London, Oct. 1: Arvind Parmar, a 29-year-old British tennis player of Indian origin, has become the latest sports personality to provide evidence of what appears to be widespread corruption in the international game after he revealed he was approached to throw a match.
The problems of match-fixing which once poisoned cricket now appear to be infecting tennis, experts allege.
The corruption is causing such concern that the game’s ruling body, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), confirmed to The Telegraph today that it is attempting to find a solution by coordinating its approach with other organisations involved in running tennis, notably “the ATP, which runs men’s tennis, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, which runs women’s tennis, and the Grand Slam tournaments”.
Parmar, who was born in Hitchin, Hertfordshire, of Indian parents and was known locally as the “Hitchin Hurricane”, was once hailed as a rising star in British tennis but the highest he climbed in world rankings was 138.
According to The Times of London, Parmar, who retired in December last year, earned a modest £25,000 a year during his nine years on the professional circuit and was, therefore, “the perfect soft target for those eager to take unscrupulous advantage of the lowly professional and make huge sums of money for themselves”.
Two years ago during a match in the ATP Challenger Series circuit, he was approached by a man who made him an offer in a matter-of-fact manner.
“A guy I’d never seen before just walked up and asked me to throw a match,” Parmar told the paper. “He said because it was in my control, I should lose in straight sets and I’d receive x amount. I don’t want to say how much except it was pretty substantial. It took me half a second to say no.”
Parmar confided: “To be honest, I wanted to punch him in the face. I told him to get the hell out of here. Tennis was my life and I had my integrity and that of the sport to protect. I know there are people hanging around at this level of tournaments.”
Referring to the cases of players being asked to throw matches, Parmar said “this has been happening for a few years now”.
“It is up to the players to name and shame,” commented Parmar. “These guys may just think it’s a bit of fun but they can make huge money. It gets a bit scary when you see the story about Gilles Elseneer being offered 100,000 euros (about £70,000) to throw a match.”
Parmar was alluding to Elseneer, a Belgian player who had just qualified for the main draw of the 2005 Wimbledon championships when he was approached — in the locker room — and offered 10 times the money he would have earned for winning the match to lose to Potito Starace of Italy. Elseneer won in straight sets.
The Times said “there are believed to be at least 130 matches that have given cause for concern since 2003 and a dossier compiled by a leading bookmaker is said to contain names of those involved in some of the betting syndicates and details how the fixes were put together”.
The ITF drew the attention of The Telegraph to one match where betting was suspended because of the suspiciously high sums that were being placed on a particular player.
All bets were voided by Betfair on a match in August between Nikolay Davydenko, the Russian world No. 4, and Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina, in Sopot, Poland.
The Times also mentioned the case: “More than £4 million in matched bets were placed, most of it on Arguello to win at the end of the second set when he had recovered from a set down to level the match. Davydenko retired after three games of the final set.”
It is not clear if Scotland Yard will be brought in as happened with cricket.
The ITF spokesman told The Telegraph that if players were approached, they should contact the tennis authorities immediately, “not x years down the line”.
“As corruption grows, temptation grows with it,” ITF committee member Bill Babcock has said in a statement. “We’re very concerned about any incident, be it syndicates pushing their way forward or people on site providing those temptations. We’re trying to get each of the governing bodies together to unify the rules to some degree so we can all share our views on the scope of any potential rule.”
British Davis Cup captain John Lloyd urged tennis authorities to be ruthless in punishing those found guilty.
“I think it’s absolutely horrendous, we have got to try and stamp this out before any more of this type of scandal comes in,” he told BBC. “Tennis as a sport is so open to a betting scandal because it’s a one-on-one sport. If anybody is caught for that, in any shape or form, they have got to be banned for life with no appeal.”