Shaun Murphy has been ‘left cold’ by some of the bans handed out for snooker match-fixers, believing that anyone found guilty of throwing a match should have been banned for life.
Two players were indeed given lifetime bans when the verdicts were published on Tuesday, with Liang Wenbo and Li Hang barred from the sport permanently.
However, this was largely for their roles in coercing younger players into getting involved in match-fixing, and in some cases bullying them into it.
Seven other players were handed bans ranging from two to five years and four months for fixing matches, with Zhao Xintong recognised as the only player of the 10 charged who did not himself fix a match.
Murphy has been clear in his stance since players were initially suspended as part of the investigation, that anyone guilty of fixing a match should be banned for life, regardless of any coercion involved.
The former world champion was told that lifetime bans are very difficult to enforce, so accepted they were unlikely, but is now frustrated that some players have received them and others haven’t.
‘I’ve been a bit quiet so far because when you’re dealing with something very serious, you owe it to everybody involved to form a balanced and informed opinion,’ Murphy told Metro.co.uk. ‘I think to some degree, there might be some more information and facts out there, or things that shed a bit more light on it, so until you are in possession of the full facts you can be left with egg on your face.
‘But my over-arching feeling on it is that it’s left me feeling a bit cold, a bit empty. I was assured that lifetime bans weren’t attainable. I called immediately for anyone found guilty of match-fixing to be banned for life.
‘I don’t think those people have any place in our sport. If you lose the integrity and trust of the public you lose everything. If you’re found guilty of losing on purpose for financial gain, if you’re a cheat, I don’t think you have a place in our sport.
‘I was assured that wasn’t attainable, so to see two of them be given life bans and the rest of the cheats not, it’s left me feeling a bit cold.
‘Now we’re into deciphering what level of cheating is worse than another. Those that haven’t been accused of fixing matches, that’s different. But someone’s going to have to explain to me what makes Player A and B different. For me, cheating is cheating. In my opinion, they can count their lucky stars it wasn’t up to me because you wouldn’t have seen any of them again. I don’t like cheats and for me, they have no place in the game.’
Murphy said as much in December, telling The Sportsman: ‘Players who are found guilty of match-fixing, they should never compete on the professional tour ever again. A complete life ban – from professional and amateur snooker.
‘Their existence in the snooker world should be terminated.
‘For me, it will be completely black and white. I know the world has gone greyer over the years, we have gone from an old-fashioned black and white view of the world to quite an opaque one, often for the better. But I think cheating is one area where we should be a bit more black and white.
‘If you are found guilty through the correct processes, if you are given the chance to defend yourself, and found guilty of match-fixing, then in my opinion that should be your involvement in the snooker family finished.’
Murphy does admit that there may be facts of the cases that he is unaware of and that the independent commission were in the best place to judge the guilty parties.
He also has praise for the way the WPBSA handled the entire situation, but his concern remains that a significant deterrent has not been shown to anyone considering similar offences in future.
‘Facts may come to light that shine a bit more light on these things and you have to trust that the panel, which is separate to the WPBSA,’ he said. ‘They are in possession of all the facts that we’re not and they’re experienced in handing out these penalties. They have to do what they think is fit.
‘When you hand it over to the independent panel you hand over the reins, you’re no longer in control. Snooker deserves praise for how transparent they’ve been, it would have been easy for other organisations to sweep it under the carpet, certainly would have done us publicly less damage, so I think they’re to be praised. The team at WPBSA get very little praise for how hard they work for very little. I think they’ve generally done an excellent job.
‘My concern, and it’s not because I want to end careers or be overly harsh, there just needs to be a deterrent.’
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