So the verdict that most people expected came to fruition yesterday when Stephen Lee was found guilty of alleged match fixing.
It is another black moment for the sport and one which will dominate the newspaper headlines this morning across the world.
Lee was originally suspended 11 months ago pending an investigation and Sports Resolution UK has, after last week’s hearing chaired by Adam Lewis QC, deemed that Lee is guilty and will face what will now certainly be a lengthy punishment.
How long that sentencing will be for will be decided on September 24th but it is widely perceived that the Trowbridge potter could receive in excess of Quentin Hann’s eight year ban in 2006, with a lifetime ban a distinct possibility as well.
Either of these would effectively end the career of Lee, who is approaching his 39th birthday in October.
Why he decided to undertake such actions, over what is believed to be a period of one year between 2008 and 2009, is still up for debate.
With five ranking titles and many other accolades to his credit over a highly respectable career, this question may continue to baffle many onlookers for several years to come.
Like many have already commented, it is a particularly sad day as Lee was generally liked on the circuit for his approachable demeanour and his style of play on the baize.
Indeed, his trademark silky cue action was so often a pleasure to watch.
Nevertheless, there will now forever be a constant shadow and a black mark cast over his name.
Another peculiar aspect of the case is that the decision was released on the opening day of the Shanghai Masters – news that will obviously overshadow what is, in its own right, a superb event.
Stephen Lee may never have the pleasure of competing in China, or anywhere else professionally for that matter, ever again.
The full statement from World Snooker:
On 2nd October 2012, after a two year police and Gambling Commission enquiry, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to proceed with a case against Lee and others in relation to match fixing.
On 5th October 2012 the Gambling Commission referred the case back to the WPBSA.
As a result of the WPBSA being notified of suspicious betting on his match with John Higgins on 12th October 2012, Jason Ferguson the WPBSA chairman took the decision to suspend Stephen Lee from all competition pending the outcome of the case.
After receipt of some material from the Gambling Commission and further investigation, Nigel Mawer the Chair of the WPBSA Disciplinary Committee, decided that Stephen Lee had a case to answer in relation to the match fixing allegations.
The allegations were serious and related to match fixing or the provision of inside information to enable persons to win money by betting on those matches. The matches in question were three matches in the Malta Cup 2008, two matches at the UK Championship 2008, one at the China Open 2009 and one at the World Championship 2009.
The WPBSA, in accordance with its Disciplinary Rules, asked Sport Resolutions UK to appoint an independent QC to hear the available evidence. Adam Lewis QC was appointed to hear the case.
The case was heard between the 9th and 11th September 2013 in Bristol.
On 16th September 2013 Adam Lewis QC delivered the following decision:
“Stephen Lee is found guilty of “agreeing an arrangement… [and of] …accepting or receiving or offering to receive… payment or… other… benefit… in connection with influencing the outcome or conduct of” each of the seven matches in breach of Rule 2.9.”
For the full decision CLICK HERE
A hearing is set for 24th September 2013 to decide on sanction.
The facts are that between February 2008 and April 2009, Stephen Lee was in contact with three different groups of people all of whom placed bets on the outcomes of his matches or on the outcomes of frames within his matches or on the exact score of his matches.
This took place in seven matches over four tournaments. The matches were Lee v Robertson, Lee v Fu and Lee v Doherty in the Malta Cup 2008 where there was betting on the exact score and the match outcomes. Lee v Hendry and Lee v King in the UK Championship 2008 where the betting was on the outcome of the first frame in each match. Lee v Selby in the China Open where there was betting on the match outcome. Lee v Day in the World Championship where there were bets on match outcome and the exact score. In this match there was ‘in match’ betting on the outcome of the frames in progress.
The bets were placed by three groups of people. The first were organised by his then sponsor who opened multiple betting accounts with various associates. These accounts were used to place the bets. The second group were coordinated by his then manager who placed almost identical bets. The third was an individual known to Lee who placed the same bets independently of the other two groups. Lee was in contact with the groups in the lead up to the matches in question and afterwards. In one case the person collected the successful bet and placed the half of the winnings into Lee’s wife’s bank account.
The total amount bet on these matches was in excess of £111,000 leading to winnings of over £97,000 for the persons placing the bets.
It is not clear how much Lee benefited from their activity or of his motivation to get involved in match fixing.
WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “The WPBSA have a zero tolerance approach to match fixing. We have an extensive network of contacts across the world with the gambling industry and with bodies such as the International Centre for Sport Security and the Gambling Commission. This particular case was extremely difficult and complicated to bring to a hearing. We believe we have established the world’s most sophisticated system in dealing with corruption in sport and we will take every step under the WPBSA Rules to deal with those responsible. Today’s ruling is a stark warning to competitors in any sport who could become vulnerable in the future. Stephen Lee was the number 5 player in the world and had the opportunity to be part of snooker’s great success story. His future participation in the sport is now in real doubt as he will face a significant sanction.”