DAVID PYE: A long road is ahead if we are to eradicate match-fixing in sport
11:00pm Friday 27th September 2013 in Sport
SHAMED snooker player Stephen Lee’s 12-year ban for match-fixing this week again highlighted a problem that continues to blight top-level sport.
A tribunal found three groups of gamblers had made a total profit of nearly £100,000 from bets placed on Lee, although the 38-year-old has denied any wrongdoing on his part and vowed to fight a suspension he believes will end his career in the game.
Whether Lee proves his innocence or not remains to be seen but he is not the first in snooker to be tangled up in fixing allegations.
John Higgins was cleared of any charges back in 2010 but served a six-month ban for bringing the game into disrepute following a meeting with an undercover newspaper reporter where it was claimed he talked about how easy it would be to miss pots and throw frames.
Lee’s punishment comes after a tribunal decided he did exactly that in several tournaments.
The sport’s governing body is vowing to clamp down on any further misdemeanours but it will not be easy.
Other sports have found similar problems in eradicating match-fixing, though there have been high-profile cases to show action will be taken.
In cricket, Pakistan players Mohammad Asif, Salman Butt and Mohammad Aamer in 2010 were found guilty of spot-fixing.
And back in the mid-1990s there was an even bigger scandal involving Wimbledon duo Hans Segers and John Fashanu, and Bruce Grobbelaar of Liverpool who were all accused of match-fixing along with Malaysian businessman Richard Lim. They were all cleared but it brought the issue into the footballing arena.
There have long-been conspiracy theories it does still go on in a variety of sports linked to betting in the Far East where big bucks are at stake.
In fact, there have been 14 arrests in Singapore recently surrounding a crime gang reportedly involved in football match-fixing.
Between 2008 and 2011, officials said they had identified 680 suspicious games, 380 of them in Europe and including World Cup qualifiers and Champions League ties.
It is good that investigations are being successful but I suspect there is a long road ahead of us if we are to totally eradicate it.
The problem you will always have, outside the very top level of sport, is the fact temptation will always be there for those, like snooker’s Lee, who are not one of the big earners.
Maybe the fact it is becoming more difficult to cheat and succeed will help rid all sport of any fixing problems.
Everyone appreciates it is bigger business than ever now but for those of us who pay hard-earned money to go and watch, be it snooker, cricket or football, let’s make sure it remains honest and fair or else it loses the spirit of competition.