Two Chinese professional snooker players have been handed lifetime bans and eight others have been suspended for several years by the sport’s global governing body following a probe into match-fixing allegations.
Liang Wenbo, 36, and Li Hang, 32, were among 10 Chinese players who were suspended from official competitions earlier this year as the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association investigated claims of match-fixing and other charges.
As well as being barred from the professional game for life, the pair have each been ordered to pay £43,000 in costs. The WPBSA said the punishments were for a long list of rule breaches, including fixing matches and failing to co-operate with the investigation.
The other eight players also received bans that initially ranged from two and a half years to eight years. However, the WPBSA said early admission of guilt had led it to reduce the length of the suspensions. The longest bar was five years and four months, handed to Lu Ning, ranked 65th in the world.
The association’s disciplinary commission barred former Masters champion Yan Bingtao from competing until December 2027, while Zhao Xintong — ranked 11th in the world — can return in September next year.
The players have until June 20 to appeal against the decisions.
Jason Ferguson, chair of the WPBSA, said it was “heartbreaking” to see talented young players break the rules “through pressure exerted by two senior players”.
“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,” he added.
Concerns over potential match-fixing surfaced last summer following an alert from the International Betting Integrity Association, an umbrella organisation that monitors suspicious activity in gambling markets and flags potential problems to bookmakers and sports governing bodies
The WPBSA, which has strict rules on gambling, works closely with technology company Sportradar to track any suspect movement in betting markets.
Although a dozen players have previously been punished for breaking snooker’s betting rules, the current case is by far the biggest the sport has faced.
Snooker has become one of the most popular sports in China in recent years, with as many as 50mn people now participating. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, China hosted about a third of all snooker world tour events, while a quarter of the top 100 ranked players hailed from the country.