It has been just over a month since the Badminton World Federation (BWF) announced that Zulfadli Zulkiffli and Tan Chun Seang have been suspended from all badminton activities for 15 and 20 years respectively.
The two Malaysian’s, according to an independent panel, were found to have breached the BWF Code of Conduct in Relation to Betting, Wagering, and Irregular Match Results.
The full report of the panel comprising of James Kitching, Sylvia Schenk and Annabel Pennefather can be read here.
The report is comprehensive and also includes whatsapp conversation between the two players, which basically helped to nail the duo.
It was the first time and rightly so that the BWF had taken action against players. The decision had also brought certain amount of criticism.
Many questioned why only two players have been incarcerated when the problem must surely be much bigger. Others also questioned on the course of action that would be taken to identify and punish the main players in the scandal.
Rumours of match fixing in badminton is not something new. The New Straits Times reported earlier this year quoted a former national number one on his knowledge of a player who earned as much as RM300,000 in 2006-2007.
It is time for the BWF to follow the step taken by tennis to get to the root of the problem.
Just before the start of the 2016 Australian Open, BuzzFeed and the BBC released a report on the possibility of widespread match fixing in tennis. They alleged that was a possibility of involvement among tennis’ top-ranked players and that the authorities were ignoring such evidence.
This prompted the four main tennis bodies, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and the Grand Slam Board to commission a thorough investigation and study on the issue.
The investigation is said to have cost the bodies close to £20m. The interim report was released in late April with the full report expected to be out later this month.
The independent review, headed by Adam Lewis QC, also included two other seasoned legal experts – Marc Henzelin and Beth Wilkinson.
The review found that tennis was “facing a serious integrity problem”, especially with betting related problems at the lower tier events.
The report absolved the governing bodies of any cover-up in the battle against match-fixing and betting, but noted that some action could have been taken much earlier.
One of the key points in the report was that the lack of money outside the top tiers of the sport has created a “fertile breeding ground for breaches of integrity” within tennis. This was especially at the less-prominent Challenger and Futures events.
With more than 6,000 players on the tennis circuit, it was estimated less than 600 actually break even in terms of prize money.
For badminton, it would definitely be even more alarming, as even many of the top level players do not earn as much from prize money as the tennis players do. Many of them, still need individual sponsorship or government aid (especially the Asian players).
The investigations also found that of the 3,200 tennis players surveyed, 14.5% indicated they had first-hand knowledge of match-fixing and another 16.4% of respondents had first-hand knowledge of a player betting on tennis.
It was recommended that the sale of official live scoring data from lower level tournaments is stopped altogether. It also recommended the banning of sponsorship from betting companies.
The ITF has a multi-year deal for USD70m with Sportradar, a data accompany that distributes live scores from tournaments. The deal was signed in 2015 and runs through to 2021.
To digress back to the case of Zulfadli and Chun Seang, one of the key whatsapp conversations centered on the possibility of making more money if the matches were streamed live.
The report claimed that sales of official live scoring data to betting companies created an environment that encouraged corruption.
Other recommendations included increased transparency by making public the tournament appearance fees paid to some players; and the expansion of the staffing and reach of the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), the anti-corruption group established in 2008 after a surge of suspicious betting activity.
Perhaps a similar study by the BWF would also help it to identify the core problems in match-fixing and betting in badminton.