MELBOURNE -- Is it proper for a tennis tournament to take a sponsorship deal from a gambling company? Andy Murray doesn't think so.
"I think it's a little bit hypocritical, really,'' Murray said. "Because I don't believe the players are allowed to be sponsored by betting companies but then the tournaments are. I don't really understand how it all works. I think it's a bit strange.''
Call it hypocritical or call it strange, it's certainly ironic to see a sponsorship logo for the gambling company William Hill displayed at the Australian Open when it is under a cloud of controversy due to the Buzzfeed/BBC report that there is wide-spread match-fixing in men's tennis. According to the story, authorities have been warned there is a core of 16 players suspected of fixing, all of whom have been ranked in the Top 50 at some point, half of whom were entered in this tournament, and one of whom was a US Open champion.
As Milos Raonic said of the shadow cast over the tournament, "It's a little bit, sorry for the language, sh----y to read that and sort of see that the attention of the first Grand Slam of the year is more on that than I think the Australian Open.''
The Buzzfeed/BBC story caught Murray's attention enough that he tweeted a link to the piece. He also spent most of his post-match press conference answering questions about the story Tuesday, just as Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer did the previous day.
No player were named in the report because a direct link between them and the gamblers is not proven. Murray said he was aware of some of the details in the report -- the 2007 match-fixing scandal that had already been covered -- but not other parts, such as gambling syndicates in Sicily.
"As a player you just want to be made aware kind of everything that's going on,'' Murray said. "I think we deserve to know everything that's out there. You know, some of it will be true; some of it might not be true. But I'm always very curious with that stuff across all sports, as well. I think sports could in general be much, much more transparent.''
Murray said that despite the negative aspect of the story, perhaps it could be a good thing for discouraging young players from ever considering such a thing.
"I just think that it should be tennis that does a better job of explaining -- they shouldn't have to read it in the press,'' he said. "You have to be proactive, I think, with things like this and go and speak to the players rather than them reading about it in the newspapers or listening to it on the TV or the radio. I think the more proactive you are with educating young players the better on matters like this.''
Another important thing tennis could do is not take money from gambling sponsors. William Hill became the first-ever gambling sponsor at a Grand Slam event when it signed a deal with the Australian Open a couple months ago. It also was a sponsor in the tournaments leading into the major: Brisbane, Auckland, Sydney and the Hopman Cup. That not only is hypocritical, it encourages more betting on the sport. And that, in turn, only increases the chances that some gambler might tempt a player to throw a match.
Stan Wawrinka, however, says that a gambling sponsor can actually be a positive.
"Corruption is a problem for gambling websites, too,'' he said. "If they sponsor a sport, they will try everything to make sure there is no corruption. So it could be something good for the tennis. The big companies can come to the tennis and make sure there is no corruption because they lose out of money when there is a problem.''
That makes some sense but is it completely a good thing? U.S. player Steve Johnson said a gambling sponsorship is "kind of weird'' and likened it to an event he knows of in Dusseldorf where there was a tournament-sponsored drink that was placed in the player locker rooms -- even though if a player drank it, he would test positive for a performance enhancer.