Details concerning the bans for players involved in the biggest match-fixing scandal in snooker history were released on Tuesday.
All ten Chinese snooker players embroiled in the corruption case were handed lengthy suspensions, or lifetime bans in the case of Liang Wenbo and Li Hang.
Recent major winners Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong were other notable names who will be out of the game for an extended period.
- CLICK HERE: WPBSA Statement on match-fixing snooker players
But while the news brings a conclusion of sorts to a sorry chapter in the sport’s history, many will be wondering what kind of impact this will have for snooker’s future.
Let’s start off with some of the obvious negative outcomes that could materialise from the sorry saga.
Snooker has been no stranger to match-fixing and betting scandals, but this one goes far and beyond anything that transpired in the past.
The fact that it was so widespread, comprising a significant percentage of the sport’s players from a specific country, is worrying.
Evidence pertaining to several matches was included in the official report, but one of the many important points that could be raised is the fact that Lu Ning fixed three matches during the 2014/15 snooker season.
That is a long time ago and serves as a red flag to how he and perhaps others have been able to fly under the radar largely undetected.
Is it possible to believe that this match-fixing scandal is restricted to just these ten players, and that all of the relevant fixed snooker matches have been duly discovered during this investigation?
It seems distinctly unlikely and seriously puts into question the system that is currently in place to catch the perpetrators.
Questions will also be asked of the education provided to international players who are forced to base themselves in the UK to further their ambitions in the professional game.
There may be a new world champion from Belgium but the sport, if anything, has become less global in the last four years.
A lot of that is of course related to the turbulent times of COVID-19, but it is also as a result of decisions taken to continue to stage more events in or around the UK, rather than explore options abroad.
These issues have made it increasingly difficult for international players – particularly the younger ones who don’t speak English well – to settle in a foreign environment.
By no means an excuse for their actions, it offers a potential reason for what happened and how some of the younger players may have been influenced or coerced, while it also raises the concern that they weren’t properly protected while thousands of miles away from their families.
The match-fixing scandal is disappointing for all ten players involved but particularly for Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao, who were both established members of the top 16 in snooker.
As recent winners of the UK Championship and the Masters respectively, they were widely tipped as potential future world champions.
How all of these issues will damage snooker’s reputation in general additionally remains to be seen.
Many loyal fans are understandably angered and embarrassed by what has happened but will no doubt put the reprehensible events behind them when the new season gets under way later in June.
More concerning is the damage it may do in terms of attracting new fans, who could read the outcome of this case and think an untrustworthy sport is not worth the effort.
Other sports have faced similar conundrums, notably many of the traditional Olympic sports that frequently become flooded by doping cases.
It will be interesting too to see how the snooker scene in China reacts to the news that ten of their own have been disgraced.
After years away from the country, the main tour is at least guaranteed to return to China during the 2023/24 snooker season.
The market is vitally important to the sport’s financial future and it will be hoped that there will be continued interest to stage more tournaments there in the long term despite what has happened here.
While there are still many questions left unanswered, on a positive note the WPBSA and the WST will desperately hope that these huge bans can act as a deterrent to potential scammers in the future.
There have been sizable suspensions in the past, including Stephen Lee’s 12-year ban that is set to end in 2024 and Yu Delu’s 10-year ban.
But there has never been such a seismic investigation into a vast network of match-fixers and collaborators like the scale of the one that has been undertaken in the first half of this year.
The fact that they were indeed caught and given imposing, and in some cases career-ending, sentences will hopefully lead to a cleaner outlook for the sport moving forward.
That is probably naive, but only time will tell.
Match-fixing snooker scandal bans
Liang Wenbo has been given a lifetime ban from snooker and is to pay £43,000 in costs.
Li Hang has been given a lifetime ban from snooker and is to pay £43,000 in costs.
Lu Ning has been given an 8 year suspension, reduced following early admissions and his plea of guilty, to 5 years and 4 months until 6 April 2028. He is to pay £7,500 in costs.
Yan Bingtao has been given a 7 year and 6 months suspension, reduced following early admissions and plea of guilty, to 5 years until 11 December 2027. He is to pay £7,500 in costs.
Zhao Xintong has been given a 2 year and 6 months suspension, reduced following early admissions and his plea of guilty, to 1 year and 8 months until 1 September 2024. He is to pay £7,500 in costs.
Zhao Jianbo has been given a 3 year and 6 months suspension, reduced following early admissions and his plea of guilty, to 2 years and 4 months until 7 April 2025. He is to pay £7,500 in costs.
Chang Bingyu has been given a 3 year suspension, reduced following early admissions and his plea of guilty, to 2 years until 7 December 2024. He is to pay £7,500 in costs.
Bai Langning has been given a 4 year suspension, reduced following early admissions and his plea of guilty, to 2 years and 8 months until 6 August 2025. He is to pay £7,500 in costs.
Chen Zifan has been given a 7 year and 6 months suspension, reduced following early admissions and his plea of guilty, to 5 years until 20 December 2027. He is to pay £7,500 in costs.
Zhang Jiankang has been given a 4 year and 5 months suspension, reduced following early admissions and his plea of guilty, to 2 years and 11 months until 1 December 2025. He is to pay £7,500 in costs.
Featured photo credit: WPBSA