WTA, ATP delay ‘live’ tennis scores to help raise £ 1bn through bookmaker deals
Tennis chiefs are putting bookies ahead of fans by deliberately delaying live scores on their websites to help raise nearly £ 1 billion through data deals.
Sportsmail may reveal that ATP and WTA are bypassed supporters by signing controversial contracts that three years ago warned that a match-fixing investigation could lead to increased corruption.
Under the terms of contracts with data companies agreed between ATP and IMG, and WTA and StatsPerform, websites owned or funded by bookmakers are allowed to post live scores before official sports channels. in the hope that fans will be drawn to it and then be tempted to play.
Tennis fans are directed to gambling websites for up-to-date scores on matches like Serena Williams (pictured) with WTA and ATP deliberately delaying scores
Analysis of last week’s warm-up tournaments for the Australian Open shows official ATP and WTA websites are often up to 30 seconds – or more points – behind on business operations such as flashscore.co.uk, which is funded by major online bookmakers. Betfair and bet365.
Sportsmail learned that this was a deliberate policy, with both sports organizations agreeing to delay the publication of scores on their official sites in order to facilitate premium content for bookmakers.
As our screenshots illustrate, the delay results in tennis fans receiving inferior service than betting customers.
In the Yarra Valley Classic quarter-finals in Melbourne last week, the WTA website showed Serena Williams serving at 40-30 in the second game of the first set. At the same time, visitors to Flashscore were told that Tsvetana Pironkova was leading 30-0 in Game 3.
Three years ago, an independent review panel advised tennis authorities to stop selling “live score” data to match-fixing chaired by Adam Lewis QC, who warned of a “tsunami” corruption at lower levels of sport, but continued to do so.
ATP signed a 10-year deal with IMG worth £ 750million to distribute their data last year, and the WTA has just started a six-year partnership with StatsPerform as the official provider of data worth around £ 200million.
Both companies sold the information to third-party customers, including a global network of more than 500 bookmakers.
In a press release sent to Sportsmail the WTA has admitted that its “real-time” scoring service is being delayed to prioritize betting operators without providing an explanation. The issue does not affect Grand Slam tournaments such as the Australian Open, as these tournaments are run independently of the regular Tour events.
DELAYS AWAIT THE FANS
These screenshots illustrate the delay between the live action and tennis fans seeing the updated scores.
At last week’s Yarra Valley Classic in Melbourne, fans who followed the WTA website – which boasts of live updates (see right) – learned that Serena Williams was serving at 40-30 during the second match of the first set.
But those following the match at the same time on flashscore.co.uk, which is funded by the bookies and showcases their branding (left), knew that she had already won this match and that Tsvetana Pironkova was leading 30-0 in the next – three points later.
“The WTA has licensed its live data to StatsPerform to ensure that fans who choose to bet on tennis have legal access to official WTA scores in real time through authorized betting operators and platform providers,” said a spokesperson for the WTA.
“We are working to improve the speed of data on WTA platforms because it is a priority for us.”
The treatment of fans by heads of tennis was widely criticized last December when a live scoring app provided by the ATP and WTA was discontinued in the short term.
ATP has since launched a new live scores app, but the WTA has yet to do so, leading to complaints from fans and players, including former Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki.
“As the WTA will no longer have an application, where do people check live scores and tournaments? Wozniacki wrote on Twitter. “I love watching tennis so it would be nice to know which tournaments are going on.”
US player Madison Keys simply tweeted: “Booooooooooo” – in response to the joint ATP / WTA announcement.
Former Australian Open winner Caroline Wozniacki and prominent American player Madison Keys have been among the main voices in tennis criticizing the lack of live scores enforcement for WTA tennis
Wozniacki’s post was backed up by responses from many angry fans of the service provided by an organization purportedly charged with promoting the most lucrative professional women’s sport.
To compound the issue, subscribers to the canceled app were told to head to the WTA website to follow live scores instead, without being notified of the inbuilt deadline. In a joint statement released Dec. 23, the ATP and WTA said the removal of the app was due to “changes in their data stream.”
As part of their agreements with IMG and StatsPerform, live updates of ATP and WTA scores are sent directly from the referee’s seat via a tablet to the data companies, which manage the live scores feed on the official sites and sell it to third parties. . Rather than posting the scores simultaneously, the ATP and WTA both agreed to the delay, which is not disclosed on their sites.
“There is a deliberate delay built in and a clause in the contract that the scores cannot be released simultaneously,” said a source with knowledge of the chords. Sportsmail. “There is significant business value in having the fastest data, especially for bookmakers.”
Industry experts said Sportsmail that the disparity between the “live” score on official sources and third-party sites could lead to bypassing tennis fans if they choose to bet using official data. However, most seasoned bettors will use betting sites.
The issue of delayed score updates does not affect Grand Slam tournaments such as the Australian Open (pictured), as these tournaments run independently of regular Tour events.
Tennis generates the third largest betting income in the UK after horse racing and football and the sheer number of matches taking place around the world makes it vulnerable to corruption, with the Tennis Integrity Agency having received 77 alerts from match regarding suspicious betting activity last year despite a five-month delay. to close.
An official report in 2018, the “Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis” declared the sport to be “fertile ground” for corruption.
Among several recommendations, he called on authorities to stop the sale of live rating data as it exacerbates the potential for corruption by offering more deals.
In a joint statement at the time, ATP chairman Chris Kermode and current WTA chief Steve Simon announced their “agreement in principle” with the package of measures and recommendations proposed by the review board, but both organizations continued to sell their data for huge sums.