By Steve Fogleman for TennisEastCoast.com
At the end of the day, I am an avid tennis fan. But at the beginning of the day, I am an avid fan of rules and regulations. As a trial lawyer, I am constantly arguing interpretation before the courts in which I practice. In addition, I chair a local regulatory agency where we are often asked to make decisions on intepreting rules and regulations in administrative hearings.
Rules? I love ’em. Without them, there would be chaos.
In January, I read a report on Tennis.com regarding spectators having been removed from the grounds of the ASB Classic and Heineken Open in Auckland, New Zealand for “using a handheld device, possibly to bet on specific points and take advantage of the delay of several seconds before other gamblers saw the points played on television”. According to the article, another man was ejected from Wimbledon last year for a similar offense.
This made me wonder: what kind of futuristic hand-held device could the transgressors have possessed? The answer is probably an I-phone.
Any cell phone can text scores to a third-party. Any smart phone can tweet scores through twitter to millions of people around the planet.
The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) was set up in September 2008 as a joint initiative of the ITF, ATP, WTA and the Grand Slam Committee to look into “betting-related corruption challenges that faced professional tennis,” according to its website. According to the article below, TIU keeps a “blacklist” of known on-site tennis bettors.
A review of TIU’s site quickly demonstrates that their primary focus is on disciplining players (as in the recent lifetime ban of Daniel Koellerer) and others with a close association to the sport rather than fans. So, who’s the boss when it comes to a “twitter ban”?
ATP Rule 6.09 (F) says no tournament shall allow or authorize
dissemination, transmission, publication or release from the grounds of the tournament any live match score, or any related live statistical data until :30 seconds after the actual occurrence.
Section 17 (A) (19) of the 2012 WTA Official Rulebook states on Page 311 that
All media areas shall be gambling-free zones, and any persons credentialed for such areas, if found to be gambling on tennis or passing insider information to third parties for use in connection with gambling, shall have their credentials revoked. Media credentials must contain a provision whereby the media member acknowledges and agrees that he/she will not disseminate, transmit publish or release from the grounds of the tournament any live match score, or any related live statistical data until :30 seconds after the actual occurrence of the incident of match play or action that leads to such live score update (e.g. a point being scored), and that such use shall be solely for news reporting and editorial use. Any media known to be working for gambling companies shall not be issued credentials. If found to be working for a gambling company after issuance of the credential, the credential shall be revoked.
A look around the web shows that these rules are being highlighted in media credential requests from Wimbledon, Auckland, Indian Wells and the Estoril Open. However, it doesn’t appear that these rules were mentioned prior to 2011. And without naming names, I have seen many tournament credentials that did not have the required warning language.
In order for a rule to work, people need to know that such a rule exists. The WTA is now strictly enforcing this rule in 2012, according to an unnamed tournament official.
Why enforce the rule? It apparently exists to prohibit illegal gambling, in the sense that it is illegal to place a bet on something where a bettor has an advantage by already knowing the result before he/she places the bet. Betfair and other websites allow you to not only bet on the outcome of the match, but also place a bet on each serve, the number of points a player will win in a given game and so on. So, it seems that pro tennis wants to protect internet gambling from…the internet. The added irony here is that ALL ONLINE GAMBLING IS ILLEGAL IN THE UNITED STATES. I have no sympathy for gambling companies in this instance. If they use technology to allow these second-by-second exotic bets, then it’s obvious that the companies will occasionally be burned by someone who can use the internet better than they can.
Tennis betting does nothing positive for the sport, so why protect it? I’m still unclear on that. However, it is crystal clear that you can not disseminate match data for thirty seconds.
So, if you’re a fan who live tweets a score, they would probably have to (1) find you on the grounds, and (2) issue you a warning before tossing you out. If you’re credentialed media, you’ve already been warned by the notice on the back of your press pass.
Don’t look for any live tweets of match scores, medical timeouts or other determinative information from our website’s twitter account.
In reality, by the time a tweet is typed and then uploaded on a smart phone, thirty seconds should easily have passed. In fact, the wireless data reception is often terrible at tournaments. The US Open is famous for jammed smart phones. I always thought it was because thousands of people were overloading the nearest tower. Now I wonder if something more deliberate is afoot, since WTA and ATP rules authorize tournaments to tweak their own wireless service providers to build in a delay at their choosing.
So love it or hate it, it’s the rule. You’ve been forewarned, tennis tweeps!
Here’s a more traditional way to get tossed: