Stephen Lee faces snooker ban for match-fixing
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Snooker was plunged into controversy once more when former world number five Stephen Lee was found guilty of match-fixing. Lee faces a life ban after the offences emerged. They took place in seven matches in 2008 and 2009 including a World Championship tie.
Lee has been suspended from snooker since October 2012 pending the investigation. It was revealed that Lee had fixed exact scores, some first frame results and overall match results. Three groups connected to Lee had bet in excess of £111,000 on the matches, resulting in a profit of £97,000.
The WPBSA released a statement: "The bets were placed by three groups of people. The first were organised by his then sponsor who opened multiple betting accounts with various associates. These accounts were used to place the bets. The second group were coordinated by his then manager who placed almost identical bets. The third was an individual known to Lee who placed the same bets independently of the other two groups."
It sounds like a fairly crude scam, with trails leading back to the player. "Lee was in contact with the groups in the lead-up to the matches in question and afterwards," the WPBSA revealed. "In one case the person collected the successful bet and placed half of the winnings into Lee's wife's bank account."
Although the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the case, the WPBSA continued an independent investigation headed by Adam Lewis QC. "Mr Lee did not strike me as a cynical cheat but rather as a weak man under financial pressure," Lewis said.
Snooker has been bedevilled by accusations of match-fixing, with former world champion John Higgins the most high-profile name associated with the allegations, when a tabloid sting made it appear that Higgins was willing to infringe the sport's betting rules. Higgins was given a six-month ban from snooker. With Lee's offence far more clear-cut and the sport fighting for its credibility, his fellow players will be inclined to show the player little clemency when it comes to deciding the punishment.