Snooker’s Dark Days: Lifetime Bans for Prominent Chinese Players in Match-Fixing Scandal

The snooker world was jolted in the previous autumn when a match-fixing scandal was exposed, resulting in disciplinary action against 10 Chinese players earlier this year after a thorough investigation. Liang Wenbo and Li Hang faced the severe consequences from the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) Disciplinary Commission, receiving lifetime bans from the sport.

Wenbo burst onto the snooker scene unexpectedly, reaching the quarter-finals of the World Snooker Championship at the young age of 21 in 2008. He gained recognition for his remarkable long potting and break-building skills, reaching the final of the UK Championship in 2015, where he was defeated 10-5 by Neil Robertson.

Wenbo was found guilty of involvement in fixing five snooker matches between July and September the previous year. The 36-year-old not only engaged in fixing matches but also encouraged and facilitated other players to fix nine matches. Additionally, he violated rules by gambling on matches, threatened another player, deleted messages from his phone, and failed to cooperate with the WPBSA inquiry. At the time of his ban, Wenbo was ranked No. 72 and was also ordered to pay £43,000 in costs.

According to Cue Tracker, Wenbo participated in 769 matches during his 17-year professional career, securing victory in 457 of them. He achieved 284 century breaks and two 147 maximums, reaching a peak ranking of No. 11 during the 2016/17 season. His prize earnings amounted to over £1.3 million, and he faced off against Ronnie O’Sullivan in 12 matches, emerging victorious once.

On the other hand, Hang made his professional tournament debut at the 2008 Jiangsu Classic, triumphing over Ali Carter. However, he faced challenges and temporarily dropped off the tour, competing as an amateur for several years. The 32-year-old had a notable achievement in reaching the semi-finals of the Scottish Open in 2020 before being eliminated by O’Sullivan.

Similar to Wenbo, Hang was fined £43,000 in addition to receiving a ban, following his guilt in fixing five snooker matches and encouraging seven matches to be fixed. He also engaged in betting on matches and attempted to conceal his involvement by deleting phone messages and encouraging other players to do the same. At the time of his ban, Hang held a ranking of No. 71.

According to Cue Tracker, Hang secured victory in 213 out of 411 matches during his professional career and achieved 112 century breaks. He reached a career-high ranking of 29 during the 2018/19 season, with a highest break of 145. His career earnings amounted to just over £500,000, and he was unsuccessful in all four encounters with the legendary player O’Sullivan.

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