Canberra spectators asked to stop using mobiles for tennis anti-corruption

Tennis ACT boss Ross Triffitt says anti-corruption measures are policed in Canberra. Photo: Rohan ThomsonTennis ACT officials raised concerns about potential “courtsiders” at two recent ATP tournaments in the capital, approaching spectators to ask them to stop using mobile devices as part of the sport’s anti-corruption measures.

Tennis has been gripped by a BBC-BuzzFeed report detailing alleged widespread corruption in the sport, with Australian young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis and Novak Djokovic revealing they have been approached to fix matches.

“Courtsiders” are spectators who pass on information about matches to illegal bookmakers to take advantage of any delay in live-streaming, scoring or broadcasts.

Canberra hosted two tournaments – the $50,000 Canberra International in November and the Canberra 75K ATP Challenger event last week in the build-up the Australian Open – as the sport rides the wave of Nick Kyrgios’ international success.

Despite being well away from the main spotlight, betting options were available on players and almost 50,000 people watched a semi-final online for the November tournament.

Betting options were limited compared to the exotic markets available for major tournaments.

But Tennis ACT boss Ross Triffitt believes Canberra officials have done everything possible to protect the sport’s integrity and hoped untoward action could be stamped out.

Triffitt said officials approached a handful of fans in the stands at the two events who were using mobile phones or tablets and asked them to put their devices away.

There’s no suggestion of any wrongdoing, but tournament staff were quick to follow protocols put in place to prevent any suspicious activity.

“We police it very, very closely. At the tournament in November we asked a couple of people to put their phones away and last week we asked one guy who was constantly on an iPad and phone to put them away,” Triffitt said.

“They were very understanding and we had no problems. That probably reflects they weren’t really doing anything anyway, but we’ve got our protocols and our duties in running an event.

“We do monitor it … we don’t have anyone dedicated to [policing it], but all of our staff are briefed and it’s usually the ATP supervisors and senior tournament staff that raise concerns.

“We don’t think we had any real issues or major concerns, but prevention is better than cure. We were on to it quite quickly.”

In the first nine months of last year, there were 49 suspicious-activity alerts raised in tennis, with only 16 alerts raised through the same period of all other sports, according to the European Sports Security Association report.

​Cricket has tried to stamp out “pitchsiders”, but some spectators at the Big Bash League have been ejected from venues after sneaking laptops into the ground.

Tennis takes the same approach, regardless of whether the event is a grand slam or a tournament in Canberra.

“There are signs up everywhere [at the Canberra Tennis Centre] advising people about the use of technology courtside and they’re not to pass on information. That’s part and parcel of running these events,” Triffitt said.

“I’ve got every confidence that the governing bodies are doing something about it and taking the appropriate action.

“The Tennis Integrity Unit was established off the back of an independent review … while things are coming to light now, I think a lot has been done to take action.

“Whether it’s protocols for us at events or identifying inappropriate behaviour … it’s pretty difficult to nail down.”

Kokkinakis revealed he had been approached on social media to throw matches, while world No.1 Djokovic had been offered more than $200,000 to throw a match in St Petersburg in 2006.

“Not face-to-face, but on social media you read some stuff on your Facebook page, just these randoms from nowhere saying ‘I’ll pay you this much to tank the game’,” Kokkinakis told 3AW.

“It’s interesting, you get a lot of stuff if you lose a match that maybe the betters or something think you should win. You just get abused on social media. It’s a very common thing. For tennis players, and I’d assume other sports, it’s a very common thing.

“You just try and block it away and there’s no time for that in this sport.”

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