Former Masters champion Yan Bingtao is among the seven Chinese snooker players suspended from the World Snooker Tour (WST) as part of an ongoing investigation into match-fixing. He was due to face off against Ashley Hugill in the first round of the English Open on Monday 12 December, but he was questioned by World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) integrity chiefs about a corruption investigation that morning and then suspended.
Bingtao has 14 days to appeal the decision. Although the suspension is not in any way proof of wrongdoing, Bingtao’s high profile – he is world no. 16, the 2021 Masters champion, and often touted as a future world champion – has made the story potentially highly scandalous. Jimmy White described it as a “really bad day for snooker”, while WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson said that the news is “not a good look” for the sport.
On Friday 9 December, five Chinese players – Lu Ning, Li Hang, Zhao Jianbo, Bai Langning and Chang Bingyu – were handed suspensions by the WPBSA following “allegations of manipulating the outcome of matches for betting purposes”, as well as the right to appeal. And that announcement followed the 27 October suspension of Liang Wenbo, who was hit with a temporary ban after “allegations of misconduct”.
It doesn’t put the game in a great light
– Mark Selby
In a statement on the WST website, Ferguson wrote that he had “taken the decision to suspend Yan Bingtao from attending or competing on the World Snooker Tour with immediate effect”. It read: “This decision is part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of manipulating the outcome of matches for betting purposes in breach of the WPBSA Conduct Regulations. The suspension will remain in place until the conclusion of the investigation or any subsequent charges that may or may not be brought. Yan Bingtao has the right to appeal this decision. No further comment will be made except in the event of any significant further developments.”
Speaking to Eurosport after the news had been announced, Ferguson confirmed that the suspension followed new information in the existing investigation. He said: “Suspensions went ahead last week of some players. Throughout [that process] we were presented with some new evidence, which meant that we needed to interview Yan Bingtao. Yan Bingtao turned up this morning [and] he was interviewed at length by Nigel Mawer, our head of integrity. And as a result of that interview and discussions, I took the decision to suspend Yan Bingtao with immediate effect, pending any outcome of this investigation or any potential disciplinary proceedings which may follow.”
He also added that any players who thought they could get away with match-fixing were “completely foolish”. He said: “We’re constantly monitoring markets and everything else. We know what’s going on. And if any player thinks they can get away with [match-fixing], by the way, [they’re] completely foolish because we can find it easily. [The investigation] won’t take as long as you think – I think we are quite well down the road. It is not a good look for us, but we are a sport that chooses to deal with it. We are a sport that chooses to put it out in the public domain. We will not have it talked about behind the scenes. Expose it, get it out there, deal with it, and we can move on with the professional sport that we’ve got.”
Among players on the tour, the reaction was one of shock. Four-time world champion Mark Selby said: “Oh my God. This is tough for the sport. It doesn’t put the game in a great light. Especially with Bingtao, one of the game’s top 16 players, being suspended, it doesn’t look good for our sport.” He pushed for a severe punishment for players found guilty of match-fixing, a point of view echoed by Shaun Murphy, who called for a lifetime ban.