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Devoting some of the revenue from betting to helping combat online hate

Unfortunately, online bullying and hate are common in sport. Mariam Bolkvadze is a professional tennis player pleading for athletes to be offered assistance, financed by sports betting companies.


Like many of my colleagues, as a professional tennis player I have been subjected to online bullying since I was a child. Most of this abuse comes from social media, often through false accounts. Some of us read the messages and then block the accounts. Others try to avoid their “message reminders”. Inevitably, though, we all end up seeing these hateful messages at one time or another. Some of them concern our tennis, others denigrate us personally. Some are frankly intimidating: racist remarks and insults, or threats to us or our families.


A lot of this harassment seems to be linked to sports betting. Whether you win or lose, there is always someone who wanted the opposite result. I realise that there is a delicate balance here: the contracts between sporting bodies and the betting companies generate big revenues. But I have the impression that the players who take part in tournaments, with the exception of élite players, are unfairly exposed to the bullying fuelled by betting, without adequate guarantees in place. At such tournaments it is usual to be surrounded by the public with little or no security. In a sport which is so demanding both personally and financially, with a large number of young players, this situation undoubtedly leads to mental health problems and increases the risk of match fixing by inciting players to manipulate the results.


I do not know the solution to this problem. Should betting be forbidden for smaller-scale competitions? Another, less extreme solution might be to devote a substantial part of the money raised from the contracts signed with betting companies to services for the players, such as the presence of psychologists, or the adoption of schemes to combat bullying. The availability of this support is essential for all professional tennis players, not just for the top level.


At the end of December, I learnt that, from the 1st January, a group of tennis governing bodies will deploy “Threat Matrix” software to monitor players’ public-facing profiles for abusive and threatening content. The Reuters Press Agency noted that tennis players had observed “a rise in online abuse as sports betting has become more widespread, with betters who lose money on matches taking their frustrations out on the athletes”. I am glad that this matter is being taken seriously and that often the governing bodies are doing their best to represent and protect players.


This article was published in the magazine Sport and Citizenship n°57 : protecting sport integrity



Sport et citoyenneté