With the snooker world seeing a match-fixing investigation regarding ten Chinese snooker players involving former world number 11 Liang Wenbo, the world body WPBSA chairman Jason Feruson has said the world body’s a week or two away from deciding whether charges will be framed against the Chinese players or not. The latest match-fixing scandal, which was first investigated in October last year, has led to the suspensions of ten Chinese players and the snooker world has called for life-time bans for the players.
“The investigation is at a very mature stage. Nigel Mawer – our head of integrity – is leading the investigation. He is a very experienced person – and we are probably only a week or two away from understanding whether charges will be pressed or not. Mawer is ruthlessly just going through this case on a day-to-day basis. He is the best in the business in my view; he is a very experienced, senior police officer and detective and investigative officer and he is very thorough,” Ferguson told Eurosport studio while talking with hosts Radzi Chinyanganya and Alan McManus on Sunday.
Last year, the world body World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPSBA) had started an investigation looking into the allegations of manipulation of matches for betting purposes on the snooker circuit with Chinese players based in Sheffield in England being the main suspects. The investigations were started by the integrity unit of the WPBSA and the then world number 11 Liang Wenbo of China was the first player to be suspended by WPBSA over misconduct claims by the integrity unit and the last three months have seen nine more Chinese players facing suspension due to the same charged of misconduct. The subsequent months saw 2021 masters champion Yan Bingtao, Chen Zifan, Lu Ning, Li Hang, Zhao Jianbo, Bai Langning and Chang Bingyu facing suspension from the world body. Ahead of the Masters, which started this Sunday, the world body suspended Chinese players Zhao Xintong and Zhang Jiankang from attending or competing on the World Snooker Tour.
“The key thing about these suspensions and going through this case and bringing it to a close is to make sure that no stone is unturned. We must make sure that we can 100% say, ‘we have looked at everything, we have dealt with it and let’s move on’.” Ferguson further told Eurosport.
While this week’s Masters have been rocked by the match fixing saga, the world body has also stated that potential charges will be considered post the conclusion of the investigation. “The suspension will remain in place until the conclusion of the investigation or any subsequent charges that may or may not be brought. Both Zhao and Zhang have the right to appeal this decision. The WPBSA can confirm that the wider investigation is now at an advanced stage, and it is anticipated will be completed shortly at which point any potential charges will be considered,” WPBSA had said in its statement last week.
While all the suspended players have been from China, the Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association too opposed the acts by the players. “We firmly oppose game manipulation, gambling and other acts that violate sports integrity and ethics, and will make further punishments based on the final investigation results released by the WPBSA,” said the Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association in its statement.
Last week, Ferguson also spoke about assessing charges to be leies against the players. “It won’t take long to assess whether charges were levied against any of those players after the completion of the inquiry. Then we will establish an independent tribunal, which will be a properly formulated sports tribunal and it will be that tribunal which stands independently to judge this. That may take another month or so. There’s never a good time for this, but we are really pushing this process every day,” Ferguson told BBC last week.
Leading players on the tour too have criticised the actions of the players. World number 11 Shaun Murphy, who is playing in the masters, has termed the acts as a betrayal of trust. “It’s very disappointing and as a player, very upsetting. The vast majority of players want to come into the sport and leave it in a better condition than when we arrived. Any players who are found to be guilty have betrayed the trust of everyone: the players, the administrators but most importantly, the fans,” said Murphy while speaking with The Guardian.
He also talked about the scale of the match fixing scandal. “We have been eagerly waiting for Chinese tournaments to return and as soon as things begin to loosen, we have got this scandal emerging. The damage any players who are found to be guilty are doing to this sport is frightening. We won’t really know the scale of it for some time,” said Murphy.