It’s fairly late on a Monday evening, I’ve just finished working on an essay and decide to check the news before heading off to bed. Clicking on the BBC Sport website to see the result of that night’s Premier League fixture, I am greeted by the headline that the corporation has uncovered a number of allegations regarding match-fixing in elite-level tennis. My reaction? It barely even registers.
I would love to say this was because I was tired and not really taking any notice of what I was reading, but unfortunately I can’t. My initial reaction was not one of shock or horror; instead I rolled my eyes, gave the article a quick read and went to brush my teeth. At no point did I feel any element of surprise.
With accusations of corruption, match-fixing and substance abuse currently shrouding a whole host of sports, it was inevitable tennis was going to be implicated in a scandal at some point. That may be a very cynical viewpoint, but all the ingredients are there. It’s a sport played worldwide, attracting millions of fans. Not only that, but it can be a very lucrative business. If they play their cards right, athletes, coaches and sponsors alike can all make huge sums of money from the sport.
Money seems to be the root cause of most of these problems. This is not surprising as, throughout history, those who have survived have been those who acquire most wealth; it’s a basic evolutionary pattern. Whilst this may not have always been money specifically, this is certainly the case in the present climate. What is sad is that it seems as though it is now the athletes who are being implicated in these scandals. They are supposed to be clean and innocent, doing what they are told to by their corrupt, greedy governing bodies whilst trying to adhere to the spirit of fair play. Clearly no longer.
Before I go on, I should point out that nothing has been completely proven and no player has been directly accused of throwing a match. Of course, it can be easy to see why some players may want to do this. Although the sport is full of money, this is largely reserved for those right at the top. They attract the major sponsors and win the most prize money because they are the best. Those who aren’t as good therefore don’t make as much money, thus making it hard to continue to play what is an expensive sport. So why not throw a couple of games deliberately to make more money?
This is something I personally disagree with – I am a purist and believe that all sport should be played in a fair and just manner. Those who are the best and work the hardest should win and the rest will come second; for every victor there has to be a loser. Unfortunately this is no longer the case though and in a society dominated by greed and the desire for wealth it is easy to see why some players may risk their own careers as well as the reputation of their sport.
Where do we go from here? I honestly don’t know. As much as I want to say that the sporting world will rally round and ensure such stories become a thing of the past, there is no quick fix. Money talks and, as long as it is a dominating force in sport, stories such as this will continue to emerge. Something needs to change, but what?