WPBSA boss Jason Ferguson: Chinese players’ match-fixing charges ‘heartbreaking’

Former Masters champion Yan Bingtao is among six Chinese players charged with match-fixing by snooker’s governing body, whose chairman Jason Ferguson described the situation as “heartbreaking”.

All 10 players currently suspended from the World Snooker Tour have been deemed to have cases to answer by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) following the sport’s biggest ever corruption investigation.

The other players charged with fixing a match or matches are Lu Ning, Zhang Jiankang, Chen Zifan, Chang Bingyu and Zhao Jianbo.

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An independent disciplinary tribunal will now be convened to consider the evidence, with a verdict likely delivered before the World Championship in April.

“It is a heartbreaking situation for those of us who have been in this sport for a long time and have worked to make it the great sport it is,” WPBSA chairman Ferguson told ITV4.

“That is why we are doing this. We have to have a pure sport which people watch, buy tickets for, we sell our rights around the world; it has to be pure, live competitive sport.

“We are taking this very seriously, we’ve come out with everything we possibly can. We’ve been transparent all the way in this process and we will again be transparent at the end of this to give the public and the audience watching the confidence that this sport is still great.”

Asked if some players could have played their last competitive match, Ferguson added: “Our rules are very clear on this, it does say that for manipulation of the betting rules, up to a lifetime ban can be received by a player from this tribunal.

Jason Ferguson
WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson (right), himself a former player, described snooker’s match-fixing scandal as “heartbreaking” (John Giles/PA)

“It’s impossible for me to give an outcome, it is up to that independent sports tribunal to make that decision. We, on both sides, will have to abide by that decision.”

Although all 10 players charged are from China, Ferguson said he was confident that the country would soon stage tournaments again. They have been suspended since the coronavirus pandemic.

“Of course there is some short-term damage, it’s not a great look for us,” Ferguson said.

“It’s unfortunate we are in this position but our partners in China, the sports authority of China, they’re alongside us here. Whatever the outcome is, the demand is great for the sport.

“I can tell you that we are in very good talks with China over our return to China. I am very positive about returning there for the new season ahead.”

Yan Bingtao
Former Masters champion Yan Bingtao has been charged with fixing matches on the World Snooker Tour (Kieran Cleeves/PA)

Yan pocketed £250,000 when he became the youngest Masters champion in 26 years by recovering from 7-5 down to beat John Higgins 10-8 in the final in January 2021.

Zhao Xintong, whose UK Championship victory in December that year meant Chinese players held two of the sport’s three ‘triple crown’ titles, has been charged with being concerned with fixing matches and betting on snooker.

Liang Wenbo, who was the first player to be suspended as part of the investigation in October, is charged with being concerned in fixing matches and approaching players to fix matches, as well as seeking to obstruct and failing to cooperate with the investigation.

The full list of charges appeared in a WPBSA statement which read: “Following a detailed investigation by the WPBSA Integrity Unit, working closely with Sportradar, the WPBSA has decided that 10 snooker players have a case to answer in respect of the following alleged breaches of the WPBSA Conduct Regulations.”

Liang Wenbo has been charged with being concerned in fixing matches and approaching players to fix matches on the World Snooker Tour, seeking to obstruct the investigation and failing to cooperate with the WPBSA investigation.

Li Hang has been charged with being concerned in fixing matches and approaching players to fix matches on the World Snooker Tour, seeking to obstruct the investigation and betting on snooker matches.

Lu Ning has been charged with fixing a match and being concerned in fixing matches and approaching a player to fix a match on the World Snooker Tour, seeking to obstruct the investigation and betting on snooker matches.

Yan Bingtao has been charged with fixing matches on the World Snooker Tour and betting on snooker.

Zhao Xintong has been charged with being concerned in fixing matches on the World Snooker Tour and betting on snooker.

Zhang Jiankang has been charged with fixing a match on the World Snooker Tour, failing to report approaches for him to fix matches and betting on snooker matches.

Chen Zifan has been charged with fixing matches on the World Snooker Tour.

Chang Bingyu and Zhao Jianbo have each been charged with fixing a match on the World Snooker Tour.

Bai Langning has been charged with being concerned in fixing a match on the World Snooker Tour.