Ken Doherty
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Ken Doherty – ‘we must learn lessons from this’

Ken Doherty believes snooker needs to learn from the match-fixing scandal that has engulfed the sport in recent months.

Doherty, the 1997 world champion, is the chairman of the Players committee that is linked to the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.

On Tuesday, the WPBSA announced that all ten players who were charged in the corruption case earlier in 2023 had been handed lengthy bans from the sport.

Liang Wenbo and Li Hang have been given the toughest punishments, lifetime sentences that effectively end their snooker careers.

The other eight perpetrators have also received multi-year suspensions, including former UK champion Zhao Xintong, former Masters winner Yan Bingtao, and long-time pro Lu Ning.

The charges ranged from match-fixing to betting on snooker matches, but they also included knowing obstruction of the investigation and coersion.

Ken Doherty said: “This is an extremely unfortunate position these players and the game of snooker finds itself in.”

“But we must learn lessons from this and take positive action to respond to a constantly changing world by continually reviewing our procedures and helping to ensure that players avoid making the same mistakes in the future.”

A statement from the WPBSA Players was released in the immediate aftermath of the hearing’s results.

“The WPBSA Players Board of Directors is extremely saddened by the actions of all of those concerned who have been found guilty of such serious breaches of the WPBSA rules,” it said.

“WPBSA Players has provided practical support to the players throughout the case to ensure that they all had a clear understanding of the process and received a fair hearing in front of the independent tribunal.”

“Each of the players will now face a period of reflection and need to come to terms with the impact their actions have had on their own careers, their fellow players, and the credibility of sport generally.

“WPBSA Players will continue to communicate with the players impacted from a welfare perspective and in line with the terms of the tribunal decision, facilitate them to assist the WPBSA in its anti-corruption and player education efforts.

“WPBSA Players wish to acknowledge the work of the WPBSA and its partners in bringing the case to a conclusion and seeking to protect the integrity of snooker in the interests of all its members who continue to play by the rules with passion and commitment to the game of snooker.”

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.

Meanwhile, some other main tour players have reacted to the report, which outlined a lot of the specific matches that were involved in the fixing ring.

Robert Milkins and Aaron Hill were two competitors caught up in the saga through no fault of their own.

Their respective encounters against Lu Ning and Zhao Jianbo in qualifying matches during 2022 were among those under investigation.

“It is shocking,” Welsh Open champion Milkins said, as reported by Hector Nunns for the Express.

“Thinking back now, I played really well in that game and he couldn’t do anything right.”

“When you have played well, you often don’t think much of how badly the other player did because you give yourself the credit.

“So I didn’t have a sniff of it – not a clue. I didn’t give him much of a chance for it to even look suspicious, and I certainly didn’t come off thinking, ‘he’s chucked that’.”

Ireland’s Hill was also “shocked” by the events that unfolded.

“I remember putting myself under such pressure to win. It was to qualify for Northern Ireland and I really wanted to play in Belfast,” Hill said.

“Now I realise the kid wasn’t even trying. The consequences are there and clear if any player is stupid enough to try it again.

“I don’t think we’ll ever see any more of it in the sport. You’d have to be a lunatic. These players are disgraced for life, themselves and their families, they will always be known for match-fixing.

“I would praise the WPBSA and the integrity unit for how they have dealt with it. They have done a strong investigation and got the guilty verdicts we needed.”

Featured photo credit: WST

5 Comments

  1. Dear David,
    It would be great if you could compare the situation with superstar legeng John Higgins betting and frame fixing scandal. It has been a ridiculous difference with the penalties.

    • Even this 58-page report presents a summary of many hours of video testimony, and there will be many details redacted for legal reasons – total transparency is not achievable. Nevertheless, I recommend you read the whole report, and you will find this is a totally different situation to the Higgins case you referred to. There’s really no comparison to be made.

      But what the debate needs to focus on now is how to prevent these things from happening in the future. Specifically in the case of young Chinese players, there will need to be some changes to prevent a vulnerable group from feeling like neglected outsiders in the way which they certainly did.

      I do generally agree with the lengths of the bans, but the whole thing reads as a somewhat tragic story.

      • Declan White

        I would like to hear a few words from Yan Bingtao, to help explain his actions. Why does a public address like that seem to be prevented? He’s a good man, as Zhao Xintong said after whitewashing him at the Welsh Open final. It’s easy to see he’s decent.

        There must be meaningful reasons why Bingtao let himself down. Why won’t he speak? The Crucible has lost a great champion in this player. He is unique, a rare type of snooker player. With that ban, we may never see him again or see him compete at the top. He may never recover from that ban or reignite the unquestionable fire he had.

        Speak, Yan.

  2. It would be great to know which matches were fixed and under which circumstances occurred. I do not know how old was he when fixing matches, but I read somewhere that he was just 16 when making the first fixed match. Some of these guys are leaving alone and likely with lot of language limitations and culture clash. It is very likely the end of Yan’s career. 5 years without comprising at this age there is no way back to elite.

  3. Francis Conway

    Some get away it john Higgins perfect example we all know some games are fixed cant understand how players are in shock ?

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