Sports News

Women's Tour chiefs bring in criminal checks

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Tennis chiefs have unveiled plans to introduce criminal background checks on anyone seeking access to player areas at tournaments in a bid to enhance safety at women’s events.

Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia walks on the court during her semi-final match against Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia at the women's Italian Open in Rome May 19, 2007. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

The criminal checks are part of a comprehensive initiative by the WTA Tour aimed at improving safety, health and well-being.

“Safety is not an area where half-measures are acceptable -- particularly in a sport with many young athletes,” WTA Tour boss Larry Scott said in a statement.

“The Tour’s first priority and responsibility is the health and well-being of our athletes, and these steps represent the culmination of a comprehensive analysis aimed at ensuring a safe environment for players on Tour.”

The implementation of the criminal background check policy begins this week at tournaments in Doha and Bogota.

The issue of player-safety came sharply into focus in 1993 when Monica Seles was stabbed on court by a deranged fan of German rival Steffi Graf.

She was kept out of the sport for more than two years.

Leading players, most notably the Williams sisters Venus and Serena, have also been the subject of stalkers at tournaments.

The U.S. Open and Australian Open have previously implemented policies that allow for criminal background checks on anyone seeking credentials to secure player areas.

Other initiatives announced include the introduction of counseling to help players on the road and the expansion of the Tour’s Code of Conduct to cover not only players and coaches but other player support team members, including agents and parents.

Editing by John O’Brien