Who is Stephen Lee?

Stephen Lee is a former professional snooker player who, in 2013, was banned for 12 years after being found guilty of match and spot fixing. Lee appealed against the ban, which excludes him from competitive snooker until October 12, 2024, when he turns 50, but his appeal was dismissed.

According to the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), Lee fixed first frame results, match results and correct scores in seven matches, including a World Championship match against Ryan Day in 2009. He did so on behalf of three different groups, known to his sponsor, his manager and himself, who profited to the tune of £97,000 because of his wrongdoing.

A month after his ban was dismissed, in June, 2014, Lee plead guilty to fraud at Swindon Magistrates’ Courtafter ‘selling’ his cue to Hong Kong resident Marco Fai Pak Shek on Facebook for £1,600, but failing to send the item. He was fined £110 and ordered to repay the buyer.

In 2015, Lee revealed that he had set up a snooker academy in Shenzen, southeastern China to make ends meet. In 2018, he fell foul of the Hong Kong authorities when caught offering one-on-one snooker coaching, for money, by an undercover immigration officer. Lee was arrested and bailed for breaching the conditions of his tourist visa, but he escaped imprisonment when his lawyers negotiated a 12-month good behaviour bond.

Do the Rules of Snooker cater for an ‘impossible’ snooker?

In snooker, it is possible for a player to be faced with a snooker from which it is, literally, impossible to escape. Obviously, such a situation is rare, but could occur, say, if a player pots a red and the cue ball becomes surrounded by a cluster of reds, or if the cue ball comes to rest in the jaws of a pocket and becomes obstructed by a colour. Either way, a player cannot anything but a foul stroke.

However, Section 3, 14 of the ‘Official Rules of Snooker and English Billiards’ explicity covers this scenario. Initially, the rule states, ‘The striker shall, to the best of his ability, endeavour to hit the ball on.’ Nevertheless, in a situation ‘where it is impossible to hit the ball on’, for whatever reason, the striker should play ‘directly or indirectly, at the ball on with sufficient strength, in the referee’s opinion, to have reached the ball on but for the obstructing ball or balls.’

Regardless of the outcome of the shot, the referee will call ‘Foul’, but, provided the player has played the shot with enough pace to hit the nominated object ball, not ‘Foul and a Miss’. Obviously, the ‘referee’s opinion’ is subjective, so it still possible that ‘Foul and a Miss’ may be called, in which case, the non-offender has the options of requesting that the offender plays again, from the original position, once the balls have been replaced, or from the position left, or to take his turn to play.

Who Will Win the Snooker World Championship?

The World Snooker Tour season is long, varied, and tests the stamina of the sport’s leading pros just as much as their skill.

Of the myriad trophies that are available each term, none can match the prestige or desire of the World Championship. This is the pinnacle of snooker, and the one that all players – from young debutants to veterans like Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins – want to win to etch their place in sporting folklore.

Held in April each year at the iconic Crucible Theatre in York, the Worlds are an event like no other. The Betfair snooker betting odds have already been revealed for what will be the concluding event of the 2021/22 campaign, and punters are already sizing up where the best of the value lies.

So let’s take a look at those at the head of the market, and see who might just go on to lift that famous trophy in the spring.

Judd Trump

For large swathes of 2019 and 2020, Judd Trump was the near-unbeatable force of snooker.

He ascended to the top of the world rankings after a run of form which included title wins at The Masters, the World Grand Prix, the Players Championship and, of course, the 2019 World Championship.

But it’s been a pretty paltry return since, and in the three tournaments that have started the 2021/22 season, he is yet to progress beyond the quarter-finals.

There were better signs at the Northern Ireland Open, but at this point, it’s hard to make a case for the left-hander as the 7/2 favourite.

Mark Selby

The Jester from Leicester showcased all of his granite-like qualities in winning the 2021 World Championship.

He didn’t play his best snooker throughout the tournament, but he is so difficult to beat and has different ways to win matches at his disposal.

The four-time world champion, who has also clinched three editions of The Masters and two UK Championship titles, is arguably not the force he once was, but few have a record to match his at the Crucible, and that’s why he remains a dangerous threat.

Neil Robertson

For all his immense talent, there are those who believe that Neil Robertson has underachieved in the sport.

A world champion in 2021, the Australian has gone on to complete the Triple Crown and also is the proud owner of 100 century breaks in a single campaign – a record never likely to be beaten.

But inconsistency continues to plague the 39-year-old, and he doesn’t have the best record at the Crucible – that glorious fortnight in 2010 aside.

Ronnie O’Sullivan

It’s almost sacrilege to say so, but Ronnie O’Sullivan doesn’t have a great record in the World Championship.

He’s reached just one final of the event in seven attempts, and that came when the tournament was played behind closed doors in 2020 – the Rocket admitting he felt energised by a lack of pressure on his shoulders to entertain the crowd.

It’s now more than a year since O’Sullivan won a ranking event, and while the competitive juices are still flowing, he is not winning prolifically enough right now to suggest another World title is in the offing.

John Higgins

You have to give huge credit to John Higgins, who at the age of 46 has made a monumental life change.

He’s taken up fitness classes, started a healthier diet, and has lost three-and-a-half stone as a consequence – a decision triggered by breathing difficulties he experienced at the Crucible back in April.

We don’t know how that will impact his snooker, but in the early throes of the 2021/22 season, he has already reached the final of the Northern Ireland Open, where he looked in fine fettle.

A four-time world champion, Higgins needs no introduction to success at the Crucible, and there’s no reason why he can’t enhance that record despite his advancing years.

Whoever goes on to win the World Championships in 2022, there’s no doubt that it will be a fantastic tournament.

Can snooker players be penalised for slow play?

The simple answer is yes, they can, but in reality they very rarely, if ever, are. Section 4, 3(a) of the ‘Official Rules of Snooker and English Billiards’, published by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), explicitly deals with the thorny topic of time wasting. Essentially, any player who takes ‘an abnormal amount of time’ to choose and/or play a shot should, in the first instance, be warned by the referee. Once so warned, the player should be penalised, by forfeiting the frame in progress, on each and every occurrence of time wasting. However, there is no definition of what constitutes ‘abnormal’, so the application of the time wasting rule if left to individual referees.

That, in itself, has been cause for controversy; following a 10-6 defeat of Peter Ebdon in the first round of the 2013 World Championship – which lasted 438 minutes and required an extra, unscheduled session to complete – Graeme Dott complained, ‘The referees nowadays don’t say anything. They don’t want any controversy.’ On another occasion at the Crucible, in his quarter-final against Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2005, Ebdon took over three minutes for a single shot and five-and-a-half minutes to compile a break of twelve, but at no point did referee Colin Brinded intervene. Matthew Syed, columnist for the ‘The Times’, wrote that the ‘shameless’ time wasting tactics amounted to ‘cheating’; Ebdon later sued for libel, but lost.

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