The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) has delivered punishments on ten players in a huge match-fixing scandal.
Two of the ten players, Liang Wenbo and Li Hang, have been banned from the sport for life.
The judgement comes after a lengthy investigation and hearing process which has engulfed the sport and its stakeholders for months.
Initial charges were levelled back in January following a string of suspensions against a cohort of the circuit’s Chinese players. An independent disciplinary tribunal then began its hearings in April, during the sport’s World Championship in Sheffield.
Among the penalties are two heavy punishments for the group’s two most notable players, Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong.
Bingtao, 2021 Masters champion, and Xintong, 2021 UK Championship winner, will pay penalties of £7,500.
Bingtao will not be permitted to return to the tour until December 2027, whereas Xintong has the smallest suspension of the ten, with the 26-year-old allowed to rejoin the tour from September 2024.
It is by far snooker’s biggest match-fixing and corruption case to date and comes just months before the World Snooker Tour is set to return to China for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Commenting on the judgement, the WPBSA’s chairman Jason Ferguson said: “This has been a very complex case. It has been heart-breaking to see some young talented players fall foul of the WPBSA Conduct Regulations through pressure exerted by two senior players.
“This behaviour has been recognised as wholly unacceptable by the imposition of two lifetime bans from participating in recognised snooker in any way.”
The report from the investigating body, Sport Resolutions, also suggests that Li Hang was seen as an ‘elder brother’ figure by many of the group who helped to encourage their extensive betting habits
He continued: “Those who try to corrupt sport are constantly trying to find new ways to avoid our monitoring processes 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.
“I am pleased that the Commission found that they did not see from the present case ‘any evidence of a wider culture of wrongdoing in snooker’. The WPBSA will continue its strong stance against those who try to manipulate sport and today’s outcome sends out a clear message that match fixing will not be tolerated in snooker.”
The hopes of the WPBSA, snooker’s governing body, and the World Snooker Tour will be that today’s announcement draws a line under a case which has produced many negative headlines for the sport in the recent months.
The revelation, however, that two players have helped to orchestrate a match-fixing operation involving nine of its professionals and one leading amateur will be of great concern.
Wenbo, the oldest of those charged, is alleged to have engaged in “intimidating” behaviour in his attempts to solicit players to fix matches. The finding described his conduct in this regard as “particularly disgraceful”. He did not participate in the proceedings.
The report from the investigating body, Sport Resolutions, also suggests that Li Hang was seen as an ‘elder brother’ figure by many of the group who helped to encourage their extensive betting habits.
The full list of players banned is as follows: Liang Wenbo, Li Hang (banned for life), Yan Bingtao (banned until December 2027), Zhao Xintong (banned until September 2024), Zhao Jianbo (banned until April 2025), Chang Bingyu (banned until December 2024), Bai Langning (banned until August 2025), Chen Zifan (banned until December 2027) and Zhang Jianking (banned until December 2025).