Two professional Chinese snooker players have been banned for life and eight others suspended after being found guilty of match-fixing and other charges, the sport’s governing body has announced.
The punishment is the latest crisis to engulf professional sports in China which has seen a host of match-fixing scandals across multiple disciplines in recent years.
Traditionally snooker was dominated by players from the United Kingdom, but in recent years has seen an influx of Chinese talent, with the sport soaring in popularity there.
Liang Wenbo and Li Hang were handed lifetime bans for their breaches in conduct regulations, with the remaining eight players pleading guilty and given lengthy suspensions for their involvement, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) said.
This includes Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao – considered among snooker’s brightest talents – who have been banned for one year and eight months and five years, respectively.
Lu Ning, Zhao Jianbo, Chang Bingyu, Bai Langning, Chen Zifan and Zhang Jiangkang were also banned for between two and eight years, with their early admission of guilt reducing the length.
The disciplinary hearing took place in April and May of this year, months after an alert from the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA) last August. Liang was the first Chinese player to be suspended in connection with the investigation in October.
All 10 players have until June 20 to appeal the decisions.
In its summary, the WPBSA concluded that Li and Liang were found to be the primary instigators for fixing multiple matches between July and September last year. The remaining players either joined in with match fixing or made illegal bets themselves.
“This has been a very complex case,” WPBSA’s chairman Jason Ferguson said in a statement announcing the punishments, which also included fines for all ten players ranging from $9,300 to $53,000.
“It has been heart-breaking to see some young talented player fall foul of the WPBSA Conduct Regulations through pressure exerted by two senior players. This behaviour has been recognized as wholly unacceptable by the imposition of two lifetime bans from participating in recognized snooker in any way.”
“Those who try to corrupt the sport are constantly trying to find new ways to avoid our monitoring process and this outcome must be taken as a lesson to those who think they can avoid detection. If any player is involved in fixing a snooker match, they will be caught and will face severe penalties,” he added.
None of the sanctioned players have yet to publicly comment on the matter.
In a statement Wednesday, the Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association acknowledged the “manipulation of match results” by the 10 players involved and reiterated its “zero-tolerance” approach to “unsportsmanlike behaviour such as gambling and match-fixing.”
It added it would warn and educate the Chinese snooker industry and strengthen cooperation with relevant international organizations.
The IBIA, which provided the suspicious betting activity which triggered the investigation last year, said it welcomed the sanctions imposed on the players, while the bans send “a very clear message to all athletes about the risks of engaging in match-fixing.”
Snooker, which shares many similarities with the US game of pool, is a two-person sport played on a large, green table using cues.
The objective is to take turns to hit the white cue ball to pot one of 15 red balls each worth 1 point, before sinking one of 6 different colored balls – worth between 2 and 7 points – into the 6 pockets around the table.
The player who scores the most points wins an individual frame, with the overall winner reaching a certain amount of frames.