Snooker stars in rigging inquiry

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The Independent Online
Snooker's great fear, that results might be rigged between players, reared its head yesterday when the sport's governing body, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, announced an inquiry into Jimmy White's victory over Peter Francisco in the world championships at Sheffield.

The announcement follows unusual betting patterns on Saturday and the suspension of bets on the outcome by bookmakers. A large amount of money went on White winning the match 10-2 and when that result duly arrived after Francisco lost three frames in a row yesterday, an inquiry was announced within half an hour.

John Spencer, the WPBSA chairman, said: "I was informed at 1pm on Saturday that unusual bets had been laid on the outcome of the game and no more bets were being taken. I watched every frame of the match, but I am not commenting any further. That will be for the inquiry on Wednesday."

Both players have been ordered to attend although Mr Spencer said: "This is an inquiry into the match, not the players." White, six times runner- up in the world championship, and Francisco were told not to comment by the WPBSA's solicitor.

Graham Sharpe, a spokes- man for the bookmaker William Hill, said: "Our liabilities would have been nearer five figures than four. Initially, the odds on a 10-2 win were 5/1 but these quickly shortened ... because of bets taken outside Sheffield. Surprisingly, hardly any money was taken for a 10-1 or a 10-3 result."

White, who had surgery last week to remove a cancerous growth, commented on his performance before the inquiry was announced: "I was finding it really hard to concentrate at times. My mind was on too many other things."

Anyone watching yesterday would have been struck by the poverty of the play. Both players missed pots by margins that are unusual at this level. However, if the game had been rigged, you would have expected the players to have made a better job of concealment.

Francisco's uncle, Silvino, was investigated in 1988 after claims of match-fixing at a Benson and Hedges Masters match won 5-1 by Terry Griffiths. Inquiries by police and the snooker authorities drew a blank and no charges were brought.

Both Franciscos were at the centre of suspicion 12 months earlier after a match at the Mercantile Classic won by 5-1 by Silvino. Nothing was proved.