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Saturday, Apr 01, 2023

Ten Chinese players face match-fixing charges

Ten Chinese players face match-fixing charges

Ten Chinese players face match-fixing charges as snooker's governing body investigates the sport's biggest corruption scandal.

The allegations include manipulating games, approaching players to cheat, betting on snooker and fixing a match.

In October, Liang Wenbo was suspended by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA).

Nine others followed, including 2021 Masters champion Yan Bingtao and UK Championship winner Zhao Xintong.

Both players were barred from competing in last week's Masters.

Players found guilty of the charges against them will face a lengthy ban from the sport.

Most of the players have not commented publicly on the allegations, although Wenbo has reportedly denied match-fixing.

An independent hearing will now be convened to consider the evidence.

There is not a separate police investigation at this stage.

"These players are from China. At some point, if found guilty, they will return to their home country and it is still possible that criminal prosecution could take place outside of the sport in China," WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson told BBC Sport.

He described the situation as "heartbreaking".

Shaun Murphy, the 2005 world champion, said it would feel like a "complete betrayal" if players had cheated.

"If players are found guilty of fixing the outcomes of snooker matches, I don't think we should ever see them on the tour again," he said after beating Ali Carter 4-0 in the World Grand Prix first round in Cheltenham.

What are the charges?

Liang Wenbo - Age: 35 Ranking (Jan 2023): 56. Finalist in 2015 UK Championship

Charged with being concerned in fixing matches and approaching players to fix matches on the World Snooker Tour, seeking to obstruct the WPBSA investigation and failing to cooperate with the investigation.

Li Hang - Age: 32 Ranking: 64.

Charged with being concerned in fixing matches and approaching players to fix matches, seeking to obstruct the investigation and betting on snooker matches.

Lu Ning - Age: 29 Ranking: 46. Semi-finalist at the 2020 UK Championship.

Charged with fixing a match and being concerned in fixing matches and approaching a player to fix a match, seeking to obstruct the investigation and betting on snooker matches.

Yan Bingtao - Age: 22 Ranking: 16. First player born in year 2000 to turn professional, won 2021 Masters.

Charged with fixing matches and betting on snooker.

Zhao Xintong - Age: 25 Ranking: 9. Won 2021 UK Championship and 2022 German Masters.

Charged with being concerned in fixing matches and betting on snooker.

Zhang Jiankang - Age: 24. Ranking: 82.

Charged with fixing a match, failing to report approaches for him to fix matches and betting on snooker matches.

Chen Zifan - Age: 27. Ranking: 93.

Charged with fixing matches.

Chang Bingyu - Age: 20 Ranking: 77.

Charged with fixing a match.

Zhao Jianbo - Age: 19 Ranking: Amateur.

Charged with fixing a match.

Bai Langning - Age: 20. Ranking: 126.

Charged with being concerned in fixing a match.

Charges of 'being concerned in fixing' relate to matches a player did not play in.

What happens next?

The WPBSA said it had concluded the players had a case to answer after an investigation by its integrity unit, working closely with the sports technology company Sportradar, which monitors betting.

"The players are currently suspended from attending and competing on the World Snooker Tour and in other WPBSA governed events until the conclusion of the hearing or hearings and the determination of this matter," said a statement,

"This matter will be referred to a formal hearing before an independent disciplinary tribunal that will take place at a venue and on a date to be confirmed."

Chairman Ferguson said he was confident tournaments would eventually resume in China, where they had been suspended since the Covid-19 pandemic.

"The whole process has been very upsetting and potentially life changing for people," he said.

"It's very damaging but I do think the damage is short term. We have to deliver world-class live entertainment and know the sport is clean. We will move on.

"China are standing alongside us, we are working with our partners there. They are very disappointed, but the sport is much stronger than this.

"It's a big commercial market for snooker. Despite this ongoing issue, the mood about our events is very positive. Our return to China is inevitable."


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