Stephen Maguire’s 9-3 victory over Jamie Burnett in the Maplin UK Championship may be the subject of an official investigation after betting was suspended on this very scoreline ahead of the match.
“When you get new accounts opened from Glasgow addresses to bet frame scores, alarm bells go off,” said Cliff Wilds, Head of Sport at the bookmakers Victor Chandler.
“We took no money on Maguire to win 9-2 or 9-4, only 9-3. That sets the alarm bells off as well.”
Maguire the 2004 UK champion and an obvious favourite to win the match, led 6-2 overnight against Burnett, a friend, fellow Glaswegian and sometime practice partner who beat Jamie Cope 9-7 to qualify.
Burnett compiled a classy 113 break to win the tenth frame before Maguire made it 8-3.
The next was littered with errors on both sides. Eventually, Maguire left the green in the jaws and Burnett potted it.
He added the brown but massively overhit his positional shot for the blue, which he nevertheless stroked in from distance.
He missed a long pink but fluked it, leaving himself an awkward, missable cut-back black.
Burnett overcut this by such a margin that it did not even hit the pocket jaws.
Both players vehemently denied any part in a betting coup. Burnett said he was aware betting had been suspended and that this intensified the pressure he felt at 8-3.
"In the last frame I have never felt more pressure in my life," he said. "I didn't think I could have played the colours knowing people have been saying things.
"On the black I said to myself, 'I need to get this, I need to get this' in case some people start talking. I just felt so under pressure, probably the most pressure I have felt in my life. Then to come off was the lowest feeling. I felt terrible."
"People have been laughing and joking about things like that for years, but to my knowledge nobody has ever done anything. Snooker is too important. There is a career here."
The WPBSA issued a statement. It reads: “We have agreements in place with both Betfair and the Association of British Bookmakers who contact World Snooker confidentially if irregular betting patterns are reported.
“In such cases the match in question is carefully monitored by World Snooker and a thorough assessment of the players’ performance will be made.
“In past incidents, which are extremely rare, World Snooker have taken a particularly stringent line where players have been judged guilty of match fixing or intention to match fix.”
Peter Francisco was banned for five years in 1995 and Quinten Hann for eight in 2006.
Since then, there have been a few grumbles from bookmakers, particularly at the 2006 and 2007 Grand Prix and 2008 Malta Cup – all played under a round robin format.
Peter Ebdon’s 5-0 defeat to Liang Wenbo at this season’s Northern Ireland Trophy is still under investigation by the Gambling Commission.
Snooker, I believe, is mainly clean but any suspicious matches should be investigated in full.
This means taking evidence from bookmakers, the players themselves, the referee, commentators and anyone else with relevant information.
And it should not matter whether matches involve the world no.80, the world champion or a WPBSA board member – they should all be treated the same.
Regardless of what happens with this latest case - which may turn out to be entirely innocent - I believe that any player found guilty of match fixing should be banned from the sport for life.
If people don’t believe the sport is honest then it will not continue to attract sponsors, broadcasters or spectators.
That would mean the end of professional snooker as we know it.