard piece mused on whether BuzzFeed's partnership with the BBC could "signify a new media axis" but the relationship isn't necessarily an easy partnership.

In an age when older media players still set the news agenda, but digital operations like The Huffington Post and Vice are growing rapidly and engaging younger audiences, the BBC and BuzzFeed have been less than friendly to each other.

BuzzFeed published a list of '27 Times BBC News Failed So Hard It Just Failed', pointing out the times when one presenter didn't turn up, and another mistook a pad of paper of an iPad.

Meanwhile the BBC pondered whether the existence of BuzzFeed means the 'death' of news. "If that is the future of journalism, heaven help us all," a BBC news piece said in 2013, lamenting the headlines like 'This Baby Elephant Being Reunited With His Dad is The Cutest Thing You'll See Today' and '9 celebrity tweets you missed today' that BuzzFeed and its siblings have become known for.

But in fact, established players and up-and-coming publishers have a lot to offer each other.

"Not surprisingly in these sorts of partnerships, there are benefits for both parties,” Jonathan Hewett, the Director of Interactive and Newspaper Journalism at City University tells The Huffington Post UK.

Hewett says for BuzzFeed, the benefits are perhaps obvious: it gets the brand boost associated with Britain's beloved broadcaster. “[Investigations] are not what BuzzFeed is best known for," he Hewett, "and that’s probably part of the reason for them partnering with the BBC.

"It gets them credibility and exposure as a serious journalism operation, not merely an organistion that’s know for doing 15 things you didn’t know your cat could do, or similar.”

But nimble publishers with digital skills have something to offer to the big boys too, Dominic Ponsford, the editor of media publication Press Gazette tells HuffPost UK.

“I think the BBC get a lot out of it because they’re getting some good exclusives, and the BBC doesn’t really break an awful lot of exclusives considering how big it is. It’s more of a broadcaster of record in a way and naturally cautious, perhaps.”

"For BuzzFeed, it’s good for them to be associated with such a good brand as the BBC, and also it means that the story maybe gets more traction than it would otherwise because people see the BBC’s name on it and then they immediately trust it."

tennis match fixing

The BBC's coverage of the joint investigation

BuzzFeed contributed intensive data analysis to the tennis match-fixing story, says Hewett. "There aren’t many people who can do that, or who can dedicate the time to do that.”

The BBC - not short on resources - could have done the investigation work, but teaming up with another publisher may have made more sense, Hewett says: "It was probably attractive for them to bring someone on because it was a massive scale thing."

"They were collecting odds on more than 26,000 tennis matches I think, over a six year period, from seven different bookmakers. They did a simulation that they ran more than 1 million times per player, and involved some professors of statistics from two universities.”

And for the broadcaster, partnering for a special project could have made sense economically too. “The BBC has been very much under financial pressure recently, [they have to consider] value for money so [this investigation means] they can say they partnered with someone to get better results for no more money,” says Hewett.

Both can share the increased audience reach of their combined platforms, too. "The BBC is traditionally strong in radio and TV, it's been all over their news broadcasts. BuzzFeed I’m sure will be getting lots of hits online from it.”

But behind the scenes, it may be that the BBC secretly craves the success that operations like BuzzFeed have has in attracting younger audiences.

janine gibson

Gibson, the Guardian's ex-Deputy Editor, now Editor-In-Chief of BuzzFeed UK

In November, it was revealed that BBC staff have been told to copy 'youth-friendly' media like Vice when they make videos. New guidelines tell the BBC journalists to act like a "friend" to the viewer in "snappy" films of up to 90 seconds long, designed to be viewed on smartphones.

Investigative journalism lends itself to collaborations, explains Hewett: "Lots of investigative work is painstaking, it takes a long time, its resource intensive, and with some big stories it is international, so you need to involve different organisations around the world.”

“You quite often see broadcasters partnering with newspapers for investigations – Dispatches and Panorama often do joint investigations," says Ponsford.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a not-for-profit which shares its findings for free, often works with others and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is a global network of 185 reporters in more than 65 countries who collaborate on in-depth pieces.

Ponsford thinks partnerships between journalists usually rise above any organisational rivalries: "As far as they’ve concerned they are professionals who have got the same goal in sight that’s mutually beneficial."

In fact, Hewett thinks that's possible that 'new' media outlets could one day reach the notoriety of 'old' players with traditional origins, like newspapers or the BBC, but he believes it's more likely that the two will become indistinguishable as they each evolve to take on the best characteristics of the other.

"I suppose the differentiation between new and old media, if you like, is disappearing," he says. "The BBC does a lot of might be called new media, like cutting-edge work online and on social media.”

Ponsford expects to more collaborations between digital and traditional media, but "only where don’t really directly compete".

He notes that although the BBC and BuzzFeed compete for online traffic, they don't compete commercially because of the BBC's not-for-profit model. “Obviously the BBC’s non-commercial, so I guess you can see why that works. I’d probably be surprised to see BuzzFeed partner with, say, the Guardian or the Telegraph, because online they are basically competing with each other for advertising.”

Read the BuzzFeed report in full

Read the BBC report in full

Latest Scandals Show We Have to Get Serious About Sports Crime

Damian Collins   |   January 18, 2016   10:26 AM ET

Tennis is now the latest sport in the spotlight, following allegations in an investigation by the BBC and BuzzFeed, of a match-fixing and gambling scandal involving a core group of 16 players, all of whom have ranked in the top 50 in the world. Some of these players are currently competing in the Australian Open championship. This investigation has put the tennis authorities, and the 'Tennis Integrity Unit' in the firing line, and as you would expect they deny that they have failed to act in the face of allegations of corruption.

Yet the truth is that in tennis, and most other major sports, only a small amount of resource is invested in fighting corruption. They are simply no match for the organised crime gangs, international gambling syndicates, and greedy dishonest officials. Sports governance has become a wild west, but we need more than a lone ranger to combat it.

Sports leaders have simply not invested enough in protecting the integrity of their competitions. Sadly, the members of these ruling executives seem typically to fall into three broad categories when it comes to corruption. Firstly, the blissfully ignorant who ask no questions, secondly those who know there is a problem but don't know what to do about it, and finally the wrongdoers themselves. There are a few noble exceptions who try to lobby within their sport for more resources and action against criminality, but they often end up resigning in disgust.

If we are going to clean up international sport we need a totally different approach, requiring more investment, partnership between sports and co-operation with international law enforcement agencies. At the heart of this should be a new Sports Crime Unit, employing specialists with deep understanding and experience of how organised crime seeks to exploit sport.

Gambling syndicates looking to buy off sportsmen and administrators in order to fix outcomes in matches, and the eventual results, are unlikely to limit themselves to one sport. In the same way, someone looking to launder money through sporting contracts, may well be involved in other areas of financial crime. Law enforcement agencies, like the Serious Fraud Office in the UK, should also consider whether they need to bring in more specialist resources with expertise in sports crime. We should treat international sports crime as one of the major global challenges for tackling corruption and resource the fight against it accordingly.

As well as extra investment in the detection of sports crime, there should also be internationally recognised standards for the governance of major sports. What the recent scandals at FIFA and the IAAF, have in common is very weak governance. There was no real scrutiny of the actions of senior executives, and no effective internal mechanism for people to challenge the organisation over its failure to act against corruption. There needs to be proper independent scrutiny of and reporting on sports bodies, including how they investigate allegations of corruption and how their money is spent. There also need to be proper integrity checks for people who have leadership roles in sport, from those who sit on the international executive bodies, to people who have leadership roles at the national level and in major sports clubs.

Damian Collins is the Conservative MP for Folkestone & Hythe, and the co-founder of New FIFA Now

Sarah Ann Harris   |   January 18, 2016   10:24 AM ET

Novak Djokovic has said that he was offered $200,000 (£140,000) to throw a match, as more details emerge about an alleged match-fixing scandal in the tennis world.

The world number one said that he was offered the sum to fix a first-round match in St Petersburg in 2007, the Guardian reported.

He explained: “I was approached through people that were working with me at that time, that were with my team. Of course, we threw it away right away. It didn’t even get to me, the guy that was trying to talk to me, he didn’t even get to me directly. There was nothing out of it.

novak djokovic

Novak Djokovic has spoken out about match-fixing allegations

“Unfortunately there were some, in those times, those days, rumours, some talks, some people were going around. They were dealt with. In the last six, seven years, I haven’t heard anything similar.

“I personally was never approached directly, so I have nothing more to say about that.”

Claims of match-fixing have rocked the world of tennis as the names of a number of top players - including Grand Slam champions and Wimbledon competitors - have been flagged.

The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) has been made aware of the names of 16 players over the last decade amid fears they have thrown matches, according to an investigation by the BBC and BuzzFeed.


The match-fixing was allegedly orchestrated by gambling syndicates in Russia and Italy and involved prominent players, the Press Association reported.

Serena Williams also weighed in on the scandal, saying that she had not seen any signs of it.

ABC reported that she said: “"I can only answer for me. I play very hard and every player that I play seems to play hard.

"As an athlete I do everything I can to be, not only great, but historic and if that's going on, I don't know about. Sometimes I'm in a bubble."

Andy Murray tweeted a link to Buzzfeed's report but did not add any further comment.

Sarah Ann Harris   |   January 18, 2016    8:07 AM ET

Claims of match-fixing have rocked the world of tennis as the names of a number of top players - including Grand Slam champions and Wimbledon competitors - have been flagged.

The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) has been made aware of the names of 16 players over the last decade amid fears they have thrown matches, according to an investigation by the BBC and BuzzFeed.

The match-fixing was allegedly orchestrated by gambling syndicates in Russia and Italy and involved prominent players, the Press Association reported.

It is suggested that players are being targeted in hotel rooms at major tournaments and offered 50,000 dollars (£35,200) or more per fix by corrupt gamblers. The syndicates have made hundreds of thousands of pounds placing bets on scores of matches, according to the investigation.

tennis shadow

Competitors at Wimbledon and the French Open are alleged to be involved in match-fixing

The investigation suggests that the suspects include Grand Slam singles and doubles champions and the alleged rigging took place at major tournaments including Wimbledon and the French Open. All the players were allowed to continue competing.

It is claimed the referrals to the TIU, set up to police the sport, were prompted by an investigation which started in 2007 following an inquiry into suspicious betting patterns in a match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello. Both men were cleared of breaking any rules.

Despite an increasing amount of evidence of suspicious activity revolving around a significant number of top players, no sanctions were handed out and the investigation was officially shelved the following year.

It is also suggested that the names of more than 70 players appear on nine leaked lists of suspected fixers who have been flagged up to the tennis authorities over the past decade without being sanctioned.

Kermode, who believes the threat of sports match-fixing is at an "incredibly small level", told the BBC: "It is simply not true that we are sitting on evidence.


"What happens is that information and intelligence are given to the Tennis Integrity Unit and they then have to turn that into evidence.

"There is a big difference here between information and intelligence as to evidence. Every single bit of information that the Tennis Integrity Unit receives is investigated properly."

Building on the initial dossier of evidence, Buzzfeed News claims to have devised an algorithm which analysed gambling on professional tennis matches over the last seven years.

The organisation said its results identified 15 players who regularly featured in matches involving unusually lopsided betting patterns. Furthermore, four of those players lost almost all of those matches concerned, at a probability of around 1,000 to one.

World number two Andy Murray tweeted a link to the Buzzfeed report on Sunday evening but added no further comment.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday morning, culture, media and sport secretary John Whittingdale said an allegation such as this “taints the whole of the game”.

He said that he hoped the industry would investigate as soon as possible, adding: “I hope that tennis will learn from the mistakes of other sports.

“I would hope that Wimbledon and the Lawn Tennis Association in England and Wales will actually call upon the International Tennis Federation to carry out a investigation very quickly.

Will Novak Djokovic End His Career as the Greatest Tennis Player of All Time?

Robert Pollard   |   November 16, 2015    2:49 PM ET

When Novak Djokovic was awarded a huge silver trophy on Sunday to mark his achievement of finishing the year as world number - the fourth time in five years he managed the feat - it was difficult not to feel a huge sense of satisfaction for a man whose success means there is now a real possibility he could end his career considered the game's all-time greatest player.

Djokovic, who is chasing his fourth consecutive ATP World Tour Finals win at the O2 in London this week, collected his prize after demolishing eighth seed Kei Nishikori in his first group game of the season-ending showpiece event, winning 6-1 6-1 in just 65 minutes. It was his 15th consecutive win at the O2, a run that stretches back to 2011.

It was a superb start to the defence of his title, and the latest example of his growing superiority over the men's field. No one can touch the Serbian at present - even now, during the greatest era in men's tennis.

Nishikori is a talented player, but he had no answer to Djokovic's baseline brilliance. The world number one is relentless in his approach, grinding opponents down with a mix of stamina and unbreakable spirit. His court coverage is unrivalled, and for his opponents it can sometimes feel as though they are playing against a wall, such is the regularity with which the ball comes firing back towards them no matter what shot they produce.

It's been a special 2015 for Djokovic. He's won three of the four Grand Slams and was runner-up in one, with his defeat to Stan Wawrinka at the French Open in May the only blot on his copybook. He's supplemented his dominance in the Grand Slams with six Masters Series wins, a new record for a calendar year. He has 15,285 points in the ATP rankings - his nearest challenger, Andy Murray, has 8,470 - and his win-loss record for the year coming into this event was 78-5. A win here at the O2 would cap off his finest year as a professional tennis player.

Roger Federer remains the firm favourite with tennis fans across the world, and is rightly still regarded as the greatest male player of all time, but Djokovic looks likely to challenge his hegemony.

Federer is charming and stylish and possesses the most aesthetically pleasing game the world has ever seen. His service style, groundstrokes and movement across the court mean watching him is just about the most beautiful sight in sport. His 17 Grand Slam victories is an all-time record. He spent 302 consecutive weeks at number one, and between Wimbledon 2005 and the Australian Open in 2010 he made it to 18 of 19 Grand Slam finals. It's an impeccable record that has seen him elevated above previous greats Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras.

But things could be changing. Djokovic lacks Federer's charm and, indeed, his beauty on court, but his relentless baseline dominance, which sees him systematically dismantle opponents, means, right now, he is the best player on the circuit by quite some distance. He has 10 Grand Slams to his name and is just 28. He still has a few years at the top of men's tennis; years that he could dominate and close in on Federer's record.

It's becoming almost absurd how far and above the others he's become. Last week in the final of the Paris Masters against Murray, he was so dominant it became something of a non-event and left everyone wondering what on earth the British number one can do to make it to the top of the game. Murray himself has had en excellent 12 months, but Djokovic's record makes his look positively average.

Djokovic mercilessly punishes any mistake or any little dip in form. Tennis matches tend to ebb and flow. A player can firmly in the ascendancy one minute, only for momentum to shift rapidly the next. Very few players can produce their best throughout the entirety of a match, but for Djokovic, who is mentally incredibly strong, consistency is the norm.

He's won 23 consecutive matches and has collected 10 titles in 2015. He's out on his own at the top of the game, and by the time he has hung his racket up, he may well be in the conversation as to who the greatest ever player is.

Thomas Tamblyn   |   October 1, 2015    1:28 PM ET

Read More: slow motion, tennis

'Jelly Tennis', it's the sport you never knew you'd love and yet you never will, because it's not actually a real sport.

What it is though, is utterly satisfying to play and strangely calming to watch, especially in slow motion.

Enter stage right, the Slo Mo Guys, those intrepid YouTubers who operate in a different chronological plane to the rest of us by taking things and then slowing them right down.


Breaking away from their usual fare of recording things that either a) explode or b) fire projectiles, the Slo Mo guys have gone for that classic British dessert, jelly.

Sit back, enjoy and prepare to feel strangely calmed by the entire process.