Australia integrity unit beefed up after corruption claims

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Tennis Australia are to beef up their integrity unit to fight corruption in the sport after their showcase tournament was blighted earlier this year by allegations of global inaction to combat it. The Australian Open, the year's first grand slam tournament, was rocked on its opening day by reports the sport's global watchdog, the Tennis Integrity Unit, had done little to combat or properly investigate wide-spread match-fixing. Tennis officials, who rejected the reports, later announced they would review their anti-corruption practices, while past and present players urged more money be pumped into their fight against corruption. Tennis Australia said on Thursday their current Risk and Compliance manager Ann West would be named as the Head of Integrity and Compliance and would have two new staff members join her. One, preferably from a law enforcement background, would take on an investigative role, while another would have expertise in compliance issues, the organization said. A Tennis Australia spokeswoman said their anti-corruption efforts had been previously undertaken by a group of departments but it would now fall to West's team. "There has been much criticism of sporting organizations across the globe recently for a lack of transparency in matters of corruption, anti-doping and member protection," West said in a statement. "The importance of taking an integrated and co-ordinated approach, and my plan is to have an emphasis on education, is critical to tackling this issue and will be the focus of my new role." Allegations of corruption in the sport were not helped by Australian former professional player Nick Lindahl pleading guilty to match-fixing charges relating to a game in 2013 during the grand slam tournament at Melbourne Park. Police alleged that Lindahl had told two people he was going to "tank" a match at a low level Futures tournament in Queensland, enabling them to make bets on the outcome. He did not benefit directly. Lindahl avoided a jail term when he was sentenced last month and instead was ordered to pay a A$1,000 ($748.50) fine. (Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien)