LONDON (Reuters) - Tennis accounted for nearly three quarters of all the suspicious betting alerts issued last year, the European Sport Security Association (ESSA) said in a report published on Thursday.
The organisation, established by regulated bookmakers to monitor suspicious betting patterns and guard against match fixing in sport, said 73 of the 100 events that raised concern involved tennis.
“The start of 2016 has seen a worldwide focus on alleged match-fixing in tennis,” wrote chairman Mike O’Kane in an introduction.
“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,” he added.
Tennis governing bodies set up an independent review panel last month following media reports criticising the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) for not adequately investigating some 16 players repeatedly flagged over suspicions they had thrown matches in the past decade.
The review will take at least a year to investigate allegations of corruption in tennis and the effectiveness of existing procedures.
“All information supplied by betting operators is analysed by the TIU,” a TIU spokesman said in a statement.
“An alert can be an indicator of suspicious activity. But it is not proof or evidence that corruption has taken place.”
The spokesman added that factors that can influence results — such as player fitness, fatigue, form, playing conditions and personal circumstances — are analysed and if there are concerns about “suspicious activity” the TIU will investigate the matter.
Match-fixing allegations by the BBC and online BuzzFeed News broke before last month’s Australian Open.
The allegations were further fuelled by former Australian professional Nick Lindahl pleading guilty in January to match-fixing in a minor tournament in 2013.
A top global bookmaker also suspended betting on a suspicious match at the Australian Open.
The ESSA report said that in the final quarter of 2015, there were 35 sporting events deemed to be suspicious with tennis accounting for 24 of them and soccer eight.
For the whole year, soccer triggered 19 alerts while table tennis, ice hockey, snooker and greyhound racing each featured twice.
Geographically, 38 of the alerts originated in Europe, 24 in Asia, 16 in North America and 11 in South America. Africa accounted for nine.
Most of the cases of suspicious betting in soccer occurred in European matches.
Tennis was more evenly spread globally, led by Asia (19 cases), Europe (18) and North America (14).
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar/Toby Davis