Given the number of different in-play betting markets that are available for snooker, it’s perhaps no surprise that it’s a target for spot fixers.
But it still takes the players to get involved for a scandal to emerge, and in the past week six Chinese youngsters have been suspended by the World Snooker Tour (WST) pending an investigation into alleged match fixing.
Among them is Yan Bingtao, the former Masters champion and current world number 16, who is the latest player to be investigated for allegedly ‘manipulating the outcome of matches for betting purposes.’
Just last week, a quintet of young Chinese stars – Chang Bingyu, Li Hang, Zhao Jianbo, Bai Langning and Lu Ning – were suspended by the WST for the same reason.
Another Chinese player, Liang Wenbo, was suspended back in October while he was investigated over alleged ‘misconduct’. He is still waiting to hear of the outcome.
Sadly, snooker has been particularly hard hit by match fixing scandals in recent years. Stephen Lee was banned for 12 years in 2013 for several breaches, four-time world champion John Higgins was embroiled in a News of the World ‘sting’ that he failed to report, and another Chinese player – Yu Delu – is currently serving a ten-year ban after being found guilty of fixing games.
An Organised Crime?
The situation has been complicated by allegations made by Chang Bingyu, who claims Liang ‘threatened’ and ‘intimidated’ him into losing a British Open game 1-4 against Jamie Jones back in September.
The 20-year-old, in a post since taken down, wrote on Chinese social media platform Weibo:
“On the morning of the start of the game, Liang Wenbo called me in a threatening tone, saying he was ‘in’ my game against Jamie Jones. I was afraid that he had bet so much money. If I didn’t agree, he would make trouble for me, so I had no choice but to agree. I was very scared.
“No matter what the reason is for the match-fixing, it is my mistake, and I will actively cooperate with the investigation. I can accept my punishment, but I was really scared at the time. I didn’t receive any money.”
Chang also claimed that an associate of Liang’s visited his home, warning him to deny any involvement in match fixing if investigators came knocking on his door – or there’d be ‘trouble’.
The matter is now in the hands of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) and a similar governing body for cue sports in China, who will now have to investigate the allegations. It is thought that most of the players under the microscope will deny any involvement.
Jason Ferguson, the head of the WPBSA, said:
“Unfortunately, this morning there was a strong decision to suspend Yan Bingtao as a result of new evidence that came to light in an ongoing enquiry, which started in October with the suspension of Liang Wenbo.
“It involves a few players and those players will remain suspended.”
If the allegations are true, this could be one of the deepest and most affecting match fixing scandals in sport for quite some time….