Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Snooker chief vows urgent probe into Higgins fix claims

Snooker star John Higgins

The chairman of snooker's governing body Barry Hearn promised yesterday that the frame-fixing allegations against world No 1 John Higgins will be investigated “in the fastest possible timetable”.

Mr Higgins' manager Pat Mooney said the player was “absolutely oblivious” to any proposal that he was going to be asked to lose four frames in non-specified exhibition matches in the future until moments before a 10-minute meeting with undercover reporters in Kiev to discuss the matter last Friday.

Mr Higgins (34) was indefinitely suspended on Sunday for allegedly agreeing to throw frames for money, while Mr Mooney resigned from the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) board in the wake of reports in the News of the World alleging Mr Higgins agreed to accept £261,000 for losing frames. Mr Higgins has denied any wrong-doing and has insisted he will fight to clear his name.

Mr Hearn confirmed he has spoken to Mr Higgins since the allegations were made.

“Obviously the guy is in bits,” he said. “And I can sympathise, empathise, with him because it's been his whole life. The guy is No.1 in the world.

“We had a very frank conversation because I was in a position to say ‘Look, I'm not judge and jury here, my job is to refer it to the appropriate authorities. But as a friend, which I would classify myself as to John Higgins because I've known him for 20 years, it doesn't look good, John'.

“We all watched the video, we've all seen it. Now, whatever reason there may be behind the scenes — and John has subsequently come out with a statement — I can only judge on the visual evidence that is in front of me.

“I just stressed to John that this is something that is not going away but it will be treated as a very, very serious offence, potentially, and if he is found guilty will carry the most severe of penalties.”

Mr Higgins released a statement yesterday saying he would clear his name.

“I have built my reputation on honesty and integrity. Sadly others have now damaged that reputation and it is now left to me to clear my name,” he said.

The WPBSA investigation will be led by new board member David Douglas, a former Metropolitan Police detective chief superintendent, and he will meet with News of the World officials today, and request access to all and any materials accrued in their investigation.

There is no question of the case being considered by the Gambling Commission or police because, contrary to the News of the World's headlines, no criminal offence has been alleged, or taken place.

The games Mr Higgins was purportedly asked to lose would be in future exhibitions. It is not unusual for exhibitions to be “fixed” in as much as some exhibitions are more theatre than sport.

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