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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Hector Nunns

Snooker World Championship to clash with match-fixing hearing after delays

This year’s World Championship is set to be overshadowed by the hearing for the 10 Chinese players suspended and charged with match-fixing offences.

The snooker authorities had hoped to stage the independent tribunal by March, to at least have a chance of the process being tied up before the blue-riband tournament. But delays have seen the provisional scheduled date pushed back until the end of April, with the Crucible extravaganza starting on April 15.

Ronnie O’Sullivan will be going for a record eighth crown in Sheffield, in an event that is the biggest and best showcase of what the game has to offer. After the hearing there will be time needed for the panel to arrive at their decision, publish the verdicts and agree on sanctions – with then possible appeals to follow.

Where do you think the China's alleged match-fixers rank among snooker's biggest scandals? Let us know in the comments section.

Former Masters champion Yan Bingtao, Lu Ning, Zhang Jiankang, Chen Zifan, Chang Bingyu and Zhao Jianbo were charged with fixing a match. And former UK champion Zhao Xintong, Liang Wenbo, Li Hang and Bai Langning were charged with being concerned in fixing someone else’s match.

World Snooker Tour also need the situation resolved as soon as possible with one eye on getting the tour numbers right for next season after the World Championship. Five of the players charged are based at the Ding Junhui Snooker Academy in Sheffield, including Zhao Jianbo, 19, and 20-year-olds Bai Langning and Chang Bingyu.

Senior pro and world No41 Tian Pengfei, 35, also based at Ding’s but not in any way involved, said: “It has been a tough time for the Chinese players, of course the ones suspended and charged - but also the others as well.

Tian Pengfei highlighted snooker's match-fixing scandal as a difficult period for Chinese players—including those who aren't implicated (VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

“We came here all feeling really good, over together from China living here and then had the pandemic for two years. Most of us stayed here without going home with the quarantine rules. And the news was of course not good at all. We will have to see in the hearing if some people have made big mistakes.

“It isn’t good for the sport, or any of the players. We know there are many good Chinese players. Some of those suspended have won very big tournaments. And in the recent Welsh Open even without any of the 10 suspended, there were still three Chinese players in the quarter-finals.

Seven-time world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan will target a record-breaking eighth title in Sheffield this year (PA)

“I have been speaking to Ding Junhui, and we have been trying to look after the young players coming up through his academy. I am one of the more senior players now. Ding and I have a responsibility to set an example. We try to do that, but this situation is very tough for snooker across the world and especially in China.

“I do think there will be changes to try and make sure nothing like this will never happens again. Some of the players suspended are very young, and others like Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao have won Triple Crown tournaments. They are superstars in China.

“So it has been a big shock, and it is very sad. I just hope World Snooker do the right things and something good can come out of this."

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