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Snooker News: John Higgins cleared of match-fixing claims

John Higgins World Champ

John Higgins has been cleared of all match-fixing allegations made against him by the News of the World.

But at a hearing in London, he admitted bringing the game into disrepute by not reporting the illegal approach made to him to discuss throwing frames.

As a result, the three-time world snooker champion was fined 75,000 and banned for six months, backdated to May when he was originally suspended.

Higgins, 35, said he accepted the decision by an independent tribunal.

"I welcome today's judgment by Sport Resolutions and endorsed by the WPBSA [World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association] following their exhaustive enquiry into the allegations against me by a tabloid newspaper," the Scot said in a statement.


"I was not guilty of any dishonesty and had no intention to fix a match and no intention to do anything corrupt."

And he repeated his statement from May, made immediately after the accusations were made by the Sunday newspaper.

"I have never been involved in any form of snooker match-fixing," he continued. "In my 18 years playing professional snooker, I have never deliberately missed a shot, never mind intentionally lost a frame or a match.

"If I am guilty of anything, it is of naivety and trusting those who, I believed, were working in the best interests of snooker and myself."

Higgins was handed the ban and fine for "intentionally giving the impression to others that they were agreeing to act in breach of the betting rules" and failing to report the matter to World Snooker.

However, the charges of "agreeing or offering" to accept bribes and "agreeing to engage in corrupt or fraudulent conduct" were dropped.

It means he will be free to resume his career on 2 November.

The behind-closed-doors tribunal, which took place over two days, was conducted by Sport Resolutions UK, an independent dispute resolution service.

Higgins was suspended after he and his then manager Pat Mooney were filmed by the Sunday newspaper allegedly accepting 261,000 to fix matches.

The video appeared to show Higgins and Mooney meeting with an undercover reporter in Kiev, Ukraine, and agreeing to alter the outcome of frames in return for money.

The newspaper alleged that Higgins inquired at the meeting about the best way to conceal the money he would receive for losing frames in four separate matches.

In a published transcript, Higgins, who has won 21 ranking titles, said it would be easy to affect the outcome of a frame.

Ian Mill QC, who headed the disciplinary hearing, described Higgins as "foolish" for the way he handled the situation but blamed Mooney for instigating the meeting out of "financial self-interest".

The judgment said Mooney was aware at least three weeks before the meeting in Kiev that the journalist posing as a businessman wanted to "make money through gambling in circumstances where frames in snooker matches were deliberately thrown".

In his verdict, Mill said Mooney had "committed the most egregious betrayals of trust", putting the entire career and professional future of Higgins "at serious and wholly unjustifiable risk".

Mooney, who had already resigned from the board of the WPBSA, has been permanently suspended by the sport's governing body.

While match-fixing charges were withdrawn, Mooney admitted bringing the game into disrepute by failing to disclose the approach and "intentionally giving the impression to others that they were agreeing to act in breach of the betting rules".

The WPBSA issued its own statement at the end of the hearing in London.

"Having studied all of the evidence in its entirety, the WPBSA and Sports Resolutions accept that there has been no dishonesty on the part of John Higgins and accordingly the WPBSA has withdrawn the allegations of match fixing against him," it read.


"John Higgins has agreed to play a leading role in a new educational programme for snooker players, which will form part of the integrity unit to be set up by WPBSA disciplinary committee chairman David Douglas."

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn added: "John made a mistake in failing to report the meeting in Kiev. He has admitted this mistake and expressed great regret at what happened.

"The evidence, which has been exhaustively studied by David Douglas and Sport Resolutions, suggests that he was led into this situation and did not instigate any discussions of corrupt activity.

"It seems certain, in view of his previous record and the ambassadorial work he has done for snooker, that this was a mistake he will never repeat. I'm sure Sport Resolutions took these factors into account in coming to their verdict."

Hearn added: "John has suffered a devastating blow to his career and reputation but he can come back from it - and he has pledged to help others learn from his experiences."

Following the verdict, the News of the World issued a statement defending their story, which appeared on 2 May.

"This result is a victory for News of the World investigative journalism," it read. "John Higgins has been found guilty, suspended and fined. Pat Mooney has been found guilty and banned for life.

"Today's judgement is testament to the extraordinary work of our investigations editor Mazher Mahmood. We hope that the exposure of Higgins and Mooney will act as a deterrent to any other cheats in sport and help restore the integrity of snooker."

Following another News of the World "fixing" sting operation, Pakistan cricketers Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir are being probed by police and the International Cricket Council.


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10th September 2010, 16:01
Page updated 10th Sep 2010, 16:01
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