Should Stephen Lee be “forgiven”?

I’m not sure where this came from, nor who is behind this and why, but a petition is out to get Stephen Lee back playing professionally , and it was relayed on news feeds I follow.

This is the article by Nigel Slate 

Petition calls for banned Stephen Lee to return to professional snooker

Hundreds of snooker fans have backed an online petition calling for the return of banned snooker star Stephen Lee.

The former world ranking event winner has not played professional snooker since 2013 when he was given a 12-year ban by the sport’s governing body after he was found guilty of match fixing a number of high profile games.

Lee’s suspension will be complete on October 12, 2024 – the date of his 50th birthday. However, given his age it would be fair to say it is unlikely he will make a snooker comeback at that time.

A World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) tribunal concluded that Lee deliberately lost matches against Ken Doherty and Marco Fu at the 2008 Malta Cup and agreed to lose the first frame against both Stephen Hendry and Mark King at the 2008 UK Championship.

He also lost matches by a pre-determined score to Neil Robertson at the 2008 Malta Cup and to Mark Selby at the 2009 China Open.

Lee, who won five ranking events, denied the allegations. No criminal proceedings were taken against Lee.

But now a petition has been set up on the change.org website calling on World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn to reinstate him as a professional player or at least to give him a chance of returning to the main tour.

The petition, written by Jon Roberts, has a total of 783 supporters and calls on World Snooker to show Lee some “forgiveness”.

It reads: “The intention of this petition is to ask Barry Hearn and World Snooker to consider bringing an end to the suspension on Lee and allow him to return to the non-professional or professional game. In doing so, a great talent can be given a chance to redeem himself and add something to the beautiful game he has committed his life to promoting.

“With his huge natural talent, phenomenal cue power and potting ability, he can add massive value to the brand of worldwide snooker.

“World Snooker should show that forgiveness is possible, and use his reinstatement to enable him to become an ambassador for fair play in our beautiful game.

“Come on World Snooker, do the right thing! Bring back Stephen Lee!”

There is no doubt that Stephen Lee is/was hugely talented and a joy to watch when on form. But should that really be an argument to “reinstantiate” him in our sport? I don’t think so. That would mean that “lesser” players should be treated more harsly than hugely talented players just because they weren’t blessed with similar natural gifs. That would be plain unfair.

The text on the Change.org website states that John Higgins got a much more lenient treatment for a similar offense. That isn’t actually the case: John Higgins was filmed apparently accepting to fix matches, but the matches were never played and therefore there is no certainty that John Higgins would have fixed those matches if he had been faced with the actual situation. Stephen Lee did actually fix matches, and more than once.

Also it wasn’t Stephen only “dishonest” behaviour.

He was also guilty of fraud

Lee sold cue to a fan in Hong Kong but never sent it
Former world No5 fined £1,815 after pleading guilty

Stephen Lee, the disgraced snooker player, has been fined for the fraudulent sale of his cue. The Trowbridge-based former player agreed on Facebook to sell his John Parris Ultimate for £1,600 to Marco Fai Pak Shek, a fan in Hong Kong.

But despite Shek paying the money into the bank account of Lee’s wife, the cue never arrived – and the 39-year-old Lee continued to use it.

Lee said he had always meant to send the cue but was distracted after becoming “embroiled in a number of difficulties” relating to his professional life, Swindon magistrates court heard.

This month Lee was ordered to pay £125,000 in costs after failing in his appeal to overturn a 12-year ban from snooker for match-fixing. The five-time ranking tournament winner and former world No5 was handed the ban after a 2013 tribunal found him guilty of fixing seven games in 2008-09.

Magistrates ordered Lee to pay £1,815 after he entered a guilty plea to the charge of fraud by false representation between 1 July 2013 and 21 January this year.

John Fryer, chairman of the bench, told Lee the fine would be deducted from the £133 he receives in benefits each fortnight. “In arriving at our sentence at this matter we have taken into account a number of things – your previous good character, you have not appeared before the courts before, and we have given you credit for your early guilty plea,” Fryer said. “We also note that you are on benefits and your income is significantly lower.”

Lee was fined £110 for the offence and told to pay Shek £1,600 in compensation, along with £85 prosecution costs and a £20 victim surcharge.

When asked if he could pay the £1,815 fine immediately, Lee replied: “I can’t pay that today, no.”

Fryer made a collection order for the amount, telling Lee: “If the payments stop, someone will be knocking on your door.”

He also got in trouble in Hong Kong as reported by the BBC

Stephen Lee: Banned snooker player avoids prison in Hong Kong

8 June 2018

Stephen Lee has four children, so, obviously, they are innocents who were made to suffer because of that ban. So, should Lee be given another chance?

Well, personally, I’m not sure. Stephen Lee was a top player, he was making a very decent living out of his sport. He was apparently debts ridden, but that was because, himself and his wife were trying to sustain a lifestyle that was above what they actually could afford, despite very comfortable incomes. There were also rumours about addictions. Whether those rumours were true or not, I’m not entirely sure. I am however inclined to believe them going by what I have observed myself, but maybe Stephen was suffering from some medical condition that would explain what I have seen.

For me, the core question is “Was it a mistake or a crime”? By mistake, I mean a behaviour, a decision, that wasn’t right but wasn’t fully assessed as being wrong, or taken under difficult circumstances that weren’t (entirely) the result of the “offender’s” behaviour and were obscuring their judgement. By “crime” – not necessarily a crime in law – I mean an action that the “offender” knows to be plain wrong, but still takes action because they are driven by greed, revenge, hatred …

In John Higgins’ case, it was probably a mistake – a massive one, driven by lack of courage too – but still a mistake because when he tagged along to Kiev with his then manager, Pat Mooney, he didn’t know anything about what Mooney had been “negotiating”. I still believe that he got away lightly, but he wasn’t the initiator of the approach.

If you look at Yu Delu and Cao Yupeng, there was a huge difference between their respective circumstances: Yu was as good as a “professional hustler”, someone who had made a living out of money matches in his own country, Cao was a player who had been going through a very bad spell and was under extreme financial pressure. To me, Yu committed a “crime”, Cao made a “mistake”. The difference in their respective situations was taken into account and that resulted in very different punishments.

Jamie Jones definitely made a mistake and payed a high prize for it. In a culture where “grassing on your mates” is seen as extremely deloyal, a betrayal, players who become aware that one of their friends or practice partners are getting involved in match fixing are put into an very difficult situation.

In the case of some Thai players, it was obvious that there were external elements driving them – probably serious threats. This post by Snookerbacker is related to the situation of Passakorn Suwannawat and Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon in 2013. A very young, and innocent, Lyu Haotian was trapped in the burning building, and, IMO, remains traumatised by the whole experience.

But I can’t see anything to “excuse” Stephen Lee.

Here is the account of what lead to his ban (source Wikipedia)

Lee was arrested and bailed on suspicion of match-fixing on 11 February 2010,[17] following a police investigation into suspicious betting patterns relating to a match played in 2009, believed to have taken place at the UK championship.[18] On 2 October 2012, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) released a statement confirming that the Crown Prosecution Service would not be taking further action against Lee over the claims.[19] A week later, on the 11th, Lee was involved in another controversial match which resulted in a 2–4 defeat by John Higgins at a Premier League fixture, having previously led 2–1, which caused fellow professional Judd Trump to question the integrity of the result on Twitter, especially since Lee squandered a golden opportunity to level the match at 3 frames all.[20] The following day—on his 38th birthday—Lee was suspended by the WPBSA following reports by at least two bookmakers of irregular betting patterns connected to the Premier League match, pending a full inquiry.[18] Lee appealed against the decision made by the Chairman of the WPBSA; Robert Englehart QC—appointed by Sport Resolutions UK to consider Lee’s appeal against suspension—dismissed it, deciding the suspension should remain in place until either the conclusion of the investigation or any resultant hearings.[21]

On 14 February 2013, the WPBSA brought charges against Lee concerning his group matches at the 2008 Malta Cup, two matches at the 2008 UK Championship, his match at the 2009 China Open, and a match at the 2009 World Snooker Championship. He was charged with violating sections 2.8 and 2.9 of the Members Rules and Regulations, which concern divulging information not already in the public domain with the express purpose of it being used for match-betting, and entering into an arrangement to influence the result of a game.[22][23] Lee applied for permission to play in the 2013 World Championship in the event that the proceedings against him would be brought to a close before the draw was made,[24] but it later transpired that he would be unable to participate in the tournament after learning that his hearing would not take place before the qualifying draw.[25] On 10 April, the WPBSA announced that they would no longer be proceeding with the investigation into the Premier League match, although the inquiry into the remaining match-fixing charges would still go ahead.[26] While suspended from WSA tournaments, Lee continued to compete in independently organised events, winning the RKGKhar Gymkhana Snooker Masters in May.[27]

The case was heard by independent tribunal, Sport Resolutions UK, in a three-day hearing chaired by Adam Lewis QC, starting on 9 September 2013 and concluding on the 11th.[28][29] The verdict was delivered on the 16th, with Lee found guilty of influencing the outcome of seven matches in 2008 and 2009.[30] On the 25th, he received a twelve-year ban from WSA events, backdated to the beginning of his suspension on 12 October 2012 running through to his 50th birthday on 12 October 2024, and ordered to pay £40,000 in costs.[31] Lee subsequently appealed against the “finding of the tribunal, the sanction and the costs awarded”.[32] Sport Resolutions appointed Edwin Glasgow QC to chair the appeal, with the Appeals Committee determining that the appeal should be heard in two parts.[33] Originally set for 30 January 2014, the appeal was adjourned to 17 February.[34][35] In the first stage of his appeal Lee challenged the independence of Adam Lewis, chairman of the original tribunal. Lewis had previously represented Leyton Orient F.C.—owned by World Snooker’s CEO, Barry Hearn—in a legal dispute and Lee’s legal team argued there was a conflict of interest. The argument was rejected on the 25th, and he was ordered to pay a further £30,000 in costs. The appeals panel recused itself from the second part of the appeal—in which Lee would challenge the guilty verdict itself—after finding him to be an unreliable witness.[36][37] On 15 May, Nicholas Stewart QC presiding over the remainder of the appeal dismissed it and increased the costs awarded against Lee at the Adam Lewis hearing from £40,000 to £75,000.[38][39] Stewart also awarded further costs of £20,000 against Lee for the second part of his appeal, bringing the total costs awarded against him to £125,000.[40] He was removed from the snooker tour and world rankings in June 2014.[41][42]

It’s pretty damning.

I was taking pictures at his last ever professional match in the Premier League in 2012, and TBH, I had no knowledge of any rumours regarding the match in progress but was baffled by some of his shot selections, especially in the last frame. I wasn’t the only one. Some players, watching the match, reacted on twitter as it was going on. Amonst them Judd Trump.

This is the match:

Higgins didn’t play well either, but he usually didn’t cope that well with the shot clock situation in the PL.

What’s YOUR opinion on this?

 

8 thoughts on “Should Stephen Lee be “forgiven”?

  1. I’m going to sound a bit biased here, but having grown up locally playing the likes of Stephen and others in Sunday comps well before they became famous and top stars in our sports my thoughts are as follows:

    John Higgins:
    At the time, during the whole “ will Ronnie retire or not period”, was actually caught on film prepared to accept a very large bribe to throw a game.

    He was given a then 6 month ban from the sport, which happened to be the off season for the game professionally, my thoughts….. this happened purely because of Ronnie did walk away from snooker, John would have been the face of professional snooker and the WPBSA and world snooker needed him!.

    Since then, another former world champion Stuart Bingham has been found guilty of the same offence, but allowed to return within 1 year.

    Jamie Jones the same, and is about to return to the professional ranks.

    Can anyone explain, given the 3 stated examples above, why Stephen lee had a 12 year punishment in the first place with no main stream evidence to hand?.

    I do not condone cheating in any way what do ever, I want to make that clear……

    But…… if the band given to others since, whilst evidence was there to see for the on looking world, surely world snooker need to take a hard look at the Stephen lee incident and lift the ban?.

    The man had a rolls Royce cue action that just can not be taught, his natural talent out weighed a lot of players around at the time he was in his prime.

    If second chances can be given to others in a much shorter time frame, then it’s about time the ban on Stephen was lifted.

  2. The fact of the matter is ALL of the top 100 players fix matches. ALL. they take turns doing it. Those who are aligned to barry hearns, get of lightly or are protected. Those like stephen lee, who are recalcitrant and dun give barry a share of tbe pot or are not in barry’s camp, are finished off. There is big money in betting in china. Thats why barry is pushing his way there. The players are just a small part of the puzzle. Believe it.

    • I don’t believe that for a minute. That’s just conspiracy theory, nonsense. Bookies are snooker main sponsors for a start, so Barry Hearn wouldn’t let this happen as it goes against his sponsors. Anyway, the bookies have a black list and matches are monitored.

  3. It’s not going to happen, and I doubt whether the players would stand for it.

    783 votes on an online forum actually isn’t very many. I could write a simple computer program to generate more ‘likes’ than that within minutes. Anauthorised online polls should never be treated seriously on their own.

    • I agree with you Lewis, 783 votes is nothing. But I would be interested in knowing who came up with the idea of this petition and why. And, it’s interesting too to see how people react. Up to now, most are firmly against the idea, as I am BTW. But there is another puzzling aspect: many don’t seem to perceive the differences between the various cases of breach of the integrity rules we had over the years.

      • Most likely somebody got bored and wanted to make a noise. There are many online who enjoy being ‘mischeivous’, dabbling with extreme views, just to create a reaction. They can be ingored.

      • That’s a possibility. But having met Stephen Lee, and not just once, knowing how he reacted – he was going to write a book, exposing everyone (never actually happened) – I wondered if himself could not be at the root of this. After all, now is the time when Jamie Jones is back playing – in Malta – and very eager to get another chance. I believe he deserves it. His case is very different from Lee’s one.

      • Also, I confess that I was curious to see people reactions. It’s telling. “Once a cheat, always a cheat” seems to be a rather popular opinion. As if people never learn from their mistakes. Some – hopefully a majority – do, some don’t, some just become more clever at conceiling them. But Lee won’t learn. The trouble he got himself to after that just proves it. He’s either fundamentally dishonest or totally desperate for money.

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