WPBSA Statement – Liang Wenbo

The first Asia-Oceania Q-School will conclude today. The first semi-final is underway. I will post on that when both laureates are known.

Meanwhile, here is the statement by WPBSA about Liang Wenbo:

WPBSA Statement – Liang Wenbo

WPBSA Statement 4th June 2022 

The WPBSA and Liang Wenbo Disciplinary Hearing Finding

At a WPBSA Disciplinary Committee hearing on 26th May 2022, Liang Wenbo accepted that he had breached the WPBSA Rules and his players contract with World Snooker Limited (WSL).

 This case arose from his criminal conviction at Sheffield Magistrates Court on 9th February 2022 and subsequent sentence hearing on 1st April 2022. The conviction was for domestic-related assault by beating where he pleaded guilty. He was fined a total of £1,380 and given a 12-month community order.

Despite this case being a matter outside of the sport itself, and the fact that it had been dealt with by a criminal court, the WPBSA decided that the case was so serious that there was a case for Liang to answer for breaches of the WPBSA Rules and his WSL players contract. The basis for this is that Liang’s behaviour and subsequent conviction is conduct unbecoming of a sportsperson and brings the sport of snooker into disrepute. Due to the serious nature of this, WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson immediately suspended Liang pending disciplinary proceedings just prior to him appearing in the World Snooker Championship.

The Independent Disciplinary Committee has subsequently found Liang to be in breach of the WPBSA Members Rules and his players contract with WSL.

On 3rd June 2022, the sanction imposed by the Independent Disciplinary Committee is that Liang be suspended from playing or being involved in all snooker events for a period of four months until 1st August 2022, and to pay £1,000 towards the costs of the hearing.

Liang has the right to appeal the decision of the Independent Disciplinary Committee.

Jason Ferguson, WPBSA Chairman said “I have no doubt that this was a difficult case for the Independent Disciplinary Committee to deal with as it had already been heard in a criminal court. Despite this, neither I, nor the WPBSA could accept this type of behaviour from one of our members which led me to immediately suspend Liang just prior to the largest event and with the biggest prize money of the snooker season. I am pleased the Committee upheld this decision.”

The WPBSA Members Rules

1.1   Members shall, at all times (i.e., whether at a Tournament or not), behave in a proper and correct manner consistent with their status as professional sportsmen.

1.3   A Member shall not make or cause to be made any statement or commit or cause to be committed any act which in the reasonable view of the WPBSA is likely to bring into disrepute the games of snooker and/or billiards. 

WSL Players Contract

3.5.1      Behave in a professional and reputable manner befitting a professional sportsperson.

I deliberately let a night “pass” after the announcement before posting about it.

There were a lot of very strong reactions on social media, calling for a much harder punishment. Personally, I wasn’t surprised by the relatively “short” ban period.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I don’t condone Liang’s actions in any way. What he did is plain wrong, no matter what the private circumstances might have been.

  • Some of the social media reactions were going about “beating a woman earns you a milder punishment than breaking the betting rules”. Right but … WPBSA has no power to punish Liang specifically for the beating, that’s a matter for the Magistrate. Liang was found guilty by the court, and ordered to serve 12 months of community service as well as paying a fine of £1,380. That sounds pretty mild to me, but then again, I don’t know the private circumstances. Possibly, the combined facts that Liang apparently collaborated with the justice authorities and that it was a first offence explain the rather “light” punishment. WPBSA however were only able to fine him for bringing the game into disrepute.
  • When it comes to breaking the betting rules, the situation is different. First of all, those are not laws, those are rules set the the sports’ gouverning body, and the same body is competent to examine, judge and punish infringements of those rules. Particularly in case of proven match fixing or intent to fix matches, the fans have to realise that infringements of those rules are casting doubts over the integrity of the sport of snooker as a whole as well as its exponents’ integrity.  This in turn is likely to have consequences – serious consequences – when it comes to the public’s, possible sponsor’s and broadcasters’ perception of the sport itself.
  • Many comments were about the fact that Liang would miss very little of the season. That’s true, but they forget that, because of his suspension, he has already missed the World Championship itself, by far, the biggest earning opportunity in snooker. May I remember all of you that when John Higgins, as the reigning 2010 World Champion, appeared to accept to fix several matches AND be ready to involve other players as well, he was banned for a longer period, BUT, didn’t miss ANY of the majors, despite this “incident” being potentially much more damaging for the sport as a whole than Liang’s behaviour, no matter how terrible  it is (and it truly IS terrible). That John was set up is irrelevant, he didn’t know that, so the way he reacted would have been the same if the approach had been genuine.

So those are the reasons why the rather “mild” punishment didn’t surprise me and why I believe that the comparison with what happens when “betting rules” are broken isn’t a valid one.

Having said all that, I have witnessed some extreme emotional reactions by Liang in the past, both in joy and in anger. I’m not sure if this is within the power of WPBSA, but, maybe some mandatory “counselling” on anger management would be a good idea.