World snooker No. 1 John Higgins has denied allegations he agreed to take a bribe for fixing matches after being suspended from all World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) tournaments following the shock claims.
On Sunday, News of the World released a video showing what it said was Higgins and his manager Pat Mooney agreeing to lose frames in four matches later this year in return for $400,000 (approximately Rs 1.5 crore) bribe.
Hours later, Barry Hearn, chair of the sport's governing body, the WPBSA, said that Higgins would be suspended with immediate effect while an investigation takes place.
“Whilst we're not saying he's guilty of anything... these revelations are such there's a case he has to answer,” Hearn said, adding Mooney had also resigned from the WPBSA's board. Scot Higgins, who was secretly taped during the meeting in the Ukraine, is adamant he has done nothing wrong and released a statement protesting his innocence. Hearn had previously said he would consider his own position in the wake of the newspaper's report, but later said that he’d stay on.
“We at the top of the game have a responsibility and my message to fans is 'this is not going to ruin this game'. We're going to deal with this issue," he said. The revelations emerged on the day the World Championship final begins at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, northern England.
Higgins, 34, was unexpectedly knocked out of the tournament in the second round by veteran Steve Davis. According to the newspaper, the millionaire three-time world champion boasted that “it's easy” to lose frames deliberately without being detected.
A secretly-shot video posted on the paper's website appeared to show Higgins discussing losing frames and missing shots during a meeting with Mooney and an undercover reporter in a hotel in Kiev.