MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Former Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka believes betting companies can help tennis weed out corruption, playing down concerns over the propensity of gambling brands sponsoring major events.
His prospective semi-final opponent in Melbourne Andy Murray, however, accused tennis organisers of hypocrisy as the fall-out from Monday’s allegations of match-fixing in the sport continued as a main talking point.
William Hill became the first “official wagering partner” of the Australian Open last year, and this year advertisements for the British bookmaker adorned the three main showcourts at Melbourne Park for the first time.
While the International Tennis Federations (ITF) last year rolled out Betway as a sponsor for its flagship Davis Cup and Fed Cup competitions, prompting critics to suggest the relationship sends out the wrong message.
Asked for his thoughts following his first-round win on Tuesday, Wawrinka said the “bigger picture” could actually be a benefit for tennis as it tries to stay clean.
“Probably if they sponsor a sport, they are going to try everything to make sure there is no corruption,” the Swiss told reporters. “That can be something good for tennis also.
“Maybe the gambling companies can come to tennis and make sure there is no corruption, because they lose a lot of money when there is problem.
“For tennis, it’s not good to have corruption. But for the gambling company neither. So I think it can be only positive.”
World number two Murray saw things differently.
“I’m not really pro that, I don’t think. I think it’s a little bit hypocritical really because I don’t believe the players are allowed to be sponsored by betting companies but then the tournaments are.
“I don’t understand how it all works. It’s a bit strange.”
Tennis Australia defended its deal with William Hill.
“Wagering is a legal recreational past-time in Australia and has long been associated with our event, in fact up to 2005 there was an onsite wagering presence,” commercial director Richard Heaselgrave said on Tuesday.
“William Hill has a strong track record working with global sporting bodies and a significant aspect of this partnership is our capacity to work side-by-side to uphold the integrity and framework of the sport.”
Tennis authorities on Monday rejected claims in reports by the BBC and online BuzzFeed News, which said 16 players who have been ranked in the top 50 had been repeatedly flagged to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) over suspicions they had thrown matches in the past decade.
The reports said eight of the players, who they could not name because of lack of hard proof, were playing at the Australian Open.
Writing by Martyn Herman; additional reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Pritha Sarkar