Stephen Lee escaped a lifetime sentence but his professional career is effectively over after being banned for 12 years for match fixing.
The former world no.5, a five-time ranking event winner, Crucible semi-finalist and Masters runner-up, among boasting many other accolades throughout a long and pretty fruitful career, will only be able to return to the pro scene on his 50th birthday in 2024.
Almost one year of the ban has already surpassed given the fact Lee has been suspended since October, 2012.
The 38 year-old from ‘Trowbridge’ has expressed his desire to appeal the decision made by Adam Lewis QC, adding that he is “devastated”.
It brings to an end a very long saga that began a year ago but which contents actually date back to 2008 – when the first of Lee’s seven matches that were under questioning took place at the Malta Open.
Some may be surprised by the fact that the entire book was not thrown at Lee with a lifetime imprisonment from the sport but, in reality, the verdict still sends a strong message to anybody considering a dodgy path in the future.
Indeed, this decision would have been a mandatory life ban had the period under suspicion fell under the jurisdiction of the current regime’s rule book.
While not fully conclusive, the findings of the original hearing do seem to point to the fact that Lee was certainly aware of wrongdoing in his wider circle of companions.
For this, a ban was inevitable.
In truth, though, I don’t think we’ll ever truly know Lee’s complete involvement in this sorry tale.
What is certain is that his name has been tarnished forever, and for a player who many regarded as having one of the smoothest cue actions in the game it is a crying shame.
For the sport, it’s a lose-win situation.
Lee’s case has highlighted that there remains a problem of match-fixing in the sport – how widespread is anyone’s guess.
The flip side of that coin is that the governing body did well to ensure that an appropriate punishment, and therefore message, was inflicted by initially appointing the independent Sports Resolution UK body.
Yet, one suspects this will not be the last time we hear about such misdemeanors in snooker.
The WPBSA Statement:
After a hearing that took place between 9th – 11th September 2013, on 16th September 2013 Adam Lewis QC found Stephen Lee was in breach of the 2005 and 2006 WPBSA Members Rule 2.9;
“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.”
A hearing was held on 24th September 2013 where submissions on sanction were made by the WPBSA and Stephen Lee.
On 25th September 2013 Adam Lewis QC delivered his decision on sanction in writing.
He concluded that that the appropriate sanction is that Stephen Lee serve a Suspension of twelve years under Rule 12.1(a) of the Disciplinary Rules.
That suspension is to be calculated from 12 October 2012, when the interim suspension was imposed. Therefore Stephen Lee will not be able to participate in snooker before 12th October 2024.
He has ordered that he should pay a contribution towards those costs of £40,000.
The WPBSA has a zero tolerance approach to match fixing and this is further evidence of our uncompromising approach to dealing with such issues.
Jason Ferguson the Chairman of the WPBSA said: “We take no pride in having to deal with such serious issues. However this demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that snooker is free from corruption. It is an important part of our anti-corruption approach that players found to be involved in fixing matches or any aspect of a match are severely dealt with. We work closely with partners globally and the message we are sending is that if you get involved in match fixing you will be found out and removed from the sport.”
Under the WPBSA Disciplinary Rules Stephen Lee has a right to appeal the finding and the sentence imposed.
The hearings to deal with this matter were conducted through Sport Resolutions UK who are wholly independent of the WPBSA.