LONDON (AP) — As the number of suspected cases of match-fixing in tennis soars, the head of the ATP said Wednesday that more money needs to be given to the agency working to combat corruption.
Chris Kermode, the ATP's president and chief executive, and Nigel Willerton, director of the Tennis Integrity Unit, addressed a panel of UK lawmakers amid allegations of match-fixing and corruption in tennis.
Willerton said the number of alerts of suspicious betting activity flagged up and passed to the TIU has increased from 14 in 2012 to 246 last year.
The TIU is funded by tennis' governing bodies and operates on a budget of $2 million. Just 0.4 percent of the ATP's turnover goes to the TIU.
Kermode said he agreed that wasn't enough, adding "we will spend whatever is needed to tackle the problem."
In January, the BBC and BuzzFeed News alleged that tennis authorities had suppressed evidence of match-fixing and failed to thoroughly investigate possible cases of corruption involving 16 players who have ranked in the top 50 over the past decade. No players were named in the reports.
During the Culture, Media and Sports Committee hearing at the House of Commons, Willerton insisted that no issues regarding potential match-fixing had been kept "in-house" by tennis authorities, and dismissed suggestions that those players accused of corruption should be named.
"You are innocent until proven guilty," Willerton said. "These people have sponsors, and if you name the people you are investigating and there's nothing at the end of it, you'll have affected their whole livelihood on what I consider one stream of information and a betting alert. I don't think that's proportionate."
Willerton said five suspected cases of fixing have occurred at grand slam events since 2013, none at Wimbledon. He said alerts of suspicious activity at top-tier or middle-tier events are "few and far between."
Asked if the allegations had damaged the image of tennis, Willerton said: "Without a doubt, and we are trying to put that right. That's why it's opened its doors."
An independent investigation into the allegations of match-fixing and corruption in tennis was announced during the Australian Open last month and will take at least a year. The probe will also investigate the effectiveness of existing anti-corruption practices and procedures.
"We are one of the few sports that does have an integrity unity," Kermode said. "Can we do things better? Yes, I'm sure. That's why the independent review will look at this."