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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Hector Nunns

Snooker match-fixing probe throws World Championship into chaos as 10 players banned

Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong will miss the World Championships – along with eight other Chinese players suspended pending a ‘fixing’ hearing.

Former Masters champion Yan is charged with fixing matches and betting on snooker, while 2021 UK Championship winner Zhao is charged with being concerned in fixing, and betting on the sport. The high-profile pair may have harboured outside hopes of taking part in the blue-riband tournament at the Crucible, for which the entry deadline is March 20.

But with the latest provisional hearing date reportedly delayed until late April it is now impossible for any of the 10 to take part in the main draw or qualifying. No player can enter while suspended. The absence of such a block will have a significant effect on both the top-16 seedings for Sheffield, and the qualifying draw.

With two tournaments remaining before the World Championship, 25-year-old Zhao is world-ranked No 9, and currently seeded No 9 for the Crucible. Yan is provisionally seeded No17, one place outside those guaranteed a place on the biggest stage – and with those two gone others will move up.

The 128-player qualifying competition that produces the 16 to face Ronnie O’Sullivan and the other big guns will need radical intervention. The line-up at the English Institute of Sport will inevitably have to be boosted by an additional number of amateurs and wild-card picks.

Ryan Day is provisionally seeded 18th for the Crucible and with the Classic and Tour Championship to come the Welshman could well benefit from Zhao and Yan’s absence. Day, 42, and this season’s British Open winner, said: “I have been focused on doing as well as I can in the Classic and the Tour Championship and not to have to rely on other factors for a Crucible seeding.

Zhao Xintong had two ranking wins (PA)

“It does need sorting, because it will affect players both for the top 16 and further down in qualifying with the various cut-offs. It isn’t just where I am in the rankings, the structure means that by being a couple of places higher you can play a qualifier fewer. There are a lot of players it will affect.”

Lu Ning, Zhang Jiankang, Chen Zifan, Chang Bingyu and Zhao Jianbo have all been charged with fixing at least one match. While Liang Wenbo, Li Hang and Bai Langning are among those charged with being concerned in fixing matches.

A formal statement from World Snooker Tour and the WPBSA about the exact hearing date and non-eligibility of the 10 for the World Championship is expected this week.

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