A snooker star today sensationally lifts the lid on corruption and illegal gambling he claims to have witnessed repeatedly at the sport’s highest level.
Joe Jogia says he was once offered £15,000 to throw a match at a tournament featuring legendary players Jimmy White, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby, though they knew nothing of it.
Joe, at one time world No 44, tells how a player once ranked in the top 10 and whose tournament earnings topped £1million deliberately lost against him.
And he reveals he was approached to join a Far East-based match-fixing gang containing a DOZEN professionals.
His allegations come days after top player Stephen Lee was cited in match-fixing charges by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, which suspended him in October.
The claims will horrify the millions of fans of the sport, which has seen its popularity surge in recent years. The 2011 World Snooker Championship final had a peak viewing audience of 6.6 million and a total of 27.1 million watched the tournament – the best figures for half a decade.
Joe, who has told the Sunday Mirror the names of those he accuses, is himself serving a two-year ban after a probe into betting. He has spoken out because he feels he has been made a scapegoat to protect bigger stars.
Joe said of match-rigging: “I have witnessed it and I have been approached. It must be stopped.”
In August 2011 Joe, 37, flew to Germany for the Players Tour Championship Event 4 and checked into the Hotel Mercure in Nuremberg.
He said: “I heard some players messing about in the next room. They were a bit sheepish when I walked in but they brought me into the conversation. There were three players and they said they would get £9,000 each for all three losing but if I came in it would work out to £15,000 each.
“They were trying to persuade me to do it for half an hour. They said if I got the train to London the following week and met one of the players he would hand over £15,000 in an envelope.”
In action: Jogia during a legit game
Joe said bets would have been spread around bookmakers online and on the high street to avoid suspicion. Two of the players are ranked and one was once in the world top 40. We are not naming them today.
He said: “I said ‘no’ to them, left and won my game. I don’t think it was a coincidence that all those three lost. I didn’t approach the authorities. I just thought, ‘Leave it’. I didn’t want to get involved.”
In 2010 Joe became suspicious playing a star who had been in the world top 10. He said: “He was hitting safety shots a bit thick, losing the cue ball and missing pots by a long way. It was getting quite bad... it was embarrassing, like playing against Stevie Wonder.
“At the interval I went to the toilet when I was 3-1 in front. I smiled at him and said, ‘I take it you are not going to win this game’. He just smiled at me and walked away. I went on to win. When you are a professional player you can tell when someone is making mistakes and playing like an amateur.
“You set yourself up for hard pots and eventually you are going to miss them. It would be a series of bad positional plays. One leads to another, making it hard to get on the next ball, so you wouldn’t be making obvious silly mistakes.”
Joe’s first experience of corruption was at a Sheffield tournament in 2006. One player had been in the world top 40.
He said: “A few of us were having a few drinks and we were all due to play the next day and then one of them suggested, ‘Why don’t we get our heads together and get £2,000 each?’. I walked away. I didn’t know the other results but I certainly won that match.”
Three years ago, Joe said, he was at a snooker club in Leicester, his home town, and was approached by an ex-player in his 30s. Joe said: “We had a drink and he asked if I wanted to be part of the team. When he said what it was about I couldn’t believe it.
“He said he had 12 professional players and at any one time had a player who could throw a game. He mentioned one player’s name and I was halfway out of the door.”
That player is in the world top 30.
Joe was also convinced that another top player, now retired, deliberately lost as he watched at the side of the table. He said: “It was his last game as a professional. He lost on purpose and there was about £80,000 worth of bets on him to lose.”
Joe added: “You know that the people who put the bets on and hang around with these players are not nice people. You would have to do what they say and if you are going bent and then win you are in trouble.”
Meanwhile, suspended Stephen Lee, 38, a former world No 5, faces a hearing over eight matches at four tournaments, including a world championship at The Crucible in Sheffield. He denies all the charges.
In January 2011 John Higgins admitted breaching rules around betting and failing to report an attempt to fix a match. He was given a six-month suspension and fined £75,000. Joe was banned for two years and ordered to pay £2,000 costs by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association after many small bets were placed on Matthew Selt to win their shoot-out match in January last year.
The probe found that 16 bets were made or attempted at betting shops in the Leicester area on Selt to win. Texts were found from Joe to two associates who placed bets. There is no suggestion that Selt was involved.
Joe denied involvement and claimed old acquaintances were “fishing” for information about an injury. He pulled out of the game.
Joe claims the Association has threatened him with a lifetime ban unless he pays £7,000 legal costs. He said: “The ban is heartbreaking. I am on the streets looking for work. I am gutted because I can’t play the game I love. I have become a scapegoat.”
'We take match-fixing extremely seriously'
Jason Ferguson, chairman of the WPBSA and a director of World Snooker, said in a statement: “World Snooker confirms that Joe Jogia has had his WPBSA membership terminated and is currently serving a two-year ban from competition, following an investigation into one of his matches which produced suspicious betting patterns.
“Joe has been informed that he will not be permitted to re-apply for membership to the association until he has repaid both the costs charged in relation to his initial hearing and the costs incurred by the association regarding his spurious appeal.
“The WPBSA takes the issue of match-fixing extremely seriously and we have pioneered methods of dealing with an issue which affects virtually every sport. We have updated our rules on betting and made it clear to all players they could potentially face lifetime bans if any rules are breached. We work closely alongside the Gambling Commission and bookmakers to investigate any suspicious betting patterns, or any allegations with substance behind them.
“At no time has Joe Jogia informed the WPBSA of these allegations or any concerns that he may have regarding the integrity of the sport as he is obliged to do under the WPBSA members rules and regulations.”
It's tabloid press but I can't see WSA ignoring this and I'm not convinced it will help Jogia's cause if he wants to come back because, if any of that is true, he should have reported the approaches.
Happy Sunday snooker. The rubbish hit the fan once again.
(*) there is a little audio/video coming with the original article.
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