The sport of snooker is currently the subject of its largest-ever investigation into corruption as it gets ready to host one of its most prestigious tournaments.
As part of the investigation into match fixing, ten Chinese players have been suspended, two of whom were scheduled to compete in the Masters, which begins on Sunday.
In the coming weeks, a decision regarding whether charges will be filed is anticipated.
How did we get here, then? What takes place next? What implications does it have for the sport?
What is the focus of the investigation?
“Alliances of manipulating the outcome of matches for betting purposes” are the subject of an investigation.
The integrity division of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) initiated it last year.
Snooker betting is monitored worldwide by the sport, and the betting industry notifies the sport of any suspicious activity.
Liang Wenbo was the first player to be suspended as part of the WPBSA investigation in October 2022 for unspecified allegations of misconduct. Nine other players have since been suspended.
Despite the fact that Wenbo has reportedly denied match-fixing, the majority of the players, some of whom were based in Sheffield, have not made any public statements regarding the allegations.
What takes place next?
Although the situation is fluid, the investigation is described as being at “an advanced stage” and no further suspensions are anticipated.
It is necessary to make a decision regarding whether to file charges against any or all of the players.
An independent panel, led by a King’s Council (KC) member, will hear the cases if there are charges.
Players will be able to appeal the panel’s decisions and any resulting sanctions.
Two suspended top-16 players will miss the Masters in the interim: former champion Yan Bingtao has been replaced by David Gilbert, and Zhao Xintong, who won the UK Championship in 2021, has been replaced by Hossein Vafaei.
Murphy argues that cheating should be outlawed forever.
Shaun Murphy, a former world champion, suggested that cheats should be banned for life when discussing match-fixing generally.
He stated to BBC Sport, “Those players have no place in the game of snooker if players are found guilty of fixing the outcomes of matches.”
“You would never see cheats again if it were up to me. People behind match-fixers will always see an opportunity to exploit the game if there is no threat of never playing again.
“I don’t see this problem going away without the threat of a lifetime ban.”
The maximum penalty in snooker rules is a life ban, but it’s hard to enforce.
Jason Ferguson, chairman of the WPBSA, has stated that he thinks such punishments could be challenged in court.
It is anticipated that they would also reduce the likelihood of individuals confessing to crimes or providing
Exist any precedents?
significant investigation into match-fixing, China’s Yu Delu was disqualified from snooker for ten years and nine months in 2018.
Cao Yupeng, a fellow Chinese, pleaded guilty to fixing as well. He was banned for six years, but three and a half of those years were suspended.
In that particular instance, 38 betting accounts made use of sophisticated computer software in an effort to stake a total of £250,000 on the outcome of a Cao match in a single second.
After alarm bells went off with Asian-based bookmakers whose own computer programs raised suspicions, the attempted coup, which had the potential to generate a profit of £1 million, was unsuccessful.
This isn’t just a problem for Chinese players. In 2013, Englishman Stephen Lee, the former world number five, was found guilty of seven charges of match fixing and banned for 12 years.
Lee, who has always denied the offenses, could return in October of next year when his ban ends, but he would have to pay back £125,000 in unpaid legal fees when he was 50.
Snooker officials insist that anyone who attempts to manipulate matches, even one, will be caught and could lose their career. Sport must be clean and fair.
Murphy, the world champion in 2005, stated, “It’s obviously a very, very bad situation.” The WPBSA’s swift action in attempting to preserve the sport’s integrity seems to be the only positive aspect of this situation.
Officials believe that taking a “zero-tolerance” approach serves as a warning to players, despite the fact that allegations of corruption raise questions about the integrity of snooker.
“Obviously it’s not a great look, but let’s not put that in the way of this great sport that goes all over the world,” Ferguson told BBC Essex last month when Bingtao was suspended as he prepared to play in the English Open. Bingtao was scheduled to play in the tournament.
99.99% of the time, the sport is played with the best of intentions.
“Every sport has individuals working behind the scenes to corrupt live sports worldwide, every day of the week. There have been issues in every sport, including tennis, football, and cricket.
“We will deal with it, and we will make it public. Naturally, it is a concern, and it is our duty to ensure that it is fair and clean.”
Snooker has also taken steps to assist lower-level players who may be experiencing financial difficulties and thus may be susceptible to fixing.
In October, the World Snooker Tour’s advanced prize money scheme was implemented, ensuring that each of the 130 professional players will earn at least £20,000 for the 2022-23 season.
What does the future hold?
It will be necessary to reassure commercial backers that corruption is being eradicated.
Mark Selby, a four-time world champion, stated, “It’s not good – especially for sponsors, looking ahead into the future, wanting to get the big sponsors involved in the game.” World Snooker, on the other hand, is doing everything right.”
Players, on the other hand, reportedly expressed concern that the investigation might have an impact on the resumption of international tournaments in China.
He stated, “The concern for us as a body of players is what effect this is having on re-establishing our events in China, which have been postponed since the Covid pandemic began three years ago.” These events had been postponed since the Covid pandemic began.
“Those events, which account for about a third of our income, are all we want.”
Ferguson is hopeful that events can resume in China, where the country recently announced that the travel quarantine would end in January as part of a relaxation of their stringent Covid restrictions.
“We were buoyed by the thoughts that the events in China would recommence,” Murphy added, “following the success of the Hong Kong Masters event in the summer, including a record crowd of 9,500.”
“Nobody can measure the damage that the suspensions are doing to snooker all over the world, and especially in China, where it isn’t helping,” the author asserts.
Who are the ten contestants?
Age: Liang Wenbo 35 Position (January 2023): 56. Winner of the 2015 English Open and a finalist in the UK Championship in 2015. Prior to the current suspension, was banned for four months in April 2022 for domestic assault.
Age: Lu Ning 29 Position: 46. Winner of the Championship League last year and a semi-finalist at the 2020 UK Championship.
Age: Li Hang 32 Position: 64. reached the semi-finals of the 2017 China Championship and the 2013 Scottish Open.
Zhao Jianbo, 19 years old: Amateur with the highest ranking who did not earn a Tour card at Q School in 2022.
Age: Bai Langning 20. Ranking: 126. stayed on the professional tour by passing through Q School in 2022.
Age: Chang Bingyu 20 Position: 77. reached the UK Championship’s last 32 in 2020.
Age: Yan Bingtao 22 Position: 16. Considered to be one of the game’s brightest prospects, the first player born in 2000 to become a professional. Finished in the quarterfinals of the World Championship in 2022 and won the Riga Masters in 2019 and 2021.
Age: Chen Zifan 27. Ranking: 93. made it to the Riga Masters’ last 16 in 2019
Age: Zhao Xintong 25 Position: 9. won the UK Championship in 2021 and the German Masters in 2022.
Age: Zhang Jiankang 24. Ranking: 82. In 2021, reached the British Open quarterfinals.
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