Nick Harris: What the 'News of the World' did not say

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The Independent Online

In the court of public opinion, John Higgins now has a huge question mark next to his reputation. In effect, the News of the World branded him a match-fixer. The report said he had "sensationally" agreed a "massive" bribe to "FIX matches" ( NoW's capitals).

Inside the paper, Higgins does apparently agree to lose four frames, one frame at each of four events, at an undisclosed point in the future. But the paper does not suggest Higgins has ever actually fixed a match or thrown a frame in his 18-year career. Nor does it say when he would. And that is one reason why awaiting the outcome of an investigation is to be advised before forming an opinion on his guilt or innocence.

This is not to say that Higgins, and especially his manager, Pat Mooney, were not naive at best, and possibly stupid, to put themselves in a position where they are discussing throwing frames for cash. That Mooney met reporters several times and talked about fixing is disturbing. He was right to resign from snooker's governing body, and his behaviour raises grave doubts over his suitability as Higgins's manager.

But there are grounds to suspect Higgins fell prey to an elaborate, expensive NoW set-up. If specifics were agreed, none of those details made it into print or into the edited video that the paper put on its website. The paper describes Higgins as "demanding a £300,000 kickback", although nothing in the report substantiates Higgins "demanding" anything.

A NoW reporter suggests the "fixing" would happen only in "exhibition matches". Losing a frame in an exhibition – where trick shots and stand-up comedy from players while performing are common – is an entirely different proposition to losing one at a tournament.

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