LONDON (Reuters) - The Wimbledon championships will protect its squeaky clean image with enhanced anti-doping and anti-corruption measures for this year’s 130th tournament, organizers said on Tuesday.
Tennis was rocked by allegations of match-fixing on the eve of this year’s Australian Open and suffered another blow to its integrity when former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova said in February she had failed a drugs test.
At a news conference announcing yet another substantial hike in prize money, the All England Club pledged to beef up its safeguards against sport’s two biggest threats.
Measures will include data streams and videos of all matches, including in qualifying events, enhanced data monitoring and player education as well as additional anti-doping controls to complement those already run at the tournament by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
“Whether it’s integrity or anti-doping we feel we should enhance what we are doing,” Richard Lewis, chief executive of the All England Club, told reporters.
“There has been lots of media scrutiny since January and it’s appropriate that we respond accordingly.”
The Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) received no betting alerts during the 2015 championships, but All England Club chairman Philip Brook said the prestigious tournament needed to safeguard public trust, admitting that the sport’s image was under threat.
“We don’t think there is a big issue but we will do whatever it takes to keep the sport clean,” he said. “It’s an issue of perception rather than reality.”
“I think it’s hard to say (this year’s events) haven’t had an impact,” he added.
It is still unclear whether provisionally suspended Sharapova, the 2004 champion, will play this year as she is awaiting the outcome of her anti-doping hearing after testing positive for Meldonium at the Australian Open.
Brook said her absence would be a “great shame”.
“She is a former champion here at Wimbledon and very popular with the crowds. But I think in terms of what has happened we need to let due process take its course,” he said.
No figures were revealed regarding how much the All England Club is investing to safeguard the tournament’s integrity.
They were more forthcoming about a five percent rise in prize money, taking the total pool to 28.1 million pounds -- second only to the U.S. Open.
The winners of the men’s and women’s singles titles will pocket two million pounds, up 6.4 percent on 2015.
First-round losers in the singles will take home 30,000 pounds ($44,000) -- a 161 percent rise from 2011 when Wimbledon pledged to assist those players struggling lower down the rankings.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Gareth Jones