Snooker's shame as life bans handed down in one of sport's biggest match-fixing scandals

Li Hang - Snooker's shame as life bans handed down in one of sport's biggest match-fixing scandals - Getty Images/VCG
Li Hang - Snooker's shame as life bans handed down in one of sport's biggest match-fixing scandals - Getty Images/VCG

Liang Wenbo and Li Hang have been banned for life and a further eight Chinese players have been suspended following one of sport’s biggest ever match-fixing scandals.

Liang and Li were found to have fixed or been party to fix five matches last year and, after also being accused of pressurising other Chinese players, have each been ordered to pay £43,000 in costs and told that they can never again compete in events organised by snooker’s governing body, the WPBSA .

The two players were also said to have “solicited, induced, enticed, persuaded, encouraged or facilitated players” to fix nine and seven matches respectively and to have attempted to cover up their involvement by deleting mobile phone messages.

Liang, who reached the World Championship quarter-finals in 2008 and won the 2016 English Open, was also found to have threatened another player and failed to cooperate with the governing body’s investigation.

The disciplinary commission described Liang’s conduct as “particularly disgraceful” and said that he had placed pressure on a large number of young and impressionable Chinese players, giving them “no hesitation” in ending his professional career.

Similarly, they said that Li’s conduct was “utterly unacceptable” and that he had “used his influence as an older and established player to befriend younger impressionable Chinese players who were far from home”.

All of the players have until June 20 to appeal the disciplinary commission’s findings and decisions, which followed an investigation and Sports Resolutions hearings in April and May.

The suspensions also include Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong, respectively aged only 23 and 26, who are both past winners of ‘triple crown’ events and were ranked in the world’s top 16.

Yan was given a ban of more than seven years, but this has been reduced to five years following early admissions and a guilty plea. He accepted that he had fixed one match in 2016 and then three further matches between March and September last year.

“Zhao’s suspension was also reduced following early admissions and a guilty plea to one year and eight months after he accepted that he was “party to another player fixing two snooker matches” last March.

Lu Ning, who was found to have fixed four matches between 2014 and 2022, received a ban of more than five years while Zhao Jianbo, Chang Bingyu, Bai Langning, Chen Zifan and Zhang Jiankang were all banned for between two and five years.

“This has been a very complex case,” said Jason Ferguson, chairman of the WPBSA . “It has been heart-breaking to see some young talented players fall foul of the WPBSA Conduct Regulations through pressure exerted by two senior players. This behaviour has been recognised as wholly unacceptable by the imposition of two lifetime bans from participating in recognised snooker in any way.”

“Those who try to corrupt sport are constantly trying to find new ways to avoid our monitoring processes. If any player is involved in fixing a snooker match, they will be caught and will face severe penalties.”

Ferguson also highlighted how the commission did not find “any evidence of a wider culture of wrongdoing in snooker”. The investigation had followed reports of suspicious betting by the International Betting Integrity Association.