Snooker: Higgins faces suspension after match fixing allegations

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The Independent Online

Snooker chief Barry Hearn today said he was "absolutely mortified" following allegations that world number one John Higgins agreed to fix the outcome of frames in return for cash.

Hearn promised a decision within hours on the immediate future of Higgins and the Scot's manager Pat Mooney in the sport.

And he said he was considering his own position as chairman of the sport's governing body.

Higgins and Mooney were filmed by the News of the World newspaper, allegedly agreeing to accept £261,000 in return for arranging the outcome of four frames in matches to be played later this year.

World Snooker chairman Hearn told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek that an investigation would begin immediately and that Higgins may face a suspension.

"I've read the piece, I've seen the video, I would imagine I can't see any reason not to suspend him at this moment in time," he said.

He added: "We'll make a decision within the next 24 hours on how we're going to play it."

Higgins, 34, is not accused by the newspaper of any past indiscretions, and there are no suggestions he has been involved in fixing the results of any frames or matches to date.

Hearn said: "I don't see any place in sport, in any sport, for anyone who affects the credibility or the integrity of any sport."

However Hearn stressed: "I'm not going to make knee-jerk reactions on this. I'm absolutely mortified ... because I know both these guys."

He added: "It's come as a huge shock and obviously an enormous blow to the integrity of the sport which is vital for the expansion plans we have.

"It's really been a shattering experience and one which will be immediately looked into by our disciplinary people under the WPBSA rules.

"I spoke to Steve Davis last night and we know these two guys so well, it's unbelievable."

Like Davis, Mooney is a member of the WPBSA board. He declined to comment last night on the allegations.

Regarding his own future, Hearn said: "I have to consider my position and I have to consider that carefully and that's not something that's going to be done on a Sunday morning."

Sports promoter Hearn came to power with the WPBSA in December, and has revealed grand plans to shake up snooker, bringing in more tournaments and more prize-money from next season, while taking a personal share in the sport's commercial arm, World Snooker.

The allegations have emerged on the day the World Championship final begins at the Crucible, and Hearn admitted the newspaper report "casts a shadow over that event".

"I've got to get advice on what I can and can't do under the (WPBSA) constitution," Hearn said.

"You can never say someone is guilty before being proven so."

Hearn admitted such allegations have the potential to destroy the public perception of snooker.

He added: "John Higgins is the world number one and defending world champion until he got beaten in this year's World Championship, and the answer is yes.

"Once the integrity of the sport is taken away from the public perception.... it affects the mindset of the population and affects the integrity.

"This particular story has the potential to affect the integrity of the entire sport."

Hearn has drawn up plans which, if they are passed by players at a vote, will see an overhaul of the current tour.

The players are due to meet on Wednesday to discuss Hearn's proposals.

But he confirmed he will look at his own position following the allegations.

"It's something I'm considering my position on," he said.

"I want to look at it in detail and I want to meet with the players on Wednesday to discuss it. This is now top of the agenda because I think it's fundamental to the successful plans I have in mind."

Looking at the threat of corruption to snooker, he said: "Anyone guilty of affecting it has no part in the game in the future.

"There's a hell of a rebuilding job, to make sure this is not something which is widespread within the game."

Hearn said: "Any of us who have played any sport knows it's quite easy to lose.

"You can do anything if your mind is set on thinking that the integrity of the game is irrelevant to you. That's simple, it's common sense isn't it."

Hearn has already spoken to the WPBSA's newly-appointed board member David Douglas, a former Metropolitan Police detective chief superintendent, who was drafted in last month to look at disciplinary issues.