Belfast Telegraph

Snooker can't escape dingy image

Telegraph Sport: where the debate really starts

With Frank Brownlow

Snooker has been plagued by suspicions of match-fixing for many years. Despite a makeover for television in its 1980s golden age, snooker has never quite escaped its image of a game played in smoke-filled dingy rooms by shady characters.

And Stephen Lee being found guilty of match-fixing in what snooker chiefs described as "the worst case of snooker corruption we've seen" may prove to be only the tip of a very big iceberg.

That's certainly the opinion of the sport's superstar and current world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan, who has now been asked by World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn to explain his claims that other players have thrown matches.

Lee's penalty will be announced on Tuesday, with snooker's governing body pushing for a life ban.

The former world number five denied the allegations, which related to seven games in 2008 and 2009 – including a match in the World Championship.

Four-time world champion John Higgins was cleared of match-fixing in 2010 but served a six-month ban for failing to report an illegal approach.

Any sport involving individuals as opposed to teams is more open to corruption, tennis being another high-profile sport coming under suspicion in recent years.

Ulster's 1985 world champion Dennis Taylor has called for lifetime bans for anyone found guilty, while also revealing his sadness at Lee's fall from grace.

"Stephen Lee could have been world champion," said Taylor.

Belfast Telegraph

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