Higgins set to learn fate today

Higgins set to learn fate today

John Higgins was set to learn his fate today as the two-day tribunal to determine whether he conspired to fix matches approached its close.

Former world number one Higgins yesterday spent around nine hours defending himself against those allegations on day one of the hearing in central London.

As the hearing was getting under way, the 35-year-old's agent Jim Cassidy reiterated his client's innocence, saying: "John Higgins is 100% innocent of any aspect of match-fixing."

Further evidence may be presented today, after which a judgment is expected that could save or destroy Higgins' career.

The current hearing represents the final stage of the three-time world champion's quest to clear his name following a News of the World investigation which resulted in him being accused of agreeing to fix frames.

Higgins, who firmly denies the claims made against him, appeared yesterday at the behind-closed-doors tribunal, which was organised by Sport Resolutions, a London-based independent dispute resolution service.

The Scot arrived at around 9.30am, going through the front entrance of TLT LLP Solicitors, but left through a side entrance before 7pm in an apparent attempt to avoid the glare of publicity.

Higgins has been suspended by World Snooker since the sport was rocked by the News of the World allegations on May 2 - the first day of the World Championship final.

It is expected that an independent panel, headed by Ian Mill QC, will announce their verdict today.

This would be delivered verbally to World Snooker and Higgins before being made public.

However, the panel could yet take two to three days before announcing their initial findings they also have the option of taking three to four weeks before delivering a full written verdict.

The News of the World alleged Higgins and his manager Pat Mooney had agreed to take money to influence the outcome of matches.

The pair travelled to Ukraine where they took part in a meeting with undercover reporters posing as businessmen, who they believed were keen to set up tournaments in the country. Higgins and Mooney ran the World Series of Snooker, which staged tournaments in countries the main professional tour did not visit.

The News of the World alleged they agreed to accept £261,000 (€317,591) in return for fixing the outcome of four frames in matches to be played later this year at the new events.

Higgins swiftly denied the claims, insisting at the time of the allegations coming to light that he and Mooney had feared they were in the company of "Russian mafia" in Kiev and decided "to play along with these guys and get out of Ukraine".

The Scot was expected to be asked during the tribunal why, if he had encountered such a situation, he did not report it to World Snooker.

If Higgins is cleared, he will be free to resume his playing career with immediate effect, and could make his comeback at the World Open in Glasgow, which begins on September 18.

Should the hearing find against him, however, Higgins would face a long ban from the sport, although a lifetime suspension appears out of the question, on the basis of recent remarks from World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn.

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