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    The Argentine forward has been crowned the best player in the world for 2015.

    Lionel Messi collects the 2015 Ballon d'Or award.

    Matthias Hangst / Getty Images

    Argentine footballer Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d'Or for a record fifth time.

    Messi last won the award – handed out each year to the world's best footballer – in 2012, but was usurped in 2013 and 2014 by rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

    This year the Barcelona forward has once again been crowned as the best player in the world, fending off competition from Barca teammate, Neymar Jr, and Real Madrid's Ronaldo, who completed the three-man shortlist for 2015 alongside Messi.

    He was given the award in front of members of the football community in a glamorous ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland.

    "It's incredible to win a fifth – more than anything I ever dreamed of as a kid," said Messi upon collecting the award.

    "I want to thank those who voted for me, plus my teammates. Without them this wouldn't be possible."

    Messi and Ronaldo are now the only two players to have won the competition who are still playing football in Europe's "big five" leagues (Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1).

    Ronaldo, who has won the award three times, is now 30, and with Messi two years his junior, it is unlikely anyone will overtake the Argentine forward's record haul for quite some time.

    By winning the award for a fifth time, Messi has broken his own record, set in 2012, of winning the award for a fourth time.

    Neymar Jr, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo pose for photos at the pre-ceremony press conference.

    Olivier Morin / AFP / Getty Images

    The 28-year-old's Ballon d'Or victory this year will surprise few fans, given that bookmakers were offering 1/33 odds on Messi to win.

    Neymar Jr, who enjoyed a blistering 2015 alongside Messi at Barcelona, was 16/1 to win the award ahead of the ceremony, while Ronaldo was 33/1.

    Having won the Champions League four times, La Liga seven times, and the Copa del Rey (the Spanish Cup) three times, the only major honours now eluding Messi are on the world stage. Despite being a veteran for Argentina with 108 caps, the World Cup and the Copa America are still on his wishlist.

    "Obviously [I'd like to win] the World Cup," he said at a pre-ceremony press conference in Zurich.

    "The World Cup is the peak of the game."

    Messi came close to winning the World Cup with Argentina in 2014, but Germany defeated the South American side in the final. The 2018 World Cup in Russia could be his last chance to lift the Jules Rimet trophy.

    But even without the World Cup, his honours list remains one of the longest in the history of world sport.


    View Entire List ›


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    Roll Tide!

    Alabama's O.J. Howard tries to get past Clemson's T.J. Green after a catch during the second half.

    David J. Phillip / AP

    Alabama defeated Clemson 45-40 Monday night in the College Football National Playoff Championship, capturing their fourth national championship in seven years.

    The teams spent much of the game nearly tied, entering halftime with a score of 14-14. Alabama pulled ahead shortly into the third quarter, then Clemson scored twice, securing a 24-21 lead.

    Clemson continued to lead at the end of the third quarter, but the Crimson Tide stunned in the fourth with 24 points, including a 95-yard kickoff return by Kenyan Drake.

    Alabama also recovered a surprise onside kick after a field goal that helped the Crimson Tide maintain control of the game. Alabama kicker Adam Griffith sent a short kick toward the sideline that was quickly recovered by Marlon Humphrey.

    In the final moments of the game, Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry went one-yard to score a touchdown for Alabama, and Clemson's Jordan Leggett caught a 24-yard pass for a touchdown.


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    Always classy.

    Cricket legend Rahul Dravid just uploaded a video to his Facebook page, chronicling how his journey started almost 25 years ago.

    Cricket legend Rahul Dravid just uploaded a video to his Facebook page, chronicling how his journey started almost 25 years ago.

    Facebook: rahuldravid

    The animated video, which has Dravid narrating, describes how he got his first chance to play Ranji Trophy cricket.

    The animated video, which has Dravid narrating, describes how he got his first chance to play Ranji Trophy cricket.

    Facebook: rahuldravid

    He describes how the team had to use their kits for seats, when they crammed into trains between matches, and learnt the rigours of the games from the team seniors.

    He describes how the team had to use their kits for seats, when they crammed into trains between matches, and learnt the rigours of the games from the team seniors.

    Facebook: rahuldravid

    He also apologises profusely to his roommates at the time, who had to keep up his odd hours of practice.

    He also apologises profusely to his roommates at the time, who had to keep up his odd hours of practice.

    Facebook: rahuldravid


    View Entire List ›


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    Posting fire selfies renders your phone useless.

    International footballer Demy de Zeeuw has posted a video of what your phone notifications look like when you have 8 million followers – and it's pretty mesmerising.

    View Video ›

    ...woah.

    Facebook: video.php

    The Instagram account in question doesn't belong to Dutchman, de Zeeuw, but to football app "433", which caters for football fans around the world by posting daily videos.

    Instagram: @433

    In contrast, here's an exclusive look at my Instagram notifications.

    In contrast, here's an exclusive look at my Instagram notifications.

    awesomelyluvvie.com / Via giphy.com

    Football fan? Like BuzzFeed Football on Facebook for quizzes, news and games.


    View Entire List ›


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    There is a new MVP on the court.

    Instagram: @babybirdman3 / Via instagram.com

    Cutler enrolled Noah in an Upward Basketball league when he was 9.

    "He did really well," Cutler said. "Next thing I know, he picked up basketball and wouldn't stop."

    Now, Noah travels up and down the East Coast with the D1SA Spartans, a team which his dad coaches.


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    But how does he deal with people?

    Even though Boston Dunkin' Donuts gives away free coffee after every Patriots win...

    Even though Boston Dunkin' Donuts gives away free coffee after every Patriots win...

    patswinyouwin.com

    ...Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, has NEVER had a sip of coffee in his 38 YEARS of life.

    ...Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, has NEVER had a sip of coffee in his 38 YEARS of life.

    WHERE DO YOU GET THE ENERGY TO SMILE?

    Fernanda Calfat / Getty Images

    "I never had any coffee or anything like that. I just never tried it."

    Hold up.

    Hold up.

    Fameflynet


    View Entire List ›


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    KEYS TO SUCCESS, all of them.

    Bless up everyone, because DJ Khaled is here to get that fitness.

    youtube.com

    In a new video, he and Complex magazine's Emily Oberg show you how to "climb that mountain top of success." Also, how do squats.

    In a new video, he and Complex magazine's Emily Oberg show you how to "climb that mountain top of success." Also, how do squats.

    youtube.com

    Khaled also shows off his skills on the elliptical machine.

    Khaled also shows off his skills on the elliptical machine.

    youtube.com

    "They don't want you to do this, that's why I do it," explains Khaled. Who is they? FUCKBOYS.

    "They don't want you to do this, that's why I do it," explains Khaled. Who is they? FUCKBOYS.

    youtube.com


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    Major League Baseball and its players’ union are implementing the policy, in part, as a way to ease the transition for non-American Latino players.

    Jim Mcisaac / Getty Images

    Major League Baseball and its players' union have informed teams that they must have a Spanish translator ahead of the 2016 season, a league spokesman confirmed to BuzzFeed News.

    Clubs had employed Spanish translators at-will, but prior to Tuesday, MLB had no formal, consistent policy in place.

    Latino players made up 29.3% of opening day rosters last year, according to the 2015 Racial and Gender Report Card: Major League Baseball, which is prepared by the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.

    In many clubhouses, players act as translators for each another. Consistent access to translators will aim to ease the transition to MLB clubhouses for non-American Latino players, as well as simplify relations with non-Spanish speaking media members. Some Japanese players, such as Mariners outfielder Nori Aoki, employ a personal translator.

    Under new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, professional baseball has made significant adjustments toward increasing diversity.

    Pitchers and catchers begin reporting for spring training Feb. 18. It is unclear, however, if translators will need to be hired ahead of spring training or before the regular season begins on April 3.

    The memo sent to clubs was not made publicly available.


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    Richard Vogel / AP

    The NFL's 32 team owners on Tuesday voted to approve the relocation of the St. Louis Rams, and possibly a second team, to Los Angeles, bringing the city one step closer to hosting professional football for the first time since 1994.

    "We have the return of the Los Angeles Rams to their home," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said during a press conference Tuesday.

    The team will play in a new stadium in Inglewood, and the Chargers will reportedly have an option to share the venue.

    Goodell called the decision "bittersweet," but one he hoped would be the best for football fans.

    "It's a painful process," Goodell said. "It's a painful process for the teams, for the fans."

    Chargers owner Dean Spanos said he was still undecided if the team would exercise their option and join the Rams in Los Angeles.

    "I'm going to take a day off tomorrow," Spanos said. "We do have some options, so it's very difficult to say."

    The Chargers have a year to decide whether to move to the Inglewood stadium, Goodell said.

    If they decide not to, the Raiders would then have a year to make the move themselves.

    In a short statement, the Raiders congratulated the Rams on their bid, and stated they would now "turn our attention to exploring all options to find a permanent stadium solution."

    Rams owner E. Stanley Kroenke called the relocation decision "the most difficult process of my professional career."

    "Being part of the group that brought the NFL to St. Louis in 1995 is one of the proudest moments of my professional career," he said in a written statement. "Reaching two Super Bowls and winning one are things all St. Louisans should always treasure."

    Still, Kroenke acknowledged the move will be a blow to fans in St. Louis, which has hosted the team since the 1995 season.

    "This move isn't about whether I love St. Louis or Missouri. I do and always will," he said in the statement. "This decision is about what is in the best long-term interest of the Rams organization and the National Football League."

    The decision from NFL team owners came after the league’s relocation committee had made an entirely different recommendation earlier on Tuesday.

    The committee had recommended Carson as the location for the new stadium, which would have moved the Chargers and brought the Raiders back to Los Angeles.

    Instead, the owners opted for Inglewood, which is set to be the home for the NFL's largest sports venue so far.

    Hollywood Park project manager Gerard McCallum stands next to plans for development at the site of the former Hollywood Park racetrack at a news conference in Inglewood, California.

    Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

    The NFL also approved an award of $100 million to both the Chargers and Raiders to help them build or improve their stadium back home, Goodell said.

    Raiders owner Mark Davis seemed disappointed at the decision.

    "Well, this is not a win for the Raiders," he said.

    The Los Angeles Times reported that the preferred scenario for many of the NFL team owners is to approve a plan that includes bringing two teams to L.A., which has not been home to an NFL team since the Rams and the Raiders left at the end of the 1994 season.

    The newspaper also reported that the owners considered two scenarios during their first round of votes Tuesday afternoon: Chargers and Raiders in Carson, or Rams and another team in Inglewood.

    Neither received the required 24 votes, but the Inglewood location won the most votes, the paper reported.

    The cost of the Inglewood stadium, according to the Los Angeles Times, would be about $2 billion.

    LINK: Three NFL Teams Officially File Applications To Move To Los Angeles

    LINK: St. Louis Rams Owner Plans To Build A Stadium In Los Angeles



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    It’s a bit of a grind, but surely you can spot the real ones from the fakies.


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    One MP reckons it’s time to ditch “God Save the Queen” and let England have its own anthem.

    MPs are debating whether England should be given its own national anthem – rather than the UK-wide "God Save the Queen".

    MPs are debating whether England should be given its own national anthem – rather than the UK-wide "God Save the Queen".

    Damien Meyer / AFP / Getty Images

    At the moment "God Save the Queen" – the national anthem for the UK as a whole – is played for England at most international matches.

    In the House of Commons on Wednesday, the Chesterfield MP will call for a public consultation so that people can decide which song is best for England.

    Perkins told BuzzFeed News: "England is a component part of Britain but having our own national anthem is recognising England as its own nation, just as Scotland and Wales are."

    Perkins told BuzzFeed News: "England is a component part of Britain but having our own national anthem is recognising England as its own nation, just as Scotland and Wales are."

    Stu Forster / Getty Images

    He said: "We're going to be playing Wales in the football this summer, just as we did in the rugby this winter. It seems wrong that Wales is singing its own song while we sing 'God Save the Queen'."

    His Commons motion has support from some Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs but is unlikely to lead to action without government support. Perkins told us he would also start an e-petition to pile pressure on ministers to start a consultation.


    View Entire List ›


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    Phillips had been charged with killing his cellmate after going to prison for assault-related crimes.

    Phillips in 1996 with the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

    Mike Powell / Getty Images

    Former football star Lawrence Phillips died of a suspected suicide in his prison cell, California prison officials said Wednesday.

    Phillips, 40, was found dead Wednesday during a routine security check just after midnight, according to the California Department of Corrections.

    Phillips was a former running back who won two national championships with the Nebraska Cornhuskers and was a first-round pick in the 1996 NFL draft. During his time with Nebraska, Phillips was arrested multiple times for assault, including of his ex-girlfriend, basketball player Kate McEwen.

    After a short career in the NFL and Canadian Football League, Phillips was sentenced to 31 years in prison for combined convictions of "inflicting great bodily injury involving domestic violence, corporal injury to a spouse, false imprisonment and vehicle theft."

    In April 2015, Phillips was accused of murdering his cellmate, and faced the death penalty. He was officially charged on Sept. 1.

    According to the California Department of Corrections, Phillips had been in an "Administrative Segregation Unit" on single-cell status since April 11, 2013, after he was suspected of killing his cellmate.


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    The joint investigation with the NCAA found school donors were providing “impermissible benefits” to student athletes.

    Jamie Squire / Getty Images

    The University of Missouri has vacated men's basketball wins from the 2013-14 season following a 19-month investigation that found various NCAA rule violations.

    The most serious of infringements was a Mizzou athletics donor "[providing] impermissible benefits to three men's basketball student-athletes and one prospective men's basketball student-athlete from 2013-2014," investigators found.

    Those "benefits" included compensation for work not performed at a business through a summer internship program, through which the donor also provided "other impermissible inducements and extra benefits," including housing, $520 in cash, transportation, iPads, meals, use of a local gym," according to the investigation carried out by the university and NCAA.

    The University was also found to have failed to fully research the internship provided by the donor and check documentation. The same donor "had multiple impermissible recruiting contacts with a prospective student-athlete and paid for a meal for a non-scholastic coach, in violation of NCAA bylaws."

    A second donor provided impermissible benefits to 11 student-athletes and three members of one student-athlete's family from 2011-2014, the investigation found. While the athletes did not receive any cash compensation from the donor, they were given "a 'friends & family' reduced rate at a hotel, as well as meals and a ride on a recreational boat," investigators found.

    A Missouri men's basketball student manager also provided transportation for multiple athletes to the hotel from the campus, all in violation of NCAA bylaws.

    The donor was named as a party of interest in a second, less serious violation in which a former associate head coach gave the phone number of a prospect's mother to the donor to "arrange for rental housing," which the family paid a market rate for, according to the investigation.

    The full list of self-imposed sanctions, including the vacating of wins, is as follows:

    • Restitution and withholding from competition for impermissible benefits received by student-athletes was imposed as necessary.
    • The former associate head men's basketball coach was prohibited from off-campus recruiting for a period of three months while the review process was underway.
    • The university permanently disassociated Representative #1, prohibiting him from receiving tickets, making donations or otherwise representing the university.
    • The university disassociated Representative #2 for a period of two years, prohibiting him from receiving tickets, making donations or otherwise representing the university.
    • The university vacated all wins from the 2013-14 season.
    • The university will pay the NCAA a fine in the prescribed amount of $5,000.
    • The university self-imposed the loss of one men's basketball scholarship in 2015-16 and an additional scholarship loss to be incurred no later than the 2017-18 season.
    • The university placed restrictions on the recruiting activities of the men's basketball staff during the years of 2014-15 through 2016-17.
    • The university imposed a one-year postseason ban for the 2015-16 men's basketball season, which prohibits the team from participating in the 2016 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament, and any other postseason competition sanctioned by the NCAA. As such, the university will not receive any revenues from the 2016 SEC or NCAA men's basketball tournaments.

    The university also said it was certain no current members of the program are implicated in the violations, which date back to 2011.

    The NCAA did not immediately release a statement on the violations and self-imposed sanctions.


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    Elsa / Getty Images

    America's cable-watching public may be less attached to ESPN than many think, according to survey results released today.

    In the survey, commissioned by BTIG research analyst Rich Greenfield, about 1,600 U.S. consumers were asked two simple questions: “If you could save $8 per month by removing ESPN and ESPN2 from your cable or satellite package, would you do it?" and "If ESPN and ESPN2 were ONLY available as a standalone service like Netflix, would you pay $20 per month to subscribe?"

    Of the responders who are cable subscribers, 56% would get rid of ESPN and ESPN2, including 49% of men. "There's this view that younger men are so dedicated to sports, but whether you look at age or sex, almost half of men would save eight bucks," Greenfield wrote.

    Only 6% of responders said they would pay $20 a month for ESPN and ESPN2 as a standalone streaming service.

    BTIG / Via btigresearch.com

    Through its distribution agreements with traditional cable providers, ESPN gets nearly $9 billion in annual revenue, Greenfield said. If 15% of the 115 million U.S. households with internet signed up for a $20/month streaming package, ESPN would bring in just over $4 billion in revenue.

    "A DTC [direct to consumer] model would leave Disney/ESPN with far less subscription revenue, a smaller base of subscribers to advertise to (reducing ad revenue), at the same time when they would need to invest in technology to support over-the-top video streaming," Greenfield wrote.

    "The math for a direct-to-consumer offering for a basic cable network does not work, especially for channel(s) with very high monthly fees." In 2014, Disney had $21.2 billion in revenues from its TV networks, which includes the company's cable channels.

    ESPN has already suffered a decline in cable subscriptions, shedding over 3 million households according to data from Nielsen. While it is available in some alternative, "skinny" bundles of channels, like Dish's Sling TV, it will not necessarily be available in all of them. Verizon's Custom TV service, which allows customers to pick channel packs, was the subject of a lawsuit from Disney that claimed it violated agreements.

    In a conference call with analysts in November, Disney chief executive Bob Iger said some desertion of cable subscriptions was due to “economic factors,” along with “young people...not signing up as quickly as they once did.”

    BTIG

    "At some point the subscriber numbers fall far enough you start to get people to launch direct to consumer or smaller bundles," Greenfield said. "I wouldn’t be surprised if this year you’ll see bundles without ESPN."


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    Cast your mind back to 1996. The year of the Spice Girls, Independence Day, and Liverpool wearing ~that suit~ to the cup final.


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    Rodgers threw the pass just as the Cardinals were about to win Saturday night. The pass forced the game into overtime, and the Cardinals were ultimately victorious.

    And all the way in the end zone, Jeff Janis caught the pass. The Cardinals had been on the verge of winning, but the pass pushed the game into overtime. Here's the pass again:

    vine.co


    View Entire List ›


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    With GIFs.

    I’m John Templon, an investigative data reporter for BuzzFeed News. I spent the past 15 months analyzing tennis betting data to see if I could figure out whether players were fixing matches.

    I’m John Templon, an investigative data reporter for BuzzFeed News. I spent the past 15 months analyzing tennis betting data to see if I could figure out whether players were fixing matches.

    (You can read that full story here.)

    Jared Harrell / BuzzFeed News

    I don’t play tennis. I’m a numbers guy. And my first inkling that something was amiss in the world of the "gentleman’s game” came from a statistics journal.

    I don’t play tennis. I’m a numbers guy. And my first inkling that something was amiss in the world of the "gentleman’s game” came from a statistics journal.

    A professor of sport management at Florida State teamed up with a professional tennis gambler, and they published a study estimating that professional tennis players likely "manipulated or outright fixed" 23 first-round matches in professional tournaments every year. That's about 1%. But the report did not look at individual players. And they only looked at matches between 2011 and 2013. So….

    Jared Harrell / BuzzFeed News


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  • 01/17/16--13:58: The Tennis Racket
  • Secret files exposing evidence of widespread match-fixing by players at the upper level of world tennis can today be revealed by BuzzFeed News and the BBC.

    The sport's governing bodies have been warned repeatedly about a core group of 16 players – all of whom have ranked in the top 50 – but none have faced any sanctions and more than half of them will begin playing at the Australian Open on Monday.

    It has been seven years since world tennis authorities were first handed compelling evidence about a network of players suspected of fixing matches at major tournaments including Wimbledon following a landmark investigation, but all of them have been allowed to continue playing.

    The investigation into men’s tennis by BuzzFeed News and the BBC is based on a cache of leaked documents from inside the sport – the Fixing Files – as well as an original analysis of the betting activity on 26,000 matches and interviews across three continents with gambling and match-fixing experts, tennis officials, and players.

    The files contain detailed evidence of suspected match-fixing orchestrated by gambling syndicates in Russia and Italy, which was uncovered in the landmark 2008 probe, and which authorities subsequently shelved. “They could have got rid of a network of players that would have almost completely cleared the sport up,” said Mark Phillips, one of the investigators. “We gave them everything tied up with a nice pink bow on top and they took no action at all.”

    BuzzFeed News began its investigation after devising an algorithm to analyse gambling on professional tennis matches over the past seven years. It identified 15 players who regularly lost matches in which heavily lopsided betting appeared to substantially shift the odds – a red flag for possible match-fixing.

    Four players showed particularly unusual patterns, losing almost all of these red-flag matches. Given the bookmakers’ initial odds, the chances that the players would perform that badly were less than 1 in 1,000. (Read more about the analysis here.)

    Tennis is the latest sport to be caught up in allegations of corruption following the scandals that have engulfed world football and athletics.

    It can today be revealed:

    • Winners of singles and doubles titles at Grand Slam tournaments are among the core group of 16 players who have repeatedly been reported for losing games when highly suspicious bets have been placed against them.

    • One top-50 player competing in the Australian Open is suspected of repeatedly fixing his first set.

    • Players are being targeted in hotel rooms at major tournaments and offered $50,000 or more per fix by corrupt gamblers.

    • Gambling syndicates in Russia and Italy have made hundreds of thousands of pounds placing highly suspicious bets on scores of matches – including at Wimbledon and the French Open.

    • The names of more than 70 players appear on nine leaked lists of suspected fixers who have been flagged up to the tennis authorities over the past decade without being sanctioned.

    Nigel Willerton, who leads the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) set up to enforce fair play following the 2008 investigation, acknowledged that authorities had drawn a line under the evidence uncovered in the 2008 probe. The leaked files show that investigators implicated 28 players in suspected fixing and urged that they face a full disciplinary investigation. But Willerton said that tennis authorities took no action against them.

    Martin Vassallo Arguello ,right, of Argentina returns the ball to Nikolay Davydenko of Russia during the Orange Prokom Open ATP tennis tournament in Sopot, northern Poland, , Thursday, Aug. 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

    Czarek Sokolowski / ASSOCIATED PRESS

    He said the evidence was shelved because lawyers had advised that a new integrity code introduced in the wake of the investigation could not be enforced retrospectively. “As a result,” he said, “no new investigations into any of the players who were mentioned in the 2008 report were opened.”

    Match-fixing has been explicitly outlawed by every previous version of the rules enforced by the game’s governing bodies. Moreover, since the new code took effect, tennis authorities have been warned that at least nine of the players who escaped further investigation have continued to play in suspicious matches.

    Willerton insisted that the sport takes “a zero-tolerance approach to all aspects of betting-related corruption” and that “all credible information received by the TIU is analysed, assessed, and investigated by highly experienced former law-enforcement investigators.” And he pointed out that the Tennis Integrity Unit has disciplined 13 male players (all low-ranking) for fixing and banned five for life even though, Willerton said, prosecuting corruption cases is “notoriously difficult”.

    “I can assure you that tennis is not treating this lightly,” said Chris Kermode, the president of the Association of Tennis Professionals, which governs the men’s game, last night. “The idea that tennis is not acting appropriately is ludicrous.”

    But, as the 2016 Grand Slam season begins on Monday with the Australian Open, former integrity chiefs from within world tennis are breaking ranks to accuse the sport of failing to stamp out match-fixing.

    Among them is Ben Gunn, the former police chief who led the review that recommended the formation of the integrity unit after the 2008 probe. He said the authorities had missed a “perfect opportunity” to clean up the sport and instead created a feeble and understaffed integrity unit that ignored key betting evidence. “What they did is a plastic solution which was not effective then and it’s not effective now,” he said.

    Richard Ings, the former executive vice president for rules and competition at the Association of Tennis Professionals, said that match-fixing was a “regular thing” in the sport. He said the integrity unit’s response to the problem has been “very disappointing” and it is “far too secretive”.

    The 2008 probe was triggered by a notorious match between the world number four, Nikolay Davydenko, a Russian, and the Argentine player Martin Vassallo Arguello, which attracted millions of pounds’ worth of highly suspicious betting triggered by accounts in Moscow.

    The tennis authorities announced at the end of the investigation that they had found no evidence of rule-breaking by Vassallo Arguello or Davydenko. But the files reveal that Vassallo Arguello had exchanged 82 text messages at a previous tournament with the suspected ringleader of an Italian gambling syndicate that made hundreds of thousands of pounds betting on his other matches. Inquiries into the Russian gamblers who placed suspicious bets on Davydenko stalled when one threatened violence. These Italian and Russian gambling syndicates and another in Sicily were found to have placed suspicious bets on 72 matches involving the 28 players that the investigators flagged to the authorities.

    Weeks after tennis authorities were handed the evidence, Bill Babcock, the head of the International Tennis Federation’s Grand Slam committee, declared that tennis was “healthy” and there was no corruption inside the sport. But the Fixing Files show that allegations of widespread corruption have continued to pour into the integrity unit in the years since.

    The whistleblowers from inside world tennis who handed over the Fixing Files have asked to remain anonymous. But Phillips and two other investigators who conducted the probe said the evidence they found was “as strong as any evidence we’ve had” and the authorities “did nothing”.

    In all, more than 20 gambling industry officials, international police detectives, and sports integrity experts told BuzzFeed News that world tennis is failing to confront a serious problem with match-fixing. BuzzFeed News and the BBC have chosen not to name the players whose matches have repeatedly been flagged for attracting highly suspicious betting, because without access to phone, bank, or computer records it is not possible to prove a link between the players and the gamblers. The integrity unit has the power to demand all that evidence from any tennis professional, yet many of the individuals whose activity attracted the most serious concern are still playing at a high level. Meanwhile, tennis has grown to a multibillion-dollar global phenomenon.

    Today the secret evidence of corruption at the heart of the "gentlemen's game" can be laid bare for the first time.

    In pristine whites, Nikolay Davydenko looked in typically commanding form as he stepped out onto the clay court in Sopot, Poland, to defend his title as reigning champion of the Orange Prokom tournament. It ought to have been an easy victory: Davydenko was the world’s fourth-best tennis player, while his Argentine opponent, Martin Vassallo Arguello, languished far below him at number 87 in the rankings.

    The wiry Russian played all his usual penetrating groundstrokes to win the first set and swiftly broke his opponent’s serve in the second. To the fans enjoying Polish kabanos sausages in the stands, play seemed to be progressing exactly as anyone would have expected.

    But before the first ball had even been struck at the match on 2 August 2007, warning lights had begun flashing on the monitoring systems at the Betfair gambling exchange in London. Hundreds of thousands of pounds had begun flooding into the market that morning, backing Vassallo Arguello to win. By any objective measure Davydenko was the near-certain victor, but the amount of money stacking up against him was so significant that the odds had tipped to make his opponent the favourite to win.

    Even after play began and Davydenko went a set and a break up, still greater sums of money continued crashing in against him. In total, £3.6 million was wagered on the game – more than 10 times the usual volume of cash for a tournament at that level – and much of the money being bet against the Russian was coming in from nine linked accounts registered to users in Moscow. Everything in the rankings and the way play was progressing on court pointed towards a resounding victory for Davydenko, and yet the Russian account holders seemed sure he would lose. What did they know that the bookmakers didn’t?

    Matt Chase for BuzzFeed News

    Alarmed, the head of Betfair’s anti-corruption team in London picked up the phone to Gayle Bradshaw, the executive vice president of the Association of Tennis Professionals, to tell him something deeply suspicious was happening in Sopot. From the ATP’s office in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, Bradshaw got straight on the phone to the tournament supervisor in Poland, who rushed down to the courtside to watch the rest of the match. No sooner had he arrived than the contest took a dramatic turn.

    Davydenko suddenly began hobbling. He repeatedly requested medical time-outs, complaining of pain in his ankle and then his toe, and he lost the second set to Vassallo Arguello. Three games into the third set, he threw in the towel and announced he was forfeiting the game due to injury.

    Immediately after he walked off court, Betfair suspended the market and later announced – for the first time in its history – that all bets placed on the game were void. The market, it said in a statement, “quite clearly wasn’t fair”. It promised to turn over all its betting records to the tennis authorities.

    The move caused a global sensation, and Davydenko was engulfed by the first major match-fixing scandal to hit world tennis. From the outset, the Russian insisted he was innocent. “I don’t know how to throw a match,” he told reporters. “I know that if you are in pain and can’t play on, you withdraw.” But the game had been shaken to the core, and the ATP announced it would conduct a full investigation.

    Czarek Sokolowski / ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Betfair and other bookmakers had been warning the ATP of the threat of gambling corruption in tennis for several years before the situation came to a head in Sopot. “This was something that we had been watching build,” recalled Betfair's co-founder Mark Davies.

    Bosses at the betting exchange felt they had to protect honest bettors who could lose huge sums of money if corrupt gamblers were rigging the market. Crisis talks were convened in London.

    Six or seven players, including Davydenko and Vassallo Arguello, had repeatedly attracted suspicious betting activity, Davies recalled, and the management committee decided to take a drastic step: They would suspend all bets on those players.

    The ATP’s own Richard Ings, who served as the association’s executive vice president for rules and competition until 2005, had compiled a list of 20 players who had been implicated in suspicious matches flagged by bookmakers – including both Davydenko and Vassallo Arguello. “There were consistently matches across the depth and breadth of men’s pro tennis with extremely suspicious shifts in betting odds,” Ings told BuzzFeed News and the BBC. “What became very clear is that, whilst there were lots of matches with suspicious betting patterns, you tended to see the names of the same players cropping up again and again.”

    Players were widely rumoured to be “tanking” – deliberately forfeiting matches by not giving their best efforts – when they were tired or carrying minor injuries and wanted to preserve their energy for more important tournaments. Sometimes, it was said, players would carve up the spoils of victory: One would deliberately lose but get to keep the prize money, while the other would win and bag the coveted ranking points. Now, however, the ballooning phenomenon of online gambling meant billions of pounds were being bet each year on tennis, and a tip about a player’s intention to tank a match could yield vast winnings. Prize money at lesser tournaments can be paltry, and a year on the tennis tour can set a player back more than £100,000, making it tempting to cash in on the occasional fix.


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    Professional tennis has stabbed you in the heart. What can you love now?

    Roger Federer's elegant forelock

    Roger Federer's elegant forelock

    Whatever happens in the coming weeks, Roger's forelock is still graceful and pure. This perfect, boyish swish of hair will never rip out our hearts, throw them in the dirty, spit on them, and stamp them into a mushy, muddy, bloody, reeking wreck.

    Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

    Croquet

    Croquet

    Let's face it, no one's gonna bother match-fixing croquet any time soon. Tennis was your wild and exciting lover – but you can trust croquet. You can settle down with croquet, raise a few kids, and have someone to talk to when you're old.

    Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

    JR P


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    As the Australian Open gets underway in Melbourne, authorities have denied they suppressed evidence of corruption at the game’s top levels.

    As the Australian Open gets underway in Melbourne on Monday, tennis officials have denied the future of the game is under a cloud after a BuzzFeed News/BBC investigation revealed allegations of widespread match-fixing at the top of the men's game.

    As the Australian Open gets underway in Melbourne on Monday, tennis officials have denied the future of the game is under a cloud after a BuzzFeed News/BBC investigation revealed allegations of widespread match-fixing at the top of the men's game.

    Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

    With big name players including world number one Serena Williams on court for day one of the open, ATP Executive Chairman Chris Kermode fronted a press conference at 12.20pm (AEDT) denying claims tennis's governing bodies had sat on evidence of match fixing.

    "The Tennis Integrity Unit [TIU] and the tennis authorities absolutely reject any suggestion that evidence of match-fixing has been suppressed for any reason or hasn't been properly investigated," he said.

    The BuzzFeed News / BBC investigation reveals former singles and doubles grand slam champions, and at least one top 50 player who is competing at this year's Australian Open, have repeatedly been reported for losing games when highly suspicious bets have been placed against them.

    Kermode said there was insufficient evidence to pursue specific claims cited in the investigation, but denied this constituted suppressing evidence.

    "All professional players, support staff and officials are subject to the anti-corruption program," he said. "It's about obtaining evidence. You can have lots of information, lots of anecdotal reports but they can't be used. Everything that is reported to the TIU is acted upon and investigated. It doesn't just filter out."

    "[Since the TIU's inception in 2008] tennis anti-corruption investigations have resulted in eighteen convictions, of which six have had life bans."

    "All of us here in tennis are absolutely committed to stamping out corruption. There is a zero-tolerance policy on this and we are not complacent."

    The players whose names appear in the "Fixing Files" include former singles and doubles grand slam champions, and at least one top 50 player who is competing at this year's Australian Open.

    The players whose names appear in the "Fixing Files" include former singles and doubles grand slam champions, and at least one top 50 player who is competing at this year's Australian Open.

    ATP chairman Chris Kermode. Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

    In response to questions about whether any players on tour are currently under investigation Nigel Willerton, the head of the TIU, said "It would be unprofessional for me to make comment as to whether any players are under investigation at present."

    "We are confident that the Tennis Integrity Unit is doing what it can, and tackles this issue very, very seriously. So I think it will be seen that tennis is in a very, very good place and we are acting accordingly," Kermode said.

    The ATP Chairman expressed his full confidence in the TIU's ability to root out corruption in the game.

    "There is a zero tolerance policy on this [match fixing]. We are not complacent, we are very vigilant on this, and whilst we are aware that all sport, not just tennis, is at potential risk of corruption. That is why in 2008 the Tennis Integrity Unit was set up to actually tackle this head-on and we are constantly vigilant and not come play sent."

    Willerton also stated that players and officials are subject to stringent guildlines under tennis's anti-corruption programs, and pledged that anyone found to be engaging in match-fixing would be punished to the fullest extent possible.

    "We can demand their phones and laptops. Obviously they have to consent to give them, and if they don't then consent, that's called 'non-cooperation' and they can be reported and then sanctioned," he said.

    "There was a case recently where a player was sanctioned and given a two year suspension. I am confident that everything that comes into TIU is actioned and assessed. But corruption is very difficult to detect and then obtain the evidence to prosecute those that go down that path."


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