Barry Hearn, the world snooker chief, yesterday vowed that the governing body will investigate allegations made against John Higgins "in the fastest possible timetable" and promised brutal action to remove any "sickness" from the game. Higgins, the world No 1, was suspended on Sunday following allegations he agreed to throw frames for money. Higgins and Pat Mooney, his manager who has resigned from the board of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), were filmed by the News of the World newspaper allegedly agreeing to accept £261,000 (Dh1.46m) in return for fixing the outcome of four frames in matches to be played later this year.
"There will be nothing, I repeat absolutely nothing, that will stop this matter being dealt with in the fastest possible timetable so we can have this matter resolved and get down to concentrating on what we love to concentrate on, this wonderful game." Higgins has denied any wrong-doing and insisted he will fight to clear his name. Hearn also warned the sport could die unless players learn to resist temptation. He is determined to "cure the malaise" but believes the players are ultimately responsible for snooker's future.
And Hearn stated that Mooney, has "no future in snooker" and that Higgins should have got in touch from the moment he was aware of any trouble. "One of the reasons I was so upset ... was I didn't get a phone call," Hearn said at a press conference in Sheffield yesterday. "If someone approaches, and I can't stop people outside approaching players, what I can say is it's their responsibility to report that instance immediately so the authorities are aware and can act on them."
Hearn revealed David Douglas, the former Metropolitan Police detective chief superintendent who joined the WPBSA board last month, will meet News of the World management today. Hearn said the case should be dealt with swiftly, stressing it would be over in days and weeks rather than months and years. Hearn continued: "If there is a sickness in snooker, that's the death knell for snooker unless that sickness is removed, and it will be removed if it exists at all.
"Any sickness will be removed in a brutal manner because we will not tolerate it." Two unconnected and ongoing police investigations plus the weekend claims about Higgins have given Hearn a headache. "We know we have a police investigation by Strathclyde [Police] into two players [Stephen Maguire and Jamie Burnett]," he said. "We know we've got another player who's also being investigated in Stephen Lee. It's an issue we have to deal with.
"The only people that can cure this are the players. We have the worst-case scenario here where the entire fabric of the sport has been brought under question." * PA