Phil Haigh ✍️
Any player found guilty of match-fixing should be ‘gone forever’ from snooker, believes Dave Gilbert, as an investigation into the issue continues.
10 players are currently suspended from World Snooker Tour events, with top 16 pair Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao the highest profile of those currently barred from tournaments due to the probe into ‘manipulating the outcome of matches for betting purposes’.
No charges have yet been made and some of those suspended may not be accused of actually fixing matches, but there are calls for the sternest of punishments for anyone who has fixed a result.
Former world champion Shaun Murphy made his feelings clear last month, calling for lifetime bans for anyone found to have fixed matches.
‘I think anyone guilty of match-fixing, their existence in the snooker world should be over,’ Murphy told Eurosport.
‘And if any of those players are found guilty, I hope we never see them again.’
Gilbert, who is playing in the Masters after taking Yan’s place in the draw, echoes Murphy’s thoughts, explaining that he would never want to be around a player who has fixed matches again.
‘I totally agree with what Shaun Murphy said. 1000 per cent,’ Gilbert told Metro.co.uk. ‘I don’t want to comment much because we don’t know, we’re all speculating, guessing. But my thing is, if you’ve put money on yourself to lose a frame or matches, you’re gone forever.
‘I don’t ever want to see you in the practice room, the players’ room or sat opposite playing me. I don’t want to look at you, I don’t want to shake your hand, I don’t want to wish you well if you beat me.
‘I want nothing to do with you. If you’re proven to have done that, I don’t want you near me.’
WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson has explained that lifetime bans are unlikely as they are difficult to enforce legally.
He has also suggested that there will be a range of punishments based on whether anyone involved in match-fixing was organising the fix or being coerced to engineer a result.
‘Life time bans do not stand up in law, quite frankly,’ Ferguson told Metro.co.uk. ‘I get Shaun’s statement and I understand why he’s so passionate about it, because I feel very strongly about it as well, especially as a former player. Every ball you pot must mean something. But we do know from legal advice that lifetime bans do not stack up in court. It’s completely challengeable.
‘We have in our rules that players may receive up to a lifetime ban, if found guilty of match-fixing or manipulating results, but there has to be a range. If you take, for example, a player who’s a serial match-fixer and just keeps doing it, that’s at the high level. But if you’ve got some young kid with a gun to his head or a gun to their family’s head and they’ve crossed the line once, is that the same as a serial fixer? These are the things that any responsible tribunal will take into account.’
The Masters, one of snooker’s standout events, begins on Sunday under something of a cloud as the investigation rumbles on.
Gilbert takes on Mark Williams after replacing Yan in the draw, while Hossein Vafaei has taken Zhao’s spot and will play Mark Selby on Sunday evening.
Two-time Masters finalist acknowledges that the match-fixing scandal is a dark time for snooker, but has backed the vast majority of players as honest professionals and says the sport will endure the controversy.
‘As dark as this time has been with all these suspensions, the game is too much loved by the people, by the supporters,’ Doherty told the Talking Snooker podcast. ‘They know in every game there is always going to be a bad element here and there, but the most important thing is the game will always survive because it’s a great sport.
‘It’s a wonderful sport and the guys, mostly, play it because they love it and play it with the greatest integrity.
‘By and large they’re good sportsman, the game is a great sport and it’s loved by the people. That will be shown at the Masters, other events and the Crucible.
‘The game will always survive.’
On the Masters, he added: ‘We’ve got so many great matches to look forward to from the first round. It looks like it’s going to be completely sold out from day one. It’s just going to be brilliant, I can’t wait for it now.’
Zhao Xintong, Zhang Jiankang, Yan Bingtao, Chen Zifan, Liang Wenbo, Lu Ning, Li Hang, Zhao Jianbo, Bai Langning, Chang Bingyu
With all 10 players suspended being Chinese it is concerning news for the sport as snooker hopes to return to China this year for tournaments which have not been held since 2019 due to Covid.
With a string of the country’s best players suspended, there is understandable worry that those events are less likely to re-emerge.
‘This could do some real damage to the sport and have a knock-on effect to the reinsertion into China,’ Murphy told The Guardian. ‘We’ve been eagerly waiting for Chinese tournaments to return and as soon as things begin to loosen we’ve got this scandal emerging.
‘The damage any players who are found guilty are doing to this sport is frightening. We won’t really know the scale of it for some time.’
Ferguson said on the matter: ‘It’s obviously big news in China, it’s hit the headlines but likewise there’s a respect for the way we’re dealing with it. It’s a concern, but I think the authorities there can see we’re a very responsible sport and that’s what will carry us through on this.’
For more stories like this, check our sport page.
This post appeared first on Snooker – Metro.