You may have heard of match-fixing in sport over the years, but it’s likely if you have that it’s been in relation to the likes of football. However, one sport that has often come under the microscope where match-fixing is concerned is professional snooker, but there’s a desire to change that moving forwards.
They say that where there’s money, corruption can occur, and you can certainly see why that’s a given across the sporting world. But, while snooker is hardly the most glamorous or popular sport when compared to the likes of football, maybe that’s why it has often fallen victim to some form of fixing. And, let’s face it, the two players at the table are in control of proceedings, and this has opened and continues to open the door for them to become targets for criminal enterprises.
You have to go as far back as the 80s to discover the first reported instances of match-fixing in snooker, with Silvino Francisco arrested for two counts in the last sixteen of the Masters in 86 and 89. However, the charges were later dropped. Interestingly, Peter Francisco, the nephew of Silvino Francisco, was found guilty in 1995 of bringing the game into disrepute, receiving a five-year ban following a match against Jimmy White. So, it’s fair to say that these underhand goings-on have been a thing for many years, but it wasn’t until 2008 that the real problem came to the fore.
The snooker universe was rocked when Stephen Lee, one of the sport’s better players, was found to have fixed multiple matches in which he was involved, in return for cash. Lee fixed games at the Malta Cup, UK Championship, China Open and World Championship between 2008 and 2009. He was successfully charged for his offences and fined, with a twelve-year ban from the sport also served as part of his punishment. As you will expect, Lee has been investigated further on multiple occasions and cannot compete until 2024 due to his actions.
Since Lee’s offences were exposed, multiple other players have been investigated due to suspicious betting patterns and the like. For example, John Higgins, a legend of the sport, received a six-month ban and a fine for giving the impression to those who approached him that he would fix a match, and for failing to report the contact from the criminal enterprise proposing he do so in return for financial gain.
While match-fixing and players being susceptible to this sort of thing is rare, there is work going on from various organisations and projects to help guard against it. You can look at how Entain and PartyCasino are committed to providing a platform for them to get help alongside the foundation they have set up as a prime example. If the support is there, and there are dedicated resources to help players and the game itself, match-fixing should be a thing of the past in no time.