“Are you interested in making some money on the side?”
No thank you. 30,000 Danish Crowns doesn’t sound like the kind of money you’d want to risk your career for. But for constantly travelling tennis players, the offer can help pay the expensive travel costs, point out players who said no to the offer.
Do you need 30,000 crowns?
That was the question upwards of 30 tennis players were asked when they took part in a tennis tournament – a tournament at the lowest professional level – in Aarhus and Copenhagen respectively in the late summer. The person or persons behind the offers contacted the players by text message, by e-mail or by Facebook and wrote in English that they didn’t need to lose the match. Just one set would be rewarded with €4,000, the equivalent of around 30,000 Crowns.
“I’m your contact person, and I can meet you in person in Copenhagen to give you a deposit of €2,000 today, you will get the rest after the job is done,” was the message.
€4,000 is a large sum in a competition where the women’s winner got $1,568 and the men’s got $2,160.
The 17-year-old Benjamin Hannestad is number 58 in the world junior rankings. Despite his age, he was invited to play with the seniors at the Futures tournament in the summer. A couple of weeks before the tournament he received a friend request on Facebook with a profile calling itself “ITF” and used the International Tennis Federation’s logo. With the friend request was the message:
“When I got the friend request, I thought it was part of a process for when you play for money. I could see that several I knew had accepted the request,” he says.
When Benjamin Hannestad had played and won his first Futures match, he received a text message on his phone:
“There was no chance I would say yes to the money. That’s not like me at all. I was very surprised to put it mildly. Even though I’d heard it could happen, it was still crazy that I’d get this offer in my first tournament as a senior,” says Benjamin Hannestad, who reported the matter to the TIU, the International Tennis Federation’s investigative unit.
Large sums tempt
But other tennis players at the same level might be tempted. Seniors at the lowest levels struggle to raise the money to travel to tournaments around the world, and the money should be seen in that light. And if you don’t have a big-money sponsor behind you, match fixing can be tempting, says Jens Sejer Andersen, international head of the Play The Game initiative.
“Tennis is a sport a lot of semi and quarter professionals play. There are few who earn big money, while there are many who try. There can be lots of older seniors who can’t earn a living elsewhere and perhaps feel that tennis is possibly their best chance. Maybe after a few years they get fatigued and develop a certain cynicism and vulnerability to “the good offer”,” he says.
While match fixing in football/soccer requires that at least goal keeper, a defender and an attacker agree to play according to an agreed pattern, tennis is different. All individual sorts, all things being equal, are more vulnerable to match fixing. All that’s needed in tennis are a few balls into the net.
The women’s winner of the Futures tournament, Mai Grage, also received the offer to lose a set on purpose. She didn’t answer the friend request from the fake profile. She figured out the profile was fake because they had no common friends.
“You hear about match fixing at higher levels, but I was very surprised to hear about it at the lowest international level,” she says.
Translated by @markalannixon