News 22 June 2015

O’Sullivan could face WPBSA sanctions for failing to declare illegal approach

Ronnie O’Sullivan could have breached the rules of the World Professional Billiards & Snooker Association (WPBSA) by failing to report an illegal approach to fix a snooker match. “I was offered money once to throw a game”, O’Sullivan told the Clare Balding Show on the BBC on 19 June. “I couldn’t do it. These bookmakers ain’t silly. They smell it anyway [attempts to fix a game]. The risk is just not worth taking.”

Under Rule 4.1 of the WPBSA Members Rules and Regulations, all WPBSA members are obliged to report any attempt to fix a game ‘not later than 24 hours after any such Approach being made’. O’Sullivan did not provide any details about when or where he was approached and his comments could refer to matches from years ago, before WPBSA Regulations on reporting illegal approaches came into force. However, the WPBSA has not shied away from taking action against amateur players competing under its jurisdiction, having recently banned John Sutton for six years. It also banned Stephen Lee for 12 years on 25 September 2013 for accepting bribes to fix various professional matches in 2008 and 2009.

O’Sullivan also repeated allegations that in the past, many players in the lower ranks had taken bribes. “A lot of players were doing it”, he told the Clare Balding Show. “But a lot of the players were skint. A lot of snooker players had the mentality where they were growing up with gambling in the clubs, where they were playing cards, playing fruit machines for money. The mentality was that if they could nick a couple of hundred quid here, they would do it. But it was only to pay their travelling expenses. They were so desperate, some of these players. I don’t think that any of the top ranked players would dream of doing it, but for some of the lower ranked players, it was a way to just make money, really, just so they could stay as professionals. It was quite sad, in a way, to see it going on.”

In 2013, O’Sullivan hinted that players may have taken bribes in the past. ‘I’ve heard there’s many more players who throw snooker matches…I suppose Steve lee was just caught out’, he posted on Twitter on 17 September 2013. ‘No need to worry if you got nothing to hide’, read a following tweet. ‘But plenty of people have got loads to hide. That’s why there is no free speech. There [sic.] hiding. They will prob fine me for talking about it. They don’t like you doing that. Like to keep things under the carpet.’

‘I was referring back to rumours from many years ago when there were only a few tournaments on the circuit’, read a statement issued two days later by O’Sullivan. ‘The snooker circuit calendar is now full of tournaments all year round and has undoubtedly been cleaned up since World Snooker was taken over by Barry Hearn…If I were aware of match-fixing, I understand that it would be up to me to report any fears to the Association.’

Despite O’Sullivan’s apology, he was fined £6,000 plus £1,000 hearing costs by the WPBSA. He was not fined for failing to report an attempt to fix a game, but for brining the game into disrepute through three Twitter postings. ‘The first were comments relating to match fixing that he later retracted with a formal apology’, read the January 2014 WPBSA decision. ‘The second related to the suggestion he took pills that helped his performance and the third was a post of an offensive nature’. The WPBSA found that he was in breach of Rules 1.1 and 1.2 of the WPBSA Members Rules and Regulations.

‘Members shall, at all times (i.e. whether at a Tournament or not), behave in a proper and correct manner consistent with their status as professional sportsmen’, reads Rule 1.1. ‘A Member shall not make or cause to be made any statement or commit or cause to be committed any act which in the reasonable view of the WPBSA is likely to bring into disrepute the games of snooker and/or billiards’, reads Rule 1.2. The WPBSA could also take action against O’Sullivan for his recent comments on the Clare Balding show under these rules. The Sports Integrity Initiative has asked the WPBSA if it will be following up O’Sullivan’s comments, but has yet to receive a reply.

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