PtG Article 04.05.2010

John Higgins suspended over snooker match-fixing allegations

The world's number one snooker player, John Higgins, has been suspended by snooker's world governing body following allegations that he and his manager Pat Mooney agreed to accept money to influence the outcome of matches.

Higgins and his manager, Pat Mooney, were filmed by the News of the World newspaper allegedly agreeing to accept €300,000 (£261,000) in return for arranging the outcome of four frames in matches to be played later this year. The deal was allegedly made at a meeting with the paper's undercover reporters in Kiev.Higgins' conscience is clearIn spite of his suspension, Higgins states that his conscience is 100 % clear. Both he and Mooney claims that they went along with the plan because they feared for their lives. "In all honesty I became very worried at the way the conversation developed in Kiev," said Higgins. "When it was suggested that I throw frames in return for large sums of money, I was really spooked. I just wanted to get out of the hotel and on to the plane home."I didn't know if this was the Russian mafia or who we were dealing with. At that stage I felt the best course of action was just to play along with these guys and get out of Russia [sic]. Those who know me are aware of my love for snooker and that I would never do anything to damage the integrity of the sport I love" Higgins argued. Suspended pending WPBSA enquiryIn a statement, World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association chairman Barry Hearn announced: "Pat Mooney has resigned from the WPBSA Board and his resignation has been accepted, with immediate effect. John Higgins has been suspended from future WPBSA tournaments, pending an immediate enquiry"."There is a process to follow in accordance with WPBSA rules, this process has been initiated. This matter has brought the very fabric of the game into question and the strongest possible message needs to be sent out that this behaviour has no part to play in our game and will not be tolerated. Any wrong doing will be severely dealt with."

WPBSA Chairman Hearn devastated 

Higgins was one of a handful of top players seen as central to plans recently unveiled by WPBSA chairman Hearn, to revive a sport that has suffered a decline in popularity among television viewers and sponsors in recent years.Hearn told talkSPORT: "I don't think I've ever felt so let down or kicked. We're working so hard on revitalising the game and there are lots of people pulling in the right direction” Hearn stated, and continued: "We wanted the headlines to be about Steve Davis' revitalisation, Stephen Hendry's recovery...but all we're talking about is the News of the World expose on John Higgins and his manager, which has left me feeling devastated."”I’m not prepared to see the sport die under this type of publicity. We can't afford, nor will I tolerate, anybody or anything that adversely affects the integrity of the game. I take this matter terribly seriously. That's why there's a disciplinary process” Hearn said.There is no suggestion Higgins has been involved in fixing matches which have already been played. In a statement read out on the BBC before its live coverage of the world snooker final Higgins insisted he had "never deliberately missed a shot, never mind intentionally lost a frame or a match" and said his conscience was "100% clear".The explosion in the number and type of bets on offer on sporting events as a result of the expansion of online betting, together with the expansion of the vast illegal gambling market in the far east, has led some in sport to claim the threat from match-fixing is now greater than that from doping, writes The Guardian.

Snooker is seen as particularly at risk because of the vast number of matches around the world and the difficulty in telling whether a player has deliberately lost a frame.