As the Snooker World Championship begins its final week at the Crucible, seven Sheffield-based players are being investigated for match-fixing.
2021 Masters champion Yan Bingtao and world no. 9 Zhao Xintong train at the Victoria’s Snooker Academy in the city, and are both implicated in the investigation.
Both players would be making a bid for snooker’s biggest prize this week, but are suspended pending the conclusion of a private hearing.
Five more who train together at Sheffield’s Ding Junhui Snooker Academy are also involved in the hearings which could result in lengthy bans.
The Academy has created a strong community of Chinese players who socialise together, and play each other in the run up to tournaments to build match fitness.
China’s new generation of stars are taking snooker by storm, but the investigation could damage their reputation. The most serious offences could be punished by a ban of well over a decade, but they could get a reduced penalty if they can prove they were coerced.
Speaking to BBC podcast Snookered, promoter and manager Barry Hearn said: “We will go through the proper systems, beautifully executed, both sides have a chance to put their case and the evidence will be decided by an independent arbitrator. That is how a sport should be run.
“If the case deserves suspensions, long suspensions, that sends the message to anyone who plays this game: do not run foul.”
Several players including Neil Robertson and Judd Trump have suggested that coercion could have been involved. The investigation is expected to establish whether there was collusion between different players.
The full charges are as follows:
Zhao Xintong: being concerned in fixing matches and betting on snooker.
Yan Bingtao: fixing matches and betting on snooker.
Lu Ning and Li Hang: fixing a match and being concerned in fixing matches and approaching a player to fix a match seeking to obstruct the investigation and betting on snooker matches.
Zhao Jianbo, Bai Langning and Chang Bingyu: match-fixing on the World Snooker Tour
One of China’s newest talents Si Jiahui has booked his place in the World Championship quarter-finals with a 13-6 victory over Robert Milkins. As the last remaining Chinese player, he will hope to make his success the bigger story.