World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has backed John Higgins to come back from the “devastating blow to his career and reputation” when his suspension from the sport is lifted in November.
The three-time former world champion was suspended in May pending an investigation into allegations of frame-throwing which were made by the News of the World.
The 35-year-old Scot was today handed a six-month suspension from snooker - starting from the initial suspension on May 2 – and fined £75,000 after admitting breaching rules around betting during a two-day hearing in London organised by Sport Resolutions, an independent dispute resolution service.
He admitted “intentionally giving the impression to others that they were agreeing to act in breach of the betting rules” and failing to report the matter promptly to the governing body, World Snooker.
However, the charges of “agreeing or offering” to accept bribes and “agreeing to engage in corrupt or fraudulent conduct” were dropped.
A World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association statement read: “Having studied all of the evidence in its entirety, the WPBSA and Sports Resolutions accept that there has been no dishonesty on the part of John Higgins and accordingly the WPBSA has withdrawn the allegations of match-fixing against him.”
Hearn said: “John made a mistake in failing to report the meeting in Kiev. He has admitted this mistake and expressed great regret at what happened.
“The evidence, which has been exhaustively studied by David Douglas and Sport Resolutions, suggests that he was led into this situation and did not instigate any discussions of corrupt activity.
“It seems certain, in view of his previous record and the ambassadorial work he has done for snooker, that this was a mistake he will never repeat.
“I’m sure Sport Resolutions took these factors into account in coming to their verdict.”
Higgins has agreed to play a leading role in a new educational programme for snooker players, which will form part of the Integrity Unit to be set up by WPBSA disciplinary committee chairman David Douglas.
Hearn continued: “The new educational programme will teach players, particularly the new professionals coming into the game, about the pitfalls associated with betting and make clear the standards expected by the WPBSA.
“John has suffered a devastating blow to his career and reputation, but he can come back from it – and he has pledged to help others learn from his experiences.
“The programme will be a key part of the Integrity Unit’s goal to proactively address any form of corruption and make our sport a standard bearer for sports integrity.
“Today’s outcome is a positive step towards this goal and, with the support of all the players, I fully believe that it will be achieved.”
WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson added: “I am pleased to see this matter concluded in an open and transparent fashion, after a hearing staged by an independent body.
“I look forward to the creation of the anti-corruption unit, which will be in operation very shortly and will give the WPBSA the best possible assistance in our ambition to eliminate all forms of corruption from our sport.
“It is important now that snooker moves forward from this matter and focuses on the successful new era which has formed in recent months.”
Higgins’ manager Pat Mooney has been permanently suspended from the WPBSA following the hearing.