http://sport.stv.tv/world-sport/197233- ... d-fearful/
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Scottish snooker has reasons to be cheerful and fearful
The World Open comes to Glasgow this weekend with Scottish snooker facing positive and negative headlines.
By Neil Drysdale
14 September 2010 08:12 GMT
The inaugural World Open, a tournament which promoter, Barry Hearn, has described in advance as being "The FA Cup of snooker" arrives in Glasgow this Saturday, with the sport still in the process of recovering from the fall-out of John Higgins being cleared of match-fixing allegations last week.
The Scottish, three-time world champion has been accused of "naivete" by Hearn, in addition to receiving a six-month ban and a £75,000 penalty from the WPBSA, but he will at least be free to resume his career at the UK Open in December. The case, none the less, has reminded the game's aficionados that this is a sport where the potential for betting scams and the intervention of foreign bookmakers is always a threat.
We shouldn't forget, either, that Higgins isn't the only leading Scot of the green baize, who is under scrutiny from the authorities. The Crown Office confimed to STV yesterday that investigations are continuing into allegations of match-fixing, involving Stephen Maguire and Jamie Burnett, following their meeting at the UK Championships in December 2008.
"The Procurator Fiscal at Hamilton has received a report, concerning five males, aged 35, 34, 31, 31 and 29, in connection with alleged offences, and the report is currently under consideration," said a source on Monday morning.
Maguire, who, at one stage of his career, seemed destined to follow Stephen Hendry, Graeme Dott and Higgins into the list of Scottish world champions, has struggled since the story broke, and appears to have lost much of his old swagger and tempo.
Burnett, for his part, has just returned from China, where he performed creditably in reaching the final of the Shanghai Masters, before going down 10-7 by Ali Carter. Yet, for as long as the duo are in the sights of Strathclyde Police's Economic Crime Unit, their reputations, livelihoods and even their liberty, are at risk.
All because of the suspicions aroused when Burnett missed - by a huge margin - a straightforward pot against his compatriot, which led to Maguire winning their match 9-3, the same scoreline which had attracted an unusual amount of stake money in advance of the contest.
Thankfully, as the World Open rolls into the SECC, there is a decent chance that snooker will gain headlines for positive reasons again. This event, one of several designed by Hearn to revitalise the sport, will feature short, sharp exchanges with matches decided over five frames and, even before the action has commenced, the game's best amateur talents have been granted the opportunity to lock horns in qualifying with their professional counterparts.
It won't be the catalyst for an overnight transformation, particularly given the opposition from some leading performers to Hearn's blueprint for change. But, as the English impresario told me recently, the tournament should shake up the elite, offer lighning-quick shocks on a regular basis, and bring some of the qualities to the cue masters that darts has witnessed in recent years.
Indeed, even the more steady rather than spectacular players are relishing the significant increase in tournaments, television exposure and prize money which has already been generated by the redoubtable Hearn.
Dott, for instance, one of his pursuit's unsung heroes, will renew hostilities with Neil Robertson, the man who beat him in the final of the World Championships at the Crucible earlier this year, and the Larkhall-based Scot is savouring the prospect, even if any connection between him and Billy Whizz is entirely coincidental.
"I've never done well in tournaments with short formats, for some reason, they don't suit me," said Dott. "But I totally agree with having new formats for snooker and understand what Barry is doing. I'll be trying my best to do well and it is a tough draw for both of us. But hopefully, the Scots will get a lot of backing from the fans in Glasgow."
The opening day's action also features the twin Stephens, Hendry and Maguire in competition, so there will be no shortage of Scottish interest as the proceedings unfold. "It should be fantastic," says Dott, and the hope has to be, following months of unsavoury headlines and lurid publicity, that the World Open provides a much-needed shot in the arm.
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