SHEFFIELD, England (AP) — Ten Chinese snooker players were charged Wednesday for their alleged roles in a match-fixing scandal that has plunged the sport into its biggest corruption crisis.
An investigation by the integrity unit of snooker’s governing body has resulted in some of the biggest names in the sport — including 16th-ranked Yan Bingtao and No. 9-ranked Zhao Xintong — being accused of corrupt activity such as fixing matches, approaching players to manipulate matches and betting on matches.
The 10 players are currently suspended and will continue to be banned from competing on the World Snooker Tour until the conclusion of the case, the governing body said.
There will be a formal hearing followed by an independent disciplinary tribunal.
Liang Wenbo, a former finalist in the UK Championship, was the first player to be suspended, in October. He has been charged with “being concerned in fixing matches and approaching players to fix matches on the World Snooker Tour, seeking to obstruct the investigation and failing to cooperate with” the investigation by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.
Nine more players were suspended over the following two months, with Yan — the 2021 Masters champion — and Zhao — the UK Championship winner from the same year — among them.
The Masters and the UK Championship are traditionally the two biggest events on the snooker schedule after the World Championship.
Bingtao has been charged with “fixing matches … and betting on snooker,” and Xintong with “being concerned in fixing matches … and betting on snooker.”
They were both barred from competing in the Masters last week.
The other players charged are Li Hang, Lu Ning, Zhang Jiankang, Chen Zifan, Chang Bingyu, Zhao Jianbo and Bai Langning.
Snooker has exploded in popularity in China over the past decade, mainly thanks to the success of Ding Junhui, who has won the Masters and the UK Championship and been runner-up in the World Championship.
Many Chinese players are based in an academy in the English city of Sheffield, where the World Championship is held every year.
“The whole process has been very upsetting and potentially life-changing for people,” World Snooker chairman Jason Ferguson said.
“It’s very damaging but I do think the damage is short-term. We have to deliver world-class live entertainment and know the sport is clean. We will move on.”
There have been no tournaments in China since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a big commercial market for snooker,” Ferguson said. “Despite this ongoing issue, the mood about our events is very positive. Our return to China is inevitable.”
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