John Higgins, the world No 1 snooker player accused in May of agreeing "a disgraceful deal to fix a string of high-profile matches after demanding a £300,000 kickback", will discover today whether a disciplinary tribunal has found him guilty or innocent of charges related to corruption.
Higgins, 35, and his business partner, Pat Mooney, were filmed in Kiev at the end of April, by an undercover reporting team from News of the World, apparently agreeing to lose frames at future events.
Higgins was immediately suspended by snooker's authorities. An investigation was subsequently undertaken by the sport's governing body, the WPBSA, and charges were laid. Those charges were not detailed in public but are understood to include failing to report an approach about gambling, misconduct and agreeing or pretending to agree to fix frames.
Higgins has consistently maintained he is "100 per cent innocent" of any charge relating to match-fixing or frame-fixing. The specifics of the matches the News of the World said Higgins agreed to fix were always vague: in an elaborate "sting", the newspaper's reporters pretended, successively, to be businessmen who were going to stage events and crooks wanting to gamble on them.
The case has endured a series of twists and turns – including a failed appeal by Higgins against his suspension – and there was another yesterday morning when Sky News reported, erroneously, that Higgins and Mooney had admitted match-fixing. A report to that effect appeared on the Sky website and the report circulated on the internet and via Twitter before being removed. A spokesman for Higgins described that report as "malicious, speculative and wrong."
Snooker has been beset in recent years with rumours and allegations of match-fixing, with at least two "serious" cases passing through the Gambling Commission's hands and three players being arrested by police. Higgins was not involved in any of those cases; the players who were involved have never been suspended by snooker's authorities.
Snooker's hierarchy rushed to suspend Higgins on 2 May because of the severity of the accusations levelled by the News of the World, which caused a blizzard of appalling publicity for the sport on the weekend of the world championship final.
Mooney, who was filmed and taped in a series of meetings with undercover reporters, said as early as 2 May that "we can certainly be accused of being idiots and even naive" in dealing with the reporters.
Mooney also made claims about other players, which the News of the World effectively dismissed as untrue.Reuse content