Snooker: Higgins suspended over match-fixing claims

London: World snooker number one John Higgins was Sunday suspended from all World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) tournaments over a report that he agreed to take a bribe for fixing matches.

The news came after Britain`s News of the World released a video showing what it said was Higgins and his manager Pat Mooney agreeing to lose frames in four matches later this year in return for a 261,000 pounds bribe.

Hours later, Barry Hearn, chair of the sport`s governing body the WPBSA, told the BBC that Higgins would be suspended with immediate effect while an investigation took place.

"Whilst we`re not saying he`s guilty of anything... these revelations are such there`s a case he has to answer," Hearn said, adding that Mooney had also resigned from the WPBSA`s board.

Hearn had previously said he would consider his own position in the wake of the newspaper`s report, but later told radio station talkSPORT that he would stay on.

"My first reaction was to walk away but the second was `no, this means something to me` and I`m not prepared to do that," he said.

"So I`m staying and dealing with it but I`m going to take it very seriously.”

"We at the top of the game have a responsibility and my message to fans is `this is not going to ruin this game`. We`re going to deal with this issue."

The revelations emerged on the day the World Championship final begins at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

Higgins, a 34-year-old Scot, was unexpectedly knocked out of the tournament in the second round by veteran Steve Davis.

According to the newspaper, the millionaire three-time world champion boasted that "it`s easy" to lose frames deliberately without being detected.

A secretly-shot video posted on the News of the World`s website appeared to show Higgins discussing losing frames and missing shots during a meeting with Mooney and an undercover reporter in a hotel in Kiev, Ukraine.

There is no suggestion that Higgins has thrown any matches up until now and the footage apparently shows him indicating that any deal would apply to the "world series only".

The video ends with the men seeming to seal a deal, shaking hands and toasting each other with a shot of alcohol.

Higgins and Mooney were unavailable for comment but Mooney told the News of the World: "You have no idea what the circumstances were in Kiev, that`s why we have absolutely no comment.”

"But we were genuinely in fear for our safety. In that situation we were just fortunate to be able to leave the country. I have no further comment. It was an incredibly scary moment."

Higgins reportedly told the paper when confronted by the claims that he thought the undercover reporter was a member of the Russian mafia.

The journalist behind the story is Mazher Mahmood, an undercover reporter who has previously dressed up as a "fake sheikh" for stings involving sporting figures like football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson and boxer Joe Calzaghe.

Calzaghe, the former world middleweight and light-heavyweight champion, apologised in March for occasionally using cocaine since retiring from the ring following a report in the newspaper.

Bureau Report