Friday 22 September 2017

Picking up the tab for taking easy money as game in battle to regain lost face

Kevin Garside

Snooker has its conviction. Stephen Lee is in the professional slammer with a 12-year ban for his role in fixing seven matches between 2008 and 2009.

He continues to plead his innocence and says he will appeal against the ruling. Let's leave him to his fight. As it stands, he will be in his 50s when the ban matures, leaving him way past his best.

The bringing to justice of Lee was swift and decisive. But that is not the end of the matter for snooker. Out there looming large is the great, big, dirty idea that the game has a problem with fixing that goes way beyond one disgraced individual. The sport's stakeholders insist that this is not the case, that the cancer has been cut out at source. They are mobilising with conviction, spreading the message that the green baize is in no way warped by a bent culture. Former world champion Ken Doherty, who was involved in one of the games thrown by Lee in Malta, claims he had no idea the match was dodgy.

How could he? He was potting his own balls and saw Lee's failure to raise a lick as a technical problem, not the unfolding of a result decided prior to the whistleblowing.

Ronnie O'Sullivan tweeted his concerns about snooker when Lee was convicted. "I've heard there's many more players who throw matches. I suppose Steve Lee was just caught out. No need to worry if you got nothing to hide. But plenty of people have got loads to hide."

O'Sullivan has subsequently claimed his comments were taken out of context. Unfortunately they cannot be unsaid.

According to the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), the figures involved in the Lee case amount to as much as €125,000 (£105,000), almost €50,000 of which found its way into a bank account in the name of Lee's wife.

Even for a player with the potential to earn twice that annually, the lure of easy money proved too much. Now snooker as well as Lee is picking up the tab. (© Independent News Service)

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