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Snooker match-fixing scandal “a heart-breaking situation” says Jason Ferguson

Jamie Shaw in Snooker News

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Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong among ten Chinese players charged in match-fixing investigation

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WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson (Photo Credit: Gints Ivuskans/Alamy Live News)

WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson has described snooker’s biggest match-fixing scandal as “heart-breaking” and admits those involved could face a lifetime ban from the sport.

Ten Chinese players are facing charges over match-fixing in professional competition, including a trio of former ranking event winners.

The allegations include manipulating games, approaching other players to cheat, betting on snooker and fixing the outcome of matches.

The sport’s biggest corruption scandal first surfaced last October when Liang Wenbo was banned pending the results of a misconduct investigation.

Five more players – Lu Ning, Li Hang, Zhao Jianbo, Bai Langning and Chang Bingyu – were then suspended in December.

Yan Bingtao, the 2021 Masters champion, became the seventh Chinese player to be sanctioned, with Chen Zifan, Zhang Jiankang and 2021 UK Champion Zhao Xintong following soon after.

The players are currently suspended from attending and competing on the World Snooker Tour until the conclusion of the independent tribunal.

Speaking to ITV Sport, Ferguson said: “It is a heart-breaking situation for those who have been in the sport for a long time and have worked to make it the great sport that it is.

“The process really began back in October. Some information came to light regarding the manipulation of results, that resulted in the suspension of Liang Wenbo to begin with and that was the beginning of a very detailed investigation by our integrity unit.

“That investigation is now finished and we are now at the point where charges will be pressed.

“It must be done by the end of the season as far as we’re concerned, we will target around March with this but of course we have to rely on whatever time it takes for that independent tribunal to be established.

“Our rules are very clear, for manipulation of the betting rules, up to a lifetime ban can be received by a player from this tribunal.”

No televised tournaments have been held in China since 2019, prior to the global pandemic, but as the country begins to lift its travel restrictions, Ferguson remains positive of a return next season despite the match-fixing scandal.

He added: “We have to have a pure sport which people watch and buy tickets. We sell our rights around the world, it has to be pure. That is the reason we’re doing this and taking this very seriously.

“Of course there is some short-term damage, it’s not a great look for us and it’s unfortunate that we’re in this position.

“But actually, our partners in China are alongside us here. We’re all working together on this.

“Whatever the outcome is, the sport is great and the demand is great for the sport.

“We are in very good talks with China over our return there and I am very position about returning there for the new season ahead.”