I was in Bangkok for the 1999 Thailand Masters when James Wattana was issued with a death threat. Wattana was told if he didn’t lose his match, he would be shot.
The amiable Thai legend quipped afterwards, “thank God they didn’t say I had to win.”
I’d like to claim I was all over the story but the fact is myself and the two other British journalists present had gone out for a drink between sessions and missed the whole thing, including Wattana’s press conference.
Thailand, great country though it is, has not been short of shady characters getting involved in snooker, particularly from the gambling community. Wattana’s own father was shot dead the day James made his 147 at the 1992 British Open.
This week, betting was suspended on matches featuring Thai players Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon and Passakorn Suwannawat at the Shanghai Masters qualifiers in Doncaster. Both players subsequently lost.
World Snooker were informed of the unusual betting patterns the previous evening and switched one of the matches to be live streamed, with the game recorded for later scrutiny.
Media outlets who ignore snooker for most of the year gleefully reported the latest match fixing allegations levelled against the sport.
An investigation is underway. Experience suggests it may not be straightforward getting information from Asia. A similar investigation into a match involving a Thai player last season was dropped.
Unlike Stephen Lee, the players in question have not been suspended, which will strike many as inconsistent.
Time will tell what evidence is provided but it seems to me the onus should be on the Thailand snooker fraternity to ensure such practices, if proven, are stamped out.
If World Snooker tells them that no new tour places will be offered to Thai players in the future if any further matches are played in suspicious circumstances then that might be a start.
Snooker is involved in a dance with the devil when it comes to gambling: it relies on the industry for a large slice of its sponsorship yet the huge number of betting markets available represents a temptation for some and opportunity for others to cheat.
Most of the fixing over the years has been in low level matches – qualifiers or small tournaments – where in many cases one wonders why odds are being offered at all.
In cases where players have cheated it is usually because they have been put up to it by ‘associates’ who flit around the sport like flies around the proverbial, unregulated and unlicensed, usually bleeding the players dry financially.
It’s a shabby, distasteful side to the game, by no means unique to snooker but one which doesn’t seem to have gone away despite increased threats of punishment.
The saddest thing is that it casts a veil of suspicion over the majority of players who compete fairly and properly and who are, in their propriety, a credit to the sport.