Snooker is a sport which prides itself on it’s sportsmanship and gentlemanly behavior. Players have famously call fouls on themselves when the referees have missed them, actions such as these would make other less honest sportsmen from other codes nervously look at their shoes.
This morning the sport has been rocked as it woke to the news that Stephen Lee has been found guilty of match fixing.
The former world number 5 who won 5 ranking tournaments in his career has been found guilty of fixing 7 matches. Lee will be sanctioned on September 24th and faces the possibility of a life long ban. The most recent example of a snooker player getting implicated in a fixing scandal was Australian Quinten Hann in 2006. Hann was caught in a sting operation agreeing to lose a match in the China Open and received an 8 year ban for his indiscretion. He now earns his living as a professional pool player.
Lee was a player known for his silky cue action and had spent 11 seasons in the world’s top 16 including 5 consecutive years in the top 8. In 2007/8 his form dropped off considerably and Lee dropped down the rankings only to return to the top 16 in the 2011/12 season.
Reports that as much as £110,000 was gambled on the matches involved garnering winnings of £97,000 for the conspirators. Lee’s wife, managment and sponsors have been implicated in the investigation. This is perhaps one of the most concerning elements of the story. This wasn’t an outside betting consortium that approached Lee rather it was from within his circle. Sports Resolution investigator Adam Lewis QC spoke of a weak man under financial pressure rather than a cynical cheat but this will offer little solace to fans of snooker who have seen their sport’s name dragged through the mud.