The John Higgins affair is the culmination of several years in which snooker has failed to take seriously the whiff of corruption that has poisoned a number of tournaments.

All sports have issues with cheating. Snooker does not have a problem with drugs or with dishonesty in the arena but betting irregularities have surfaced too often to be dismissed merely as bookmakers having a moan.

In days gone by there was the odd match here or there that caused concern. Players have often bet on themselves to lose for insurance purposes. This does not mean any of them lost deliberately but it has now been outlawed.

In more recent times, the growth of internet betting has increased the temptation for players to cheat.

Bookmakers will tell you that the rot set in at the 2006 Grand Prix, played under a round robin format.

It led to an inequality of motivation in certain matches involving players either already through to the knockout phase or unable to qualify.

With no additional financial reward on offer for frames won - unlike in the Premier League - there was widespread concern backstage in Aberdeen that some matches were not contested honestly.

The same thing happened the following year and at the 2008 Malta Cup, where the Gambling Commission were alerted by suspicious patterns of betting.

Not enough was done to stamp this out. That is not to say there actually was widespread cheating but the perception of any sport is almost as important as the reality.

It led to a culture where some players may have felt they could get away with low level rigging, the odd frame here, the odd missed pot there.

Barry Hearn has decided, correctly, to get tough. A new anti-corruption unit has been set up, headed by David Douglas, and players will be severely punished if they fail to report approaches from those seeking to corrupt them.

This is good news but I disagree with the notion that a line should be drawn under what has happened in the past.

I would urge Douglas to institute a cold case review of previous matches thought to be dodgy and take the appropriate action against any offenders.

It should be remembered that Higgins was filmed agreeing to fix future matches but there are players competing now on the circuit thought to have actually manipulated results.

For the good of the sport, they should be thoroughly investigated.

Higgins's version of events has been believed by the authorities even though to many they sound improbable.

I hope he is telling the truth.

Higgins's World Series project with Pat Mooney took snooker to parts of Europe that had never seen the players close up before but it failed to live up to its early promise, largely because of the insistence of using local wildcards, which led to a number of one-sided matches, and the attitude of some of the players, who treated the events as a holiday.

How ironic that an innovation that promised to enhance the circuit proved to be Higgins's undoing.

His manager, Mooney, was supposed to protect him from trouble, not plunge him directly into it.

Mooney has walked away from snooker. He was targeted by figures within the sport who set out to get him for their own reasons. I don't believe this was done to clean snooker up as they approached a tabloid newspaper, not the authorities.

The News of the World story cast a pall over the World Championship and left many of those involved in snooker, myself included, seriously questioning what we were doing.

Few will miss Mooney, who created this mess, but we must not kid ourselves that this is now the end of the affair.

Snooker's failure to take this problem seriously has left its reputation damaged at a time where it looks to betting companies for an important source of sponsorship revenue.

The sport cannot afford any more scandals.


Anonymous said...

"Snooker's failure to take this problem seriously", I totally agree. As much as Higgins 'was' good for the game, his actions should be punished, and for me the easy option was taken once again. Mooney taking the brunt, allowing Higgins a slapped wrist.

Higgins was caught.  He should pay the price.

WPBSA has not changed at all.


kildare cueman said...

The financial losses that Higgins has accrued from his fine and loss of earnings are more than any individual could earn off the bookies in a lifetime from deliberately losing.

The damage to his reputation and the obvious difficulty he will have when he rejoins the tour, not to mention the stress of the last six months, are in my opinion, more than ample punishment.

Anonymous said...

Still waiting on the Maguire/Burnett outcome...

Anonymous said...

Well said, a very balanced article on a subject that always stirs up emotion. Just because a potential offence was committed in the past should not prohibit it from thorough investigation in the present.

NewsBrain said...

I don't know about the above comment.

If the News of the World was sure Higgins woyuld go through with it why not wait until the game was fixed. Then you have slap bang proof. (as they did with the spot fixing)

Once again, the 'screws' proves totally unreliable, totally pathetic journalism staffed by the lowest forms of life you could imagine.

They tried to prove Grobelaar was a match fixer but again it did not stand in coyrt and again you just have waters muddied with nothing proved.

There is a reason why the police is not allowed to entrap criminals.

I admit that I thought Higgins had little hope initially but the sporting intelligence website and general concerns around this type of NotW journalism prompted me to change my thinking.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the excellent coverage today, Dave. I, like you, hope Higgins was telling the truth. I am however suspicious that there may have been more "joint enterprise" than is being admitted here. Up until this episode John has certainly been a true ambassador for the sport I love, a model professional in fact. I was deeply disappointed and saddened when the news broke in May with the damning video footage. I believe that he was extremely naieve to trust Mr Mooney. In some respects he has got off very lightly here. Compare and contrast this case with Q. Hann's - he got an 8 year ban following a similar sting. Indeed there are other snooker professionals who are still under police investigation for suspected match fixing. John will at least be allowed to earn a living from snooker in the future.

This incident has certainly blighted John's career and reputation and this is something that won't be forgotten.

All things considered, as a fan, I am glad that John will be back to compete at the top level of snooker once more. I hope he has made a better choice in respect of his new management team.

Anonymous said...

Another missed opportunity and same old same old again. Snooker will never learn. Higgins for me was caught bang to rights and insulted everyone's intelligence with his silly, infantile excuses.

How this tribunal swallowed such ridiculous excuses is beyond me.

Of course, Mr Higgins will now be suing the NOTW for libelling him?
I hope there are no more skeletons in his closet because it will be open season now.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what a body language expert would have made of Higgins behaviour on video?
As a complete amateur I must say he didn't look scared to me just anxious how he could launder the money.
I think it stinks to high heaven and the WPBSA need to remember - when you lie down with dogs you get fleas.

Noel said...

Dave "The sport cannot afford any more scandals."

This charade of justice is the fake cherry on top of a glossed-over cake layered with self-interest, greed,
and ambition. It is in itself a snooker scandal.
Let's give it a media-friendly name shall we...


Anonymous said...

Nothing to do with wpbsa. it was an independant body who deal with sports disputes.

Anonymous said...

I just hope no one in the I-dislike-Barry-Hearn camp will use this mess to strike a lethal blow by setting up new trouble.

Anonymous said...

Agree. What a whitewash.

Charge 1 says it's accepted that Higgins had no intention of throwing a frame. But where is the proof??? We're just supposed to take his word for it?