I was in Bangkok for the 1999 Thailand Masters when James Wattana was issued with a death threat. Wattana was told if he didn’t lose his match, he would be shot.

The amiable Thai legend quipped afterwards, “thank God they didn’t say I had to win.”

I’d like to claim I was all over the story but the fact is myself and the two other British journalists present had gone out for a drink between sessions and missed the whole thing, including Wattana’s press conference.

Thailand, great country though it is, has not been short of shady characters getting involved in snooker, particularly from the gambling community. Wattana’s own father was shot dead the day James made his 147 at the 1992 British Open.

This week, betting was suspended on matches featuring Thai players Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon and Passakorn Suwannawat at the Shanghai Masters qualifiers in Doncaster. Both players subsequently lost.

World Snooker were informed of the unusual betting patterns the previous evening and switched one of the matches to be live streamed, with the game recorded for later scrutiny.

Media outlets who ignore snooker for most of the year gleefully reported the latest match fixing allegations levelled against the sport.

An investigation is underway. Experience suggests it may not be straightforward getting information from Asia. A similar investigation into a match involving a Thai player last season was dropped.

Unlike Stephen Lee, the players in question have not been suspended, which will strike many as inconsistent.

Time will tell what evidence is provided but it seems to me the onus should be on the Thailand snooker fraternity to ensure such practices, if proven, are stamped out.

If World Snooker tells them that no new tour places will be offered to Thai players in the future if any further matches are played in suspicious circumstances then that might be a start.

Snooker is involved in a dance with the devil when it comes to gambling: it relies on the industry for a large slice of its sponsorship yet the huge number of betting markets available represents a temptation for some and opportunity for others to cheat.

Most of the fixing over the years has been in low level matches – qualifiers or small tournaments – where in many cases one wonders why odds are being offered at all.

In cases where players have cheated it is usually because they have been put up to it by ‘associates’ who flit around the sport like flies around the proverbial, unregulated and unlicensed, usually bleeding the players dry financially.

It’s a shabby, distasteful side to the game, by no means unique to snooker but one which doesn’t seem to have gone away despite increased threats of punishment.

The saddest thing is that it casts a veil of suspicion over the majority of players who compete fairly and properly and who are, in their propriety, a credit to the sport.


wild said...

wattana made his 147 at the 1992 british open.

Dave H said...

Thanks: edited

Anonymous said...

IIRC Wattana knew his dad had been shot before the session where he made the 147? I might be mis-remembering this bit, but did the evening show Wattana on camera being told that his dad had died (there was no sound but footage of him slumping forward after being given the news).

Anonymous said...

Dave, why are World Snooker moving to another office in Bristol (and one in a residential area at that). Surely the governing body of a global sport would be better being based in London (even if it would mean sub-letting from Bazza at Brisbane Road)

Can147 said...

Let's ban any new tour places to English players because of Stephen Lee's discretions.

Pretty xenophobic statement wouldnt you agree?

If so, why on earth would you suggest no new tour spots for Thai players becuase of a few bad apples?

Thai snooker scene needs to be cleaned up but it should not be at the expense of up and coming new talents.

Enforcements and regulartory measures help but will not clean it up in entirety

The only reliable solution is when snooker upgrades its profile so its not associated with gambling or similar activities. I.e you don't see nearly as much if any gambling related scandals with tennis or golf.

I really hope snooker can start changing its image to attract non-gambling sponsors. This conflict of interest is like a steroid company sponsoring a track and field event.

Anonymous said...

Brisbane Road has no suitable office to take the whole of the snooker fraternity forward.
Stewards get trampled on at football grounds, they are dangerous places.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm glad they haven't been suspended but the inconsistency is a glaring problem. The WSA really need to get their act together over how to deal with these cases: no suspensions until they at least formally charge a player. If the evidence is compelling enough to suspend the player, it should be also compelling enough to charge the player. If Stephen Lee is cleared next month then the fallout is going to be seismic.

Anonymous said...

Off topic but World Snooker need to revamp the web site. Adverts cheapen it.Slow to load.Never 1st with news.Need complete revamp

wild said...

im sorry but the softly softly approach is as effective as a paper condom.

suspending lee was the right thing to do now it has to happen for every other player too.

you got to shoe tough consistencies.

personally i did not see the matches in question but apparently it was laughable how comical thanawat made loosing the match.