10 Chinese snooker players have been charged over their alleged role in match-fixing, plunging the sport into its biggest corruption scandal.
- Snooker’s board says there will be a formal hearing, followed by an independent disciplinary tribunal for the suspended players
- Two of the most prominent players have been charged with fixing games and betting on the games
- In China, snooker’s popularity has exploded over the past decade, but there have been no tournaments since the outbreak of COVID-19
An investigation by the integrity unit of the snooker board has led to some of the sport’s biggest names – including Yan Bingtao at No. 16 and Zhao Xintong at No. 9 – being accused of corrupt activities, such as games and betting on games.
The 10 Chinese players have been suspended and banned from participating in the World Snooker Tour pending the conclusion of the case, the sport’s governing body said.
There will be a formal hearing followed by an independent disciplinary tribunal.
Liang Wenbo – a former British Championship finalist – was the first player to be banned in October.
He was charged with “concerning, rigging games and reaching out to players to rig games on the World Snooker Tour, obstructing investigations and failing to cooperate with the investigations of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association”.
Nine other players were suspended over the following two months, including Yan (the 2021 Masters champion) and Zhao (the same year’s British Championship winner).
The Masters and the UK Championship are traditionally the two biggest events in the snooker program after the World Championship.
Bingtao was accused of “fixing games…and betting on snooker” while Xintong was accused of “engaging in game manipulation…and betting on snooker”.
Both were banned from participating in the Masters last week.
Other indicted players include Li Hang, Lu Ning, Zhang Jiankang, Chen Zifan, Chang Bingyu, Zhao Jianbo and Bai Langning.
“We will continue”
Snooker has grown in popularity in China over the past decade, largely thanks to the success of Ding Junhui, who won the Masters, the British Championship and was runner-up in the World.
Many Chinese players are stationed at an academy in Sheffield, England, where the World Cup is held every year.
“The whole process has been very upsetting and potentially life changing for people,” said World Snooker Chairman Jason Ferguson.
“It’s very damaging, but I think the damage is short-term. We must provide top notch live entertainment and we know the sport is clean. We will continue.”
No tournaments have been held in China since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a big commercial market for snooker,” said Mr Ferguson.
“Despite this ongoing topic, the mood at our events is very positive. Our return to China is inevitable.”