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Sportsbet paid Nick Kyrgios's brother $40,000 in promotional payments, raising integrity questions

ABC Grandstand logoABC Grandstand 12/02/2019

Nick Kyrgios' brother Christos © AAP Image Nick Kyrgios' brother Christos Australia's largest online gambling company, Sportsbet, paid Christos Kyrgios, the brother of tennis player Nick Kyrgios, $40,000 (NZD 59, 427.20) in 2018 to promote the betting giant, 7.30 can reveal.

The payment was made to Christos Kyrgios in the same year that he made a controversial appearance at the 2018 Australian Open, wearing two Sportsbet-branded shirts at his brother's matches.

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The new details of the payment raise questions over whether Christos Kyrgios complied with tennis integrity rules in the arrangement.

7.30 can reveal Christos Kyrgios's appearance in the shirts triggered a referral at the time from Tennis Australia to the international Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU).

Christos Kyrgios declined 7.30's interview request and he declined to respond to written questionsabout the payment and what happened to the money.

A spokeswoman for Tennis Australia said the "matter was referred to the TIU at the time and we are unable to provide any further comment".

Tennis star Nick Kyrgios © Getty Tennis star Nick Kyrgios "The TIU does not disclose information about or make detailed comment on specific individual cases, unless they result in a conviction, which is then made public," a spokesman for the TIU said.

"Therefore, while we can confirm that the TIU is aware of the matter involving Christos Kyrgios at the Australian Open in 2018, we are unable to make any further comment on the subject."

Nick Kyrgios did not respond to requests for comments, but sent a series of emojis in response to an approach from 7.30.

'A clear breach of the tennis rules'

Integrity issues have been a major problem for tennis after serious allegations of match-fixing were raised in January, 2016 and the sport has been attempting to rehabilitate its public image.

An independent review of tennis integrity rules made a series of recommendations, including that major tennis events cease accepting sponsorships from the betting industry.

The payment from Sportsbet to Christos Kyrgios does not relate to match-fixing, but raises broader questions around integrity rules, how tennis authorities enforce them and the relationship between tennis and betting companies.

The integrity rules established by the TIU, which regulates all professional players globally, prohibits players from encouraging people to wager on tennis competitions, including by making appearances for gambling operators or making personal appearances for them.

But the rules also extend to other "covered persons", which can include family members and other associates.

They state that no covered person "shall, directly or indirectly, solicit or facilitate any other person to wager on the outcome or any other aspect of any event or any other tennis competition".

Richard Ings, the former vice-president of the Association of Tennis Professionals, told 7.30 the definition of a covered person was extremely broad.

"It includes obviously the player, it includes members of the player's family, it includes members of the player's entourage: trainers and coaches and physiotherapists," Ings said.

"This particular matter is something which would fall under the jurisdiction of the Tennis Integrity Unit," he added.

Mark Phillips, a director of Global Sports Integrity, told 7.30 he believed "it was a clear breach of the tennis rules as they stand" and was surprised that there had been no action taken by the TIU.

Sportsbet says it is committed to sports integrity

The TIU has previously made findings against players and other people covered by the rules for advertising for gambling companies.

In 2018 it fined Colombian player Robert Farah $US5,000 ($7,067) for promoting a gambling website on social media. In 2010, Austrian player Daniel Koellerer and his manager, Manfred Nareyka, were disciplined for gambling advertisements on Koellerer's website.

At the time of the Sportsbet shirt incident, in January, 2018, it was reported that Tennis Australia would be speaking with Christos Kyrgios about it.

It is unknown what the outcome of those discussions were and a Tennis Australia spokeswoman declined to provide further information.

UK betting giant Paddy Power, which owns Sportsbet in Australia, has previously engaged in similar promotional arrangements. In 2012, Danish football player Nicklas Bendtner wore Paddy Power-branded underwear that he flashed during a match.

In January last year, Sportsbet told media outlets the earnings from Christos Kyrgios's promotional arrangement would be given to charity.

A Sportsbet spokesman told 7.30 that it supported the tennis integrity rules and declined to answer specific questions about the payment to Christos Kyrgios.

"Sportsbet takes its commitment to sports integrity very seriously and we have at all times adhered to our obligations with sports governing bodies," the spokesman said.

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