The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) has suspended a total of 10 Chinese snooker players – including some of the biggest names in the sport – amid a widespread investigation into match-fixing.
The WPBSA issued a statement this week in which it said its Chairman, Jason Ferguson, had decided to suspend 2021 UK Championship winner Zhao Xintong, currently ranked ninth in the world, and rising star Zhang Jiankang from attending or competing on the World Snooker Tour with immediate effect.
This takes the total number of Chinese players suspended since October to 10, the others being Chen Zifan, Yan Bingtao, Liang Wenbo, Lu Ning, Li Hang, Zhao Jianbo, Bai Langning and Chang Bingyu.
“This decision is part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of manipulating the outcome of matches for betting purposes in breach of the WPBSA Conduct Regulations,” the WPBSA’s statement said.
“The suspension will remain in place until the conclusion of the investigation or any subsequent charges that may or may not be brought. Both Zhao and Zhang have the right to appeal this decision.”
Snooker’s governing body also revealed that its wider investigation into match-fixing is now at an “advanced stage” and expected to be completed shortly, “at which point any potential charges will be considered.”
In a lengthy statement to the media in December, shortly before Chen Zifan became the eighth Chinese player suspended, Ferguson said, “It is damaging to the sport, the headlines we are seeing, but it would be more damaging to leave it and try to hide it. The only way to rid the sport of that damage is to deal with it as swiftly as possible.
“Any player in any sport these days and especially snooker that thinks they can manipulate matches for betting purposes, they will be found out.
“Everything is connected and we have a sophisticated team and systems in place. Anyone found guilty will get what they deserve.
“All of the players are temporarily suspended, sanctions imposed by me as chairman. We take a zero tolerance approach to the manipulation of matches.
“Our [team] has been working on this one for some time. We didn’t know how far it would go, and as the case has progressed more players have become involved. None have yet been charged, prosecuted or found guilty of fixing matches.
“But they are implicated. And while that is the case, they are suspended. It is not a good look for the sport, but we are a sport that chooses to deal with it in public and be transparent.”