‘Sorry’ Stuart Bingham criticises timing of six-month snooker ban

Stuart Bingham has apologised to his fans all over the world for breaching betting rules but also pointed criticism towards snooker’s governing body over the way it has dealt with his ban.

Stuart Bingham. Picture by Monique Limbos

Last week it was announced former world champion Bingham would be banned from playing professional for six months – three months suspended – after it was found he breached the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) betting rules.

Bingham, crowned champion of the world in 2015 after a stunning win over Shaun Murphy on snooker’s biggest stage the Crucible, was found to have made several bets in a number of accounts to the tune of more than £35,000.

However the WPBSA made it clear that there was no suggestion Bingham had been involved with match-fixing.

The suspension rules Bingham out of any World Snooker events until the end of January 2018 – meaning he misses some prestigious tournaments along the way including this week’s International Championship, the Champion of Champions, the Shanghai Masters, the UK Championship and The Masters in January.

Just after the suspension was announced Bingham tweeted his fans thanking them for their support. But last night (Monday) he broke his silence on the matter by releasing a full statement giving his side of events.

In the statement, which was published on his website. Bingham claimed he had never made any bets on his own matches despite the findings of the disciplinary hearing. Although he admitted breaching the rules and said he made a mistake.

But he also revealed his disappointment over the timing the WPBSA took to deliver his suspension saying if it was not for a “inordinate delay in the overall process” he could have played in some of the big events which he is due to miss.

Bingham also said, despite having vaild grounds, he declined to appeal the ban because he wanted to “bring the matter to a close”.

Stuart Bingham. Picture by Monique Limbos

Here is his statement in full:

“I accept entirely I have breached the Association’s Rules which relate to betting on snooker and I am truly sorry that I have done so. I did not attach sufficient importance to those rules and I now realise that was a mistake.

“I have never been and never will be involved in any form of match-fixing and I am grateful to the Association for confirming that there has never been any suggestion whatsoever that I was doing anything to influence match outcomes nor engaging in any corrupt activity.

“As the Disciplinary Committee has concluded, I cooperated immediately with the Board’s investigations. Both I and my long term friend and adviser, Gary Purkiss, passed over our mobile telephones as soon as we were asked to do so.

“Gary Purkiss has been referred to as my manager but, as was confirmed during the proceedings, he is not my manager in the traditional sense. He was kind enough to sponsor me when I was younger and we have remained close friends ever since. 

“As I said in evidence, we would often travel together to tournaments and simply have some bets as a way of passing the time. 

“Gary had an account which I would access on my phone because he was driving. Additionally, while I was away (often in Asia, where there was a significant time difference), I would use the internet betting site because they have live streaming of games on their websites. I would occasionally have a bet while watching the streaming.

“These were relatively small amounts and were very often accumulator bets rather than on individual matches. 

“I accepted that in October and December last year my bets became more frequent, although they were not large sums. 

“As I have said, I accept that was a clear and serious breach of the rules and I should not have done it.

“However, the Disciplinary Committee also concluded that I had over a long period indirectly used a Stan James telephone account that Gary had operated since approximately 2002.

“The Committee, without any direct evidence, concluded (only on the balance of probabilities) that simply because we had jointly used an internet account, it followed I also had access and was party to the bets on that telephone account. 

“The significance of that is that Gary had placed some bets on matches in which I had played. In the absence of any direct evidence, the Committee arbitrarily concluded that I was responsible for 50 percent of the betting on that account (including the bets on my matches). 

“I categorically deny that this was the case. I have never bet on a match in which I was playing.

“It follows that had the Disciplinary Committee not come to that conclusion, then the amounts I would have been found to have bet would have been less than £10,000 over a long period of time. As I have said, most of those were accumulator bets. 

“That being the case – then in line with recent decisions – my entire ban may well have been suspended.

“Although I have had legal advice confirming that I have good grounds for appeal, I have decided not to do so in order to bring this matter to a close. 

“In addition to wanting to draw a line under this unfortunate episode, it may very well be that any appeal process would take longer than the term of the ban. 

“Perversely, the rules do not provide for there to be a stay of any ban pending the outcome of an appeal.

“I have been living (and playing) with this matter hanging over me for over ten months. I am naturally disappointed that the period of my ban takes in three important tournaments. 

“If there had not been such an inordinate delay in the overall process then I may well have been able to play in some of those tournaments. These are matters that I will take up with Board separately.

“More generally, it is perhaps slightly ironic that most tournaments are sponsored by betting companies. I do not blame them. Snooker provides them with lucrative business, but I have been exposed to all forms of gambling since I was a young teenager. 

“If I was not having wagers with opponents on matches then there were gaming machines in all the clubs. 

“One tournament I played in many years ago (sponsored by a betting company) actually gave the players ‘goodie bags’ including free bet vouchers!

“So while the Rules are clearly designed to uphold the integrity of the game (and protect the sponsors) it seems little is being done to safeguard the players. 

“The sanction that has been imposed on me means that I cannot earn a living for three months. 

“I will be able to survive because of past success but such a sanction on a lesser player could very easily lead to more gambling, and not less. 

“I did offer during the course of the proceedings to work with the Board to help deliver the message that gambling on snooker of any sort is a serious breach of the rules. That offer has not been acknowledged, much less accepted.

“In conclusion, I apologise to the WPBSA, the sponsors of tournaments and most importantly all snooker fans for my conduct which has led to the serious breach of the rules. 

“I have learned my lesson and such behaviour will not be repeated. 

“I look forward to returning to the Tour in late January 2018.

“I would like to pass on my thanks to my legal team at Pellys Solicitors (Andrew Arnold and Charlotte Campbell) and my Counsel Gabriel Buttimore.

“I would finally like to thank my family, close friends and fellow players who have supported me through this difficult time.”

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