Top Chinese Players Snookered By Match-fixing Charges
As the so-called World Snooker Championship enters the business end of competition this week, 10 Chinese players–among them former Masters winner Yan Bingtao and 2021 UK Championship victor Zhao Xintong–have assembled before the sport’s governing body to learn their fate on alleged match-fixing charges.
More’s the pity for the China cohort once promised to add a flourish of genuine internationalism to a stylish sport that has resolutely remained parochial and pretty much confined to the British home nations give, or take, the odd Irish, Ozzie or Benelux competitor.
World Snooker Championship, dare I say it, a little like Baseball’s World Series or the Super Bowl (AKA the World Bowl of American Football), has always struck this reporter as a misnomer — even though all three disparate events remain compulsive viewing.
The alleged match-fixing by the 10 Chinese cuesmen is the biggest scandal ever to hit the sport, and undermines decades of hard work that has transformed its murky reputation for dodgy match fixes in smoke-filled backstreet snooker parlours to a clean game played in the light of Sheffield’s iconic Crucible Theatre, where the World Championship has been held since 1977.
Jason Ferguson, Chair of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), has described the situation as “heartbreaking”.
If found guilty by an independent disciplinary tribunal, the Chinese players, who were first suspended last October, are likely to receive lengthy, or even career-ending, bans.
Pure and Clean
Six players–Yan Bingtao, Lu Ning, Zhang Jiankang, Chen Zifan, Chang Bingyu and Zhao Jianbo–are charged with fixing a match or matches.
The remaining four–Liang Wenbo, Li Hang, Zhao Xintong and Bai Langning–are accused of being the principal movers, or masterminds, of match-fixing a number of World Snooker Tour events.
It is hoped that the verdict does not overshadow the result of the current World Championship, which concludes on May 1.
“It’s a heartbreaking situation for those of us who have been in this sport for a long time and have worked to make it the great sport it is,” Ferguson told a leading UK television sports channel. “That is why we are doing this.
“We have to have a pure sport which people watch, buy tickets for. We sell our rights around the world. It has to be a pure, live, competitive sport.
“We’ve been transparent all the way in this process and we will again be transparent at the end of this to give the public and the audience watching the confidence that this sport is still great.”