Player suspended by federation, and head of world snooker Hearn says he is 'devastated' by the turn of events during the World Championships.
Higgins denies match-fixing
John Higgins yesterday insisted he would never fix a snooker match and declared his conscience was "100 per cent clear" following newspaper allegations that he agreed to throw frames in return for money. Higgins, the world No 1, was suspended yesterday by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), after secret video was taken by an undercover reporter who was posing as a businessman at a meeting which the News of the World newspaper said took place in the days following Higgins's World Championship second-round defeat to Steve Davis. The meeting took place in Kiev and Higgins and Pat Mooney, his manager, are alleged to have agreed to accept £261,000 (Dh1.46m) for arranging the outcome of four frames in matches to be played later this year. There is no suggestion Higgins has been involved in fixing matches which have already been played but he has been suspended by Barry Hearn, the head of world snooker. Mooney has resigned from the WPBSA board. Higgins, 34, claimed he only said he would participate in the deal so he could get out of a potentially threatening situation. "Can I say I have never beeninvolved in any form of snooker match-fixing," he said in a statement read out on BBC2 prior to the World Championship final. "In my 18 years playing professional snooker I have never deliberately missed a shot, never mind intentionally lost a frame or a match. "Those who know me are aware of my love for snooker and that I would never do anything to damage the integrity of the sport I love. My conscience is 100 per cent clear." Higgins added, in his statement: "In all honesty I became very worried at the way the conversation developed in Kiev. When it was suggested that I throw frames in return for large sums of money, I was really spooked, I just wanted to get out of the hotel and on to the plane home. "I didn't know if this was the Russian mafia or who we were dealing with. At that stage I felt the best course of action was just to play along with these guys and get out of Russia." Davis expressed surprise. "Everybody is in shock. Everyone's walking around in bits. It's a dark day for snooker." Asked whether Hearn might be tempted to walk away from snooker, Davis added: "There is the possibility that with Barry Hearn in the process of taking the game over, he may be able to cut the cancer out of it from day one." Hearn added: "We're working so hard on revitalising the game and there are lots of people pulling in the right direction. "We wanted the headlines to be about Steve Davis's revitalisation, Stephen Hendry's recovery ? but all we're talking about is the News of the World exposé on John Higgins and his manager, which has left me feeling devastated." * PA