Round-up of the past few days at the tables

Two “groups” of the Championship League Snooker 2020 were played earlier this week, with Anthony McGill and Judd Trump booking their spot in the Winners Group.

Full results for Championship League 5

Full results for Championship League 6

As usual this competition threw some strange results. For instance, Mark Williams was absolutely flying in the Group 5 round-robin stage, winning 6 matches out of 6. He then lost in the SF … and finishied 5th in Group 6. That said, it’s a lot of snooker condensed in 4 days, and players tend to treat it as a bit of paid practice.

Gao Yang from China won the 2020 WSF Junior Open in Malta

Here is the report by WPBSA

Glory For Gao at WSF Junior Open

  • 9th January 2020

Gao Yang has defeated Sean Maddocks 5-2 to claim the inaugural WSF Junior Open title earlier this afternoon in Malta.

The15-year-old Chinese talent becomes the first winner of the prestigious new junior event and will earn a two-year main tour ticket to the World Snooker Tour from the start of the 2020/21 season. The competition saw 55 of the best young snooker players in the world aged 17 or under compete over six days to become champion.

Gao, who previously competed at the WSF Championship in 2018 and recently appeared as a wildcard at the 2019 World Open in Yushan, qualified from a tough group in second place before surviving deciding-frame encounters against Scotland’s Dean Young and later his compatriot Yi Ze Wu to progress to the final.

Awaiting him in the final was England’s Maddocks, who starred in the groups dropping just one frame before reaching the title match with victories against Bradley Tyson, Antoni Kowalski, Jovan Todorovic and Irish prospect Aaron Hill.

It was Maddocks who made the stronger start to the final, taking two of the opening three frames to lead 2-1 as he looked to go one better his performance at Q School last year which saw him narrowly miss out on joining the professional ranks.

The fourth frame would however prove to be a key turning point as trailing 54-26, Gao cleared the table in two visits to draw level at the mid-session interval. This would prove to be the start of a four-frame winning run as he hit the front for the first time with a match-high break of 72 on the resumption of play, before adding the next two to secure victory.

All the detailed results can be found here.

Remarkably, there were only two Chinese players in the draw – Gao Yang and Wu Yize – and they met in the semi finals, before the winner of their match went on to win the whole event. This and the 5-2 score over Sean Maddockx, in my eyes, confirm that currently, the young best amateurs come from China and the current structure of the tour is what prevents them to dominate snooker. As I explain in my previous post, the “World” tour remains very UK centric and bias in favour of UK players.

The highest break of the tournament was a 121, made by Julien Leclercq from Belgium. Julien, 16, reached the last 16 of the tournament, narrowly losing by 3-2 to Wu Yize. This is a very good result for Julien who doesn’t benefit from as strong an amateur scene as his UK fellow juniors to play in. Julien did much better than the more fancied Ben Mertens. He’s one year older than Ben, and more mature. That matters in a tournament like this one. He will play in the “main” WSF event as well, as will Ben.

Regarding Gao, he’s only just 15, and will not been 16 yet at the start of next season. So, he may not be able to take his tour card immediately, because he may not be able to obtain a visa and a work permit in the UK until he’s 16. I read in Lewis comments that he might lose part of his prize money in this case. If this is true, it’s unfair. I would understand that a player who is in a position to take his newly earned tour card, but chooses to opt out, would get a reduced prize money, but not if it’s because of external circumstances like in Gao’s case.

Update I just spoke with Matt Huart who confirmed that half of the prize money is indeed dependent on the commitment of the player to take their tour card. Gao is determined to turn pro next season and has pulled out of the main event. Matt wasn’t sure what would happen if he was prevented to do that by circumstances beyond his control.

The “main event”, the 2020 WSF Open starts today in Malta. All results will be made available here.

World snooker rebranded to World Snooker Tour

This was published today 

Snooker’s commercial arm has relaunched as the World Snooker Tour (WST) to reflect its global growth over the past decade.

Previously known as World Snooker, WST runs the professional circuit around the planet, with a tour of 25 events and total prize money of £14.6 million.

A new logo and branding for the tour have been created, which will be used going forward at all events and on all digital platforms, including the official website WST.TV

WST has grown rapidly over the past decade; during the 2009/10 season there were just six world ranking events and total prize money of £3.6 million.

In 2010, World Snooker was taken over by Matchroom Sport, chaired by Barry Hearn. Today, snooker has vastly improved opportunities for the players to compete in lucrative events across the world, and for the fans, with 500 million people watching the sport’s linear and digital broadcast.

Barry HearnHearn said: “Our decision to relaunch as WST with fantastic new branding is part of our vision for snooker as we reflect on a decade of change and look forward to a bright future.

“Over the past ten years we have exploited the massive popularity of our sport across the planet. We have created new events with lasting legacies and worked with broadcasters to bring snooker to an ever growing audience. We have modernised our sport, particularly through social media, to appeal to a young generation of fans, and our new branding reflects that.

“We have tripled prize money over the past decade, and looking ahead to the next ten years I believe we can double it again, towards £30 million. Rather than resting on our success, we have plans in place to continue our development with relentless ambition.

“Recently we announced a new event in Saudi Arabia which will set a new record for prize money for one event, and it is a ten year deal with the intention to grow snooker at grass roots level in the region.

“As well as expansion into the Middle East we are pushing hard into India where we think there is enormous potential. North America, South America and Africa are also potential markets with a bright future. Soon we will announce plans for an exciting new online platform which will bring snooker to even more fans in every corner of the globe.

“Perhaps our greatest asset is our inclusivity. Anyone can play snooker regardless of age, gender or nationality, the only criteria is ability. There are great incentives for any young player across the world to rise through the ranks, while they are inspired by their heroes who have reached the top level.

“This is an exhilarating time to be a WST player or a fan of the sport, and as we look ahead we are limited by nothing other than our own imagination.”

WST: The Statistics

Global TV audience
500 million people
120 countries
1.6 billion households
22 broadcasters
64,400 linear broadcast hours
13 digital platforms
168 million live video views

There are players from 21 different countries among the 128 on the World Snooker Tour.

There are 104 national snooker federations worldwide. An estimated 120 million people across the globe play snooker.

World Snooker Tour total prize money, season by season
2009/10 £3.6 million
2010/11 £5.3 million
2011/12 £6.2 million
2012/13 £7.0 million
2013/14 £8.3 million
2014/15 £8.1 million
2015/16 £8.0 million
2016/17 £10.3 million
2017/18 £13.6 million
2018/19 £13.2 million
2019/20 £14.6 million

Number of ranking events, season by season 2009-2019
2009/10 6
2010/11 8
2011/12 9
2012/13 11
2013/14 12
2014/15 11
2015/16 10
2016/17 19
2017/18 20
2018/19 20
2019/20 19

Impressive? Yes it is but…. I’m an European and I can’t help to think that there are some fundamental changes needed before it’s a WORLD tour.  Currently it’s still essentially a UK centric tour. Why? Well consider this:

  • All three majors are held in the UK
  • All flat draw events that are played at the main venue are held in the UK
  • All qualifiers are held in the UK
  • The Q-school is held in the UK

This basically means that young aspiring players, who aren’t millionaires, have to live in the UK, something BTW that could become more difficult for EU citizens with Brexit coming.

China injects a lot of money in the sport, yet their young players have to come to the UK to qualify for their home events. Is that right?

Just imagine for a minute that it would be the other way around. Just imagine that UK players would have to qualify for the Home nations, the UK Championship and the World Championship in some obscure remote town in China. How many would succeed? How many would go and live in China, learn the language, accept a totally different culture, different food, be separated from their families, deal with the time difference? How many would cope? Be honest, not many. Especially when you hear people like Mark Allen and Ken Doherty telling you how hard it was to expat themselves from … Ireland, a country sharing the same language, culturally close, with no time difference and one hour away by plane. If it was the other way around, the circuit would be dominated by Chinese and Asian players, make no mistake, because they have much better stuctures to support and develop their young talents. The current structure of the tour is massively biased in favour of UK players. Yes, they are a majority, but the whole system is designed to keep it that way. That has to change if there is a real ambition to be a WORLD tour.

  • all flat draw events should be played at the final venue from round 1
  • if there are “tiered” events, the qualifiers should be played in a location geographically close to the main venue, and right before the main event , as is the case for the World Championship
  • the main tour qualification process needs to change. For the near future, “de-localised” Q-schools would be the easiest option. It would be a long term project, and would need a change in mentality, but, possibly, an “ELO” type of rating system – replacing the current rankings – could eliminate the need for the Q-school entirely. And before you tell me it’s impossible to use in snooker, it IS used in table tennis.

Now, for good measure Barry Hearn threw this in (source BBC)

Barry Hearn: Snooker’s elite can ‘go or pass’ on Saudi Arabia tournament

Barry Hearn
Barry Hearn took over as World Snooker chairman in 2009, when he said the sport was “dying”

Snooker’s elite players are under no pressure to play in the lucrative but controversial new tournament in Saudi Arabia, World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn has said.

The ranking event with the biggest prize money will take place in Riyadh in October, with the champion earning £500,000 from a total fund of £2.5m.

Hearn said the decision to go was made for the “betterment of our sport” and “we go, invest and create”.

“Every player can go or pass,” he said.

The Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters will see the country host a ranking event for the first time in 2020 as part of a money-spinning 10-year deal.

However, human rights organisation Amnesty International has highlighted the country’s “abysmal” human rights record. Heavy restrictions on freedom of expression and women’s rights have been raised, as has the use of the death penalty for offences not recognised as crimes under international law.

The Kingdom has sought to stage sporting and entertainment events in a bid to attract visitors and move away from its oil-dependent economy.

Anthony Joshua’s world heavyweight title victory over Andy Ruiz Jr took place there in December, and boxing is far from alone in staging events in Saudi Arabia, with football, motor racing, tennis, golf and WWE wrestling all recently being held in the Gulf state.

But despite accusations that the event is a cash-chasing exercise and also part of a calculated attempt by Saudi Arabia to cleanse its image through ‘sportswashing’, Hearn is adamant the long-term vision has honourable motives.

Use of female referees ‘a step forward’

Hearn says it is a chance to bring about change and offers, as a sign of progress, the fact that female referees will be used.

“We are all aware of the situation, but sport knows no boundaries in our view and we are there to spread the gospel of sport, and in this case the gospel of snooker,” the 71-year-old said.

There are probably half a dozen countries in the world that have human rights issues. Whether you consider that to be a transitional stage of a country’s development or whether you say ‘I am not having anything to do with them’ – I would rather communicate, have conversations and try to move forward.

“Sport can be a conduit for achieving that, given time. But it does take time.

“The fact we are using women referees is a major step forward.

“I am impressed with the attitude of the Saudi government and their investment in sport because they are making a push to make their younger people more active and that can only be beneficial. Sport is an issue that moulds countries together. It forms character in young people. It gives expression and an opportunity to those that may not have it. There is a bigger picture.

“It’s important to realise that every country has their own culture. There will be countries where we don’t agree with their culture and there will be countries that don’t agree with ours.

“So rather than get it over-complicated, I find it is easier for me to concentrate on what I am good at, which is the development of sporting opportunities. And perhaps, part of the by-product of the success of that venture will be a general change that makes everyone feel more comfortable.”

Hearn, who has just passed the 10-year anniversary as chairman of snooker’s commercial arm, wants to double snooker’s current prize pot of £17m in the next 10 years and continue its “globalisation”.

A rebranding from World Snooker to World Snooker Tour is designed to give a new look, “probably following on the lines of the tennis ATP Tour and golf’s PGA Tour” and give “a significant standing within the sporting world”.

Hearn added: “We have had a fascinating and fabulous 10 years. We have woken up this sleeping princess and have done well.

“We have gone from prize money of £3.5m to £17m. There are more tournaments than ever before; we have ticked a lot of boxes.

“The relaunch is a statement that the journey has only just begun. We have achieved all our ambitions in 10 years and now we set ambitions for the next 10. We believe we are a significant player and the future is bright.”

A Saudi spark

Hearn hopes the move into Saudi Arabia will increase competition and bring about “a natural progression” of even bigger and better tournaments.

“We are there to create an infrastructure of snooker via coaching, via academies, through player visits and universities and schools,” said Hearn. “We are trying to motivate a country and the brief of the Saudi government is we want to be more involved in sport generally.”

World number eight Kyren Wilson, 28, told BBC Sport that the huge prize money on offer and snooker’s global development was “great for the players”.

“Going to new places and growing the sport is wonderful,” said the former Masters runner-up.

“The political side and the ethical decisions are not something that I am involved in. That is down to those in control. As players we often live in a snooker bubble.

“The good thing is that the tournament has a long-term plan, with coaching structures and plans in place to get youngsters involved, which is brilliant. Using women referees in Saudi Arabia is also a big step in the right direction.”

Hearn added: “The bigger picture for us is establishing a global footprint. Saudi Arabia is an escalating contract for 10 years so we have a chance to really make a mark in that territory and we hope other territories will follow.

“People have egos and demands and desires and want to show their country to the best possible audience around the world.

“Anthony Joshua went to Saudi Arabia and it had massive ramifications around the world, with other countries coming on and saying ‘what about us?'”

The British heartlands

Hearn insists the traditional snooker strongholds in the UK and Ireland will not be overlooked. The Chinese market is still a key target and India remains a major focus, but the WST will not be “turning eyes away from any opportunity anywhere in the world”.

“We respect the traditional heartlands,” he explained. “We have a lot of support there and they have history. The new markets don’t have history yet, but given time they will do.

“We are looking at the world, not just our parochial attitude with where we have been and come from. Every major sport has followed the same pattern. There is a big market out there and in today’s world it can be quite easily monetised which takes it to the next level in terms of prize money.

“Our job is to maintain our Triple Crown events [the World Championship, the UK Championship and the Masters]. They have so much history that we still have an obligation to make sure they are still of relevance.

“But professional sport is governed by prize money and opportunity, and if we are trying to be an aspirational sport for young people around the world, we have to set our bar high. You are only limited by your own imagination.”

Barry Hearn: “Every player can go or pass”, in theory, yes, practically, if they are under strain ranking wise, no, they can’t and Hearn knows that very well. He’s not a liar, he’s still an hypocrite.

Kyren Wilson: “The political side and the ethical decisions are not something that I am involved in. That is down to those in control. As players we often live in a snooker bubble.” You have children don’t you Kyren? What kind of world do you want for them? You think you are safe? Let me tell you this: your attitude is the same one that allowed the Shoah to happen (*), and other atrocities and disasters as well. Basically, “It’s not my business, it’s not impacting MY life anyway”…. for now.

That said Saudi Arabia opening itself to sport may actually force them into some changes, create a “de facto” mentality opening that they will not be able to control and “close” again. If so, great.

(*) … I can almost hear a good few thinking “what the fuck is the Shoah?”

The “same offence” confusion

Following my article yesterday about the petition to get Stephen Lee back in the game I have got a lot of reactions, positives and negatives, amongst them a significant number questioning why some other players were allegedly treated more leniently for the same offence. Names were put forward, Jamie Jones, Stuart Bingham, John Higgins being the once most frequently cited.

I think this deserves an answer, and it’s actually quite simple: none of those three did actually fix matches, so they weren’t guilty of the same offence

Whilst reflecting on the past decade, I covered the John Higgins case in some depth when I wrote about the year 2010 . Please read it. In short, John Higgins went to Kiev, having lost in round 2 at the Crucible, without knowledge of what his manager had been up to, namely arrange matches to be fixed and make profit from it. Of course, this was a setup, but Mooney didn’t know it, and Higgins knew even less. Higgins was guilty of cowardice – he could and should have refused to play along during that meeting – and of taking a very bad decision by not reporting the approach immediately. He always claimed that he never intended to fix matches. Whether this is the truth or not, we will never know for sure. What is definitely fact is that he did not fix any match, and was not aware of his manager’s doing until very shortly before that meeting.

Stuart Bingham did not fix any matches, what he was guilty of is to bet on snooker matches, some his own. Betting on snooker is forbidden to all professional players, it’s part of the rules, and of their contract. Here is a rather in-depth article by the BBC analysing the case at the time:

Stuart Bingham banned over betting on snooker matches

Former world snooker champion Stuart Bingham has been banned for six months for betting breaches.

Bingham, 41, was found guilty of breaking World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) rules on betting on matches involving himself and other players.

The world number 10 must also pay £20,000 in costs.

The WPBSA said there was no suggestion that he aimed to “influence matches or engage in any corrupt activity”.

Half of his ban will be suspended.

The organisation said the estimated total of his betting on snooker in the past seven years is £35,771, including several bets on his own matches.

The WPBSA said he often used proxy accounts to bet, meaning it is not possible to establish whether he won or lost from his betting activity.

WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson said: “It is very disappointing to see such a high profile player fall foul of the WPBSA betting rules.

“Stuart is a great competitor and I have no doubt he has always played to the best of his ability. This case shows that there are no exceptions to the rules.

“Players must understand that they cannot bet on snooker at all, even if they are not involved in a match or event. Any player found to breach the betting rules will face the most serious of consequences.”

Analysis

By Frank Keogh, BBC Sport

While Bingham has the right to appeal, this is a costly suspension – ruling him out of three of the most lucrative events on the calendar – the International Championship, UK Championship and the Masters.

A popular figure, who is ranked 10 in the world, he had previously claimed he did not know the rules prevented him betting on other players’ matches.

And while there is no suggestion of corruption, his suspension is a warning from snooker’s governing body that it won’t take breaches of its betting rules lightly.

In July, Joe Perry was given a suspended three-month ban after placing nearly 200 bets on matches. Perry said he did it “purely out of boredom or distraction”.

What bets did Bingham place?

  • He bet on snooker using an account in his name in 2009-10 to a total of £424.44, with losses of £280.20.
  • He bet on snooker using an account in his name in 2012-13 to a total of £20, all of which were losing bets.
  • He placed bets on snooker matches that he was playing in using his manager’s account. There were 36 matches between 2003 and 2015 to a value of £4,636.
  • Between 25 August 2009 and 11 January 2017 he bet on snooker using an account in his manager’s name.
  • Between 1 January 2012 and 11 January 2017 he bet on snooker using a different account in his manager’s name.
  • A second party placed bets for Stuart Bingham’s direct or indirect benefit to a value of £1,706.85.
  • Between 1 December 2014 and 8 November 2016 he placed bets with a third party to a value of £4,000 that his highest break in a competition would be beaten. All of these were winning bets, making a profit of £7,000.

I have put in bold the most significant parts.

Jamie Jones din’t fix any match, nor did he bet on snooker, he was guilty of not reporting an approach aimed at a fellow player, David John. 

Again here is the BBC report at the time:

Jamie Jones: Player cleared of match-fixing but breached snooker’s rules

Snooker player Jamie Jones has been cleared of match-fixing but admitted failing to report a corrupt approach.

The Welshman, 30, was suspended in October after being accused of being part of a plan to fix a match between David John and Graeme Dott in 2016.

But a disciplinary panel found that he had not breached the betting rules.

Ex-professional John admitted fixing two matches in which his opponents were unaware of the plots. John and Jones will be sanctioned at a later date.

Jones, the world number 39 at the time of his suspension, admitted failing to report an approach to his compatriot John to fix the match against Dott.

“The committee considered this to be an extremely serious matter in itself, particularly in the context of the responsibility of a professional player to ensure as far as possible the integrity of the game,” said a statement from the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.

However, he was cleared of more serious charges under the organisation’s betting rules.

He could still face a suspension but his punishment is unlikely to be as severe as John’s, who fixed a 2017 match against Joe Perry, in addition to the Dott match. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by his opponents.

The verdicts follow one of the biggest corruption cases in the sport’s history – the BBC revealed last month that two Chinese players had been given lengthy bans from the game.

Yu Delu was banned from snooker for 10 years and nine months, while Cao Yupeng also pleaded guilty to fixing and was banned for six years, although three and a half years of his sentence were suspended.

Again, I have put the most important sentences in bold. The consequences for Jamie Jones were particularly severe: he lost his tour card and now needs to requalify for the main tour.

Of course there were cases where players got away with what appeared to be plain match fixing. The most prominent probably being the last 32 match between Stephen Maguire and Jamie Burnett at the UK championship in 2008, pre Barry Hearn era. Both were arrested, but no charges were brought. The core reason for this outcome was the fact that WPBSA at the time didn’t act with the required diligence. Therefore the “victims” – the bookies – brought the case to the police for investigation. The difficulty with this is that the level of “proof” needed to bring charges is very different from the one required when the case is dealt whith by the sports authorities, in this case WPBSA. When a case is referred to the Crown Prosecution, the proof must be deemed “beyond reasonable doubt”. That means, for instance, that abnormal betting patterns – which are “circumstancial” – or the analysis of the shots by a panel of experts – which is to an extend is subjective” – aren’t enough. As a result, charges are rarely brought in this kind of cases.

Here is an article by the Guardian at the time

No charges against Stephen Maguire and Jamie Burnett over fixing claims

Stephen Maguire and Jamie Burnett will not face criminal charges after the Scottish Crown Counsel decided that there is “insufficient evidence to justify prosecution” over match fixing allegations, after a two-and-a-half year investigation into the pair.

Suspicions of match fixing were fuelled by an unusual pattern of betting on Maguire’s 9-3 victory over Burnett in the UK Championship in December 2008.

Strathclyde Police assembled betting information from bookmakers and shot analyses from snooker experts, although it is understood that the latter was always viewed as potentially too difficult for jurors with little or no knowledge of snooker to follow.

However, with the completion of the police investigation, a World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association disciplinary enquiry will begin. Its chairman, Jason Ferguson, said: “We will be given access to the evidence connected with the case and our disciplinary committee will review that evidence thoroughly. We are treating this case very seriously.”

Whereas the standard of proof for a criminal prosecution is “beyond reasonable doubt”, that for disciplinary proceedings is “the balance of probabilities.” If disciplinary charges are preferred, shot analysis evidence could be considered by people with long involvements in the game

The sad reality is that, in the years before Barry Hearn era, the WPBSA wasn’t acting fast or diligently when made aware of possible problems. This in turn resulted in players not reporting issues as they had no faith or hope that they would be dealt with adequately. 

I hope this answers some questions… 

 

 

 

 

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?

 

The Indian Open 2020 postponed…

This is Worldsnooker announcement:

World Snooker has announced that the Indian Open world ranking event has been postponed.

The tournament was due to take place from March 24 to 28, 2020. We have worked closely with our partners in India to try to find a suitable host city for the event, but without success.

We continue to believe that there is great potential for snooker to grow in India, and it is our intention that this tournament will return to the calendar during the 2020/21 season.

For fans in the region there are still many opportunities to watch live snooker online, as this season – for the first time – many of snooker’s biggest events are broadcast free on Facebook Live throughout India and Pakistan.

The Indian Open was first staged in 2013, won by Ding Junhui. The title subsequently went to Michael White in 2015, Anthony McGill in 2016, John Higgins in 2017 and Matthew Selt in 2019.

This event and the qualifying dates of February 17-19 have been removed from the calendar

TBH, personally I’m not seeing the potential in India, despite snooker being born in the country … but hey, what do I know?

The race to the Coral Cup 2020

Main Tour snooker starts again next Monday.

Today Worldsnooker looked at the race to the Coral Cup events:

The race to qualify for the first Coral Series event of the season will conclude during the final stages of the BetVictor European Masters and BetVictor German Masters.

Only the top 32 players on the one-year ranking list at the end of the Berlin event – come February 2nd – will qualify for the Coral World Grand Prix, which starts on February 3rd in Cheltenham.

The qualifying rounds have already been played for the BetVictor European Masters (results here) and BetVictor German Masters (results here) so any player now outside the top 32 who has not qualified for either event is out of the running.

Ben Woollaston currently clings on to 32nd spot but having failed to qualify for either event he’ll need other results to go his way to keep his place for Cheltenham.

He has a gap of just £2,500 over 35th-placed Scott Donaldson who has made it to both Dornbirn and Berlin, so if Donaldson wins two matches in either event to reach the quarter-finals he’ll go ahead of Woollaston.

Places from 25th to 38th as it stands (including money won the in the qualifiers):

Player Money Qualified for Austria? Qualified for Germany?
25 Matthew Selt £51,750 No Yes
26 Matthew Stevens £50,750 No No
27 Li Hang £50,500 No No
28 Zhao Xintong £50,250 Yes Yes
29 Michael Holt £50,000 Yes No
30 Zhou Yuelong £49,250 Yes No
31 Xiao Guodong £49,000 Yes No
32 Ben Woollaston £46,250 No No
33 Hossein Vafaei £46,000 No No
34 Ricky Walden £44,750 No No
35 Scott Donaldson £43,750 Yes Yes
36 Anthony McGill £43,000 No Yes
37 Mark Joyce £41,250 No No
38 Luca Brecel £40,500 Yes Yes

There are a further four players  – Robbie Williams, Jak Jones, Tian Pengfei, Robert Milkins – who have qualified for both events so they each have two chances to jump up the list and earn a spot in the first event of the lucrative Coral Series.

With top prizes of £80,000 up for grabs in both Dornbirn and Berlin, every player still in either event has a chance.

The subsequent two Coral Series events are:

Coral Players Championship, Southport Waterfront, February 24 to March 1. Top 16 on the one-year list after the BetVictor Shoot Out will qualify.

Coral Tour Championship, Llandudno, March 17-22. Top eight on the one-year list after the BetVictor Gibraltar Open will qualify.

Ronnie is safe for the first event of the series … but he will need a good run in it and/or in the Welsh Open 2020 if he is to defended his Players Championship title, and even more so if he wants to get a chance to defend his Tour Championship title. He’s currently 17th on the onne year list, but having entered neither of the two Europrean events, he’s almost certain to find himself lower on the one year list at the start of the Grand Prix. Last year he lost in the first round to Marco Fu…

 

Reflecting on the decade: the year 2019

2019 belonged to Judd Trump!

Quite incredibly, Judd won six events in 2019, five of them ranking:

  • the 2019 Masters
  • the 2019 Grand Prix
  • the 2019 World Championship
  • the 2019 International Championship
  • the 2019 World Open
  • the 2019 Northern Ireland Open

and he was runner-up at the 2019 Champion of Champions for good measure.

That’s an extraordinary achievement. Over the last year and a bit, Judd played a much more measured game. He’s still  very attacking, but his safety game has improved massively and, above all, he’s much more ready than he was in the past to use it. His attitude is much better and Judd credited his family and in particular his brother Jack for his  improvement and success .

‘My dad is the biggest snooker fan in the world, he watches every single game so just to do it for him and my mum. ‘For the sacrifices they made for me to be able to play every week, travelling across the country, working two jobs, it put it into perspective for me.’

….

Jack Trump has also been singled out as a huge part of his brother’s success after he basically became employed by Judd last year. The brothers live and travel together with Jack providing help, advice and company to his sibling around the world as he prepares for tournaments. Judd explained the arrangement to the BBC after winning the Masters in January: ‘Jack will set the balls up and I will not have any input, I will let him get on with it. He is making me work on things I would not have done myself. ‘I wanted to pot balls all day, but he will put safety and long pots up too. I will do as I am told and he is getting the best out of me.’

After lifting the World Championship trophy less than four months after that Masters triumph, Judd believes it is obvious to see what an impact jack has had on his game. ‘It speaks for itself, with my brother’s help I’ve won the Masters and the World Championship since he moved up so it just goes to show the part he’s played in it,’ said Judd. ‘Obviously my parents have been a massive influence on me my whole career, taking me around everywhere and putting me in this position. To be able to win it for them and them see it is incredible.’

The World Championship provided two unexpected semi-finalists in David Gilbert and Gary Wilson. Both of them were awesome but eventually lost to players with more experience on the biggest stage of all.

The man Judd Trump beat in the final is John Higgins who, at nearly 44, was playing in this third consecutive World Final. Granted, he lost all three but it still is a very remarkable achievement. Judd produced an incredible standard of snooker in that final: he had seven centuries, a new record in World Final. John himself had four centuries.

Neil Robertson had an excellent year as well: he won two ranking events – the 2019 Welsh Open and the 2019 China Open – and one invitational event, the Champion of Champions.  He also made it to two more ranking finals, at the 2019 players Championship and the 2019 Tour Championship

The man who beat Neil in those two finals is Ronnie. 

In the last frame of the Players Championship, he made a century … his 1000th. By winning the Tour Championship he equalled Stephen Hendry’s tally of 36 ranking events and regained the n°1 spot in the rankings for the first time in nearly 10 years!

Ronnie also won the 2019 Shanghai Masters, now an invitational event, winning this event for the fourth time in total, and three in a row.

In addition, Ronnie was runner-up twice, at the 2019 Masters and the 2019 Northern Ireland Open, losing to Judd Trump both times.

The story and pictures of the 2019 Players Championship

The story and pictures of the 2019 Tour Championship.

The story and pictures of the 2019 Shanghai Masters

Objectively, it wasn’t a bad year for Ronnie, but there were some very painful defeats too. The most prominent one came at the 2019 World Championship, where he lost in the last 32 to James Cahill, an amateur (*). Another disappointing result came at the 2019 World Open, where Dominic Dale beat him in the first round. Dominic had never beaten Ronnie in their 27 years of “common” career.

(*) James Cahill was technically an amateur at the 2019 World Championship, but he had been a professional before, fot four seasons, and had been working with Chris Henry during the last year.

Finally, Ding Junhui deserves a mention for winning the 2019 UK Championship. For the last two seasons Ding had looked dispirited and demotivated. He credited his new coach, Django Fung, for rediscovering his love for snooker and helping him getting the most of his practice sessions.

Regarging non main tour events….

Jimmy White won the Seniors World Championship at the Crucible 

wss2019wc-8841

and Mink (Nucharut Wongharuthai) became the first woman to make a 147