The snooker world has been rumbling for three months. At that time, the world association WPBSA announced the suspension of Liang Wenbo. In succinct terms, those responsible explained that the Chinese was no longer allowed to take part in WPBSA events until the investigation was completed due to unspecified “misconduct”. The investigations continue to this day – and have drawn wide circles.
In early December, Lu Ning, Li Hang, Zhao Jianbo, Bai Langning and Chang Bingyu were also provisionally suspended. In mid-December, Yan Bingtao, number 16 in the world rankings and already the winner of the important Masters, was suspended shortly before a game at a tournament in Brentwood, England. Chen Zifan followed at the end of December and now, shortly after the turn of the year, Zhang Jiankang and Zhao Xintong, number nine in the world. The association has now withdrawn ten players – all Chinese – from circulation.
The accusation on which the WPBSA investigation and thus the suspensions are now based is “manipulation of game results for betting purposes”. So it’s about match fixing, the shifting of entire games or individual events within the game, in snooker e.g. losing a certain frame (comparable to a set or a game in tennis). “Obviously, structures have been formed that enable systematic fraud,” wrote Rolf Kalb, TV commentator and the German voice of snooker, in his Eurosport column.
There is little information about the background. Only a now-deleted post by 20-year-old Chang Bingyu caused a stir, in which he accused his colleague Liang Wenbo, who was the first to be suspended.
“On the morning of the game he called me and said in a threatening tone that he was ‘in’ my game against Jamie Jones (at the British Open, ed.). I was scared because he had bet so much money. If I didn’t agree, he would give me trouble, so I had no choice but to agree (final score 1:4, ed.). I was very scared,” Bingyu wrote, showing remorse: “Whatever the reason for the match-fixing, it’s my fault and I will actively cooperate in the investigation. I can accept my punishment, but I was really scared at the time.” According to his own statements, he did not receive any money.
The association has a zero-tolerance policy against the players. “We want to move very quickly on this matter. We push as hard as we can. These things are very harmful. We have to prove to the public that we can take care of this and act quickly,” President Jason Ferguson recently told the English newspaper Metro. However, he ruled out life bans because they “would not stand up in court” and emphasized that “not everyone who has been suspended is guilty of match-fixing. That is certainly not in the explanations.”
The world association is already in conflict due to the concentration of suspended Chinese players. China is an important market for the WPBSA with its own TV deal. The expensive snooker tables are also supplied by a Chinese sponsor. Until the corona pandemic, the China Open was an integral part of the tournament calendar.