Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Lee Banned for Twelve Years

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Snooker player Stephen Lee has been banned for 12 years after being found guilty of seven match-fixing charges.

Lee, 38, of Trowbridge, Wiltshire, has also been told to pay £40,000 costs.

The former world number five cannot play in any game sanctioned by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA).

He denied the allegations, which included a match at the World Snooker Championship in 2009, and intends to appeal.

Snooker's governing body says it is "the worst case of corruption" it has ever seen, and the longest ban imposed on a player by the organisation.

"The WPBSA has a zero tolerance approach to match fixing and this is further evidence of our uncompromising approach to dealing with such issues," said a spokesman.

The ban is calculated from 12 October 2012, when an interim suspension was imposed, and means Lee will not be able to compete as a professional snooker player before 12 October 2024, the date of his 50th birthday.

He was ordered to pay costs to help cover legal and other expenses of the WPBSA in bringing the case.

Lee has the right to appeal against the verdict and sentence, and would be required to submit any such appeal within a fortnight.

Independent tribunal chairman Adam Lewis QC had warned the player he faced "a significant sanction" following a hearing in Bristol earlier in September.

His 35-page summary of the case published on 16 September said three groups of gamblers made a total profit of nearly £100,000 from betting on his matches.

In a statement published on Wednesday, Lewis said the player was taken advantage of by others.

"I concluded that Mr Lee did not strike me as a cynical cheat, but rather as a weak man who under financial pressure, succumbed to the temptation to take improper steps that he may well have justified to himself as not really wrong, because the ultimate result of the match, win or lose, was the same," he added.

"These breaches occurred when Mr Lee was in a financially perilous state not entirely of his own making and was finding it difficult to obtain entry to enough tournaments.

"As a weak man in a vulnerable position he succumbed to temptation. I consider it unlikely that he was the prime mover or instigator of the activity. It seems to me likely that advantage was taken of him."

Lewis points out that Lee previously had a police investigation into match-fixing claims hanging over him, having been arrested in 2010, before the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to pursue charges in early October 2012.

Lee, who has been a professional for more than 20 years and the winner of five ranking titles, was found to have fixed the outcome in seven matches in 2008 and 2009.

The tribunal ruled he deliberately lost matches against Ken Doherty and Marco Fu at the 2008 Malta Cup and agreed to lose the first frame against both Stephen Hendry and Mark King at the 2008 UK Championship.

In addition, Lee lost matches by a predetermined score to Neil Robertson at the 2008 Malta Cup and to Mark Selby at the 2009 China Open.

Lee similarly conspired to lose his 2009 World Championship first round match to Ryan Day, going on to be defeated 10-4.

If his offences had taken place more recently, he would have been given a mandatory lifetime ban under a tougher new disciplinary regime aimed at countering corruption, but his case was dealt with under the rules which applied at the time of the matches in question.

The matches Lee fixed

2008 Malta Cup: Conspired to lose to Ken Doherty and Marco Fu, as well as losing to Neil Robertson by a pre-determined score, with the match ending 5-1 to Robertson.

2008 UK Championship: Agreed to lose the first frame in matches against Stephen Hendry and Mark King.

2009 China Open: To lose to Mark Selby by a set score, Selby winning 5-1.

2009 World Championship: That Ryan Day would win by a pre-arranged score, Day winning 10-4.

Fellow professional Joe Jogia was given a two-year ban in July 2012 for "lower-end" offences after an investigation into suspicious betting patterns on a match from which he withdrew with a leg injury.

Four-time world champion John Higgins was found guilty of "giving the impression" he would breach betting rules, and of failing to report an approach in 2010. He was banned for six months.

Australian Quinten Hann was banned for eight years in 2006 for match-fixing offences after a newspaper sting in which he accepted a proposal to lose a China Open match.

While Hann remains suspended, South African Peter Francisco has returned to the game at a low level after serving a five-year match-fixing ban handed down in 1995, following his 10-2 loss to Jimmy White at the World Championship.

WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson said: "We take no pride in having to deal with such serious issues.

"However, this demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that snooker is free from corruption.

"It is an important part of our anti-corruption approach that players found to be involved in fixing matches or any aspect of a match are severely dealt with. We work closely with partners globally and the message we are sending is that if you get involved in match fixing you will be found out and removed from the sport."

Stephen Lee's career
Turned professional: 1992
Ranking tournament wins: 5 (Grand Prix 1998; LG Cup 2001; Scottish Open 2002; Welsh Open 2006, PTC Grand Finals 2012)
Highest tournament break: 145
Highest world ranking: Five
Ranking at time of suspension: Eight

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