Snooker: Stephen Lee match-fixing case begins

STEPHEN Lee begins the battle to save his career in earnest today when the fixing case levelled against him by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association begins.

Stephen Lee. Picture: PA

The former world No 5 has won five ranking tournaments in a 20-year career that was put on hold last October when he was placed under suspension.

Trowbridge-based Lee, 38, is determined to return to the main tour and has protested his innocence.

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The WPBSA announced in February that Lee had a “case to answer” over alleged breaches of rules in eight matches, four played at the 2008 Malta Cup, two at the 2008 UK Championship, one at the 2009 China Open and one at the 2009 World Championship.

The WPBSA said it had examined information from the Gambling Commission, West Midlands Police and third parties in relation to the allegations. The three-to-five-day hearing will be conducted by the independent organisation Sport Resolutions and is expected to be in Bristol, where the WPBSA is based. The tribunal will be chaired by Adam Lewis QC, an experienced sports lawyer.

World Snooker had been keen to keep the location private, having seen a media scrum outside the London law offices where John Higgins was cleared in September 2010 of match-fixing allegations. Higgins was found guilty of minor offences, resulting in a six-month ban and £75,000 fine.

After being charged by the WPBSA, Lee’s legal team said he was “shocked by the suggestions” and said his suspension and the allegations were having a “considerable” impact on him and his family.

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has previously warned that players found guilty of match-fixing risk life bans and should not be given a second chance. “If you mess around with this, it’s life,” he said in 2011. “All the things you built up, all the things that have been given to you, are going to be lost.”

Joe Jogia was handed a two-year ban in July 2012 after an investigation into suspicious betting patterns on one of his matches but his offences were said to be “at the lower end”.

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 a five-year match-fixing ban in 1995, after his 10-2 loss to Jimmy White at the World Championships.