Suspended snooker star John Higgins wept down the phone to Barry Hearn but was warned last night that his snooker future will be in peril if newspaper allegations that he agreed to fix frames at tournaments can be confirmed.
Hearn, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, warned Higgins "his whole career is in doubt" if he is found guilty of manipulating results. Higgins insisted: "I have never been involved in any form of snooker match-fixing."
Hearn has known Higgins for most of the Scot's playing career but insists their friendship is now irrelevant. He formally suspended the 34-year-old yesterday.
Hearn said: "I've made him aware there are very serious repercussions on this if this case is proved by the disciplinary council of the WPBSA.
"Basically that this is in my view such a level that if the allegations are found, then obviously his whole career is in doubt. He should be aware of that and give it some thought obviously, get advice, independent advice."
Higgins and his manager Pat Mooney were covertly filmed at a meeting with an undercover reporter posing as a businessman, which an English Sunday tabloid say took place in Kiev on Friday, following Higgins' World Championship second-round defeat by Steve Davis.
Mooney yesterday stepped down as a member of the WPBSA board. Higgins said he suspected the undercover reporter posing as a businessman might have been "Russian mafia".
Asked whether Higgins could play again in the future if found guilty, Hearn said: "I think it would be a real problem for him."
Hearn confirmed Higgins was in tears as they spoke, and claimed Higgins regretted the circumstances in which he had become caught up but pleaded his innocence. "Yes (he was in tears)," Hearn said. "I don't feel sorry for anyone. As much as I would class John as a nice guy, the game is at stake here. Whatever the penalty is, it sends out a message to everyone. This is a major international globalised sport, these are the rules, don't break them."
Higgins, the new world number one and a three-time world snooker champion, has been suspended from competition following the publication of the newspaper allegations that he agreed to lose specific frames in four future matches, in return for £261,000.
The winner of the World Championship receives £250,000. The newspaper's claims rocked snooker on day one of the World Championship final, overshadowing the title match between Neil Robertson and Graeme Dott. Higgins said: "Today is the start of the biggest match of my life.
"It's not the World Championship that's at stake, it's something even more important, my reputation."
He vowed: "I will co-operate fully with the snooker authorities. I have built my reputation on honesty and integrity."