Snooker star Stephen Lee threatens to sue rival Judd Trump
One of the West Country’s two snooker stars has threatened to sue the other in a startling row over match-fixing claims.
Trowbridge player Stephen Lee said he will “get my lawyer involved” after Bristolian Judd Trump questioned Lee’s performance in the match last week that quickly led to his shock suspension from the sport.
The drama happened when Lee was trailing John Higgins 3-2 in the first-to-four-frames Premier League clash on Thursday. He missed the final pink and lost the frame and the match 4-2 after being 2-1 up earlier.
As the game finished, Trump tweeted his 90,000 followers on Twitter three messages. The first read ‘absolute joke, he shud (sic) be banned’. A minute later he posted: “Steven Lee stewards inquiry please, something not right,” and then followed it with: “Is this a wind-up, Steve Lee giving it away”.
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Trump quickly deleted the tweets but the following day – Lee’s 38th birthday – snooker’s governing body, the WPBSA, announced they had received information about ‘irregular betting’ on the Lee-Higgins match, and that because of this, the Trowbridge potter was being suspended from the sport while they investigated.
Lee’s manager said the player was “absolutely devastated” to be accused of match-fixing again. In 2010, he was arrested by West Midlands police investigating the issue and had only just received confirmation from prosecutors that no action against him would be taken.
However, the police’s files were being sought by the WPBSA, who announced their own investigation. The governing body said it was the combination of that outstanding inquiry and the new claims from Thursday’s match that led to Lee’s suspension.
An angry Stephen Lee said his lawyers would fight the claims of match-fixing and also turn their attention to Judd Trump’s tweets. He acknowledged his own poor play, and said he hadn’t practised since April, but: “If Judd wants to go shouting off like that then I will get my lawyer involved,” he said. “He obviously has a chip on his shoulder about something.”
Lee’s manager Adam Quigley added: “Stephen can’t believe it is happening again, just one week after a case that has been outstanding against him for two and half years was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.
“He is absolutely devastated. He has worked incredibly hard this year to get back up to number seven in the world. He is sick of all this stuff getting thrown at him and feels there are doubts about him every time he misses a ball.
“Stephen was supposed to be going out for a meal with his wife to celebrate his 38th birthday. He has booked his flights to a tournament in Antwerp next week. Now they are both cancelled and he is engaging a lawyer to fight his corner,” he added.
The WPBSA’s statement read: “On October 5, 2012, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that there will be no criminal proceedings in the match fixing allegations against Stephen Lee made in 2010. Following this decision by the CPS, the WPBSA started its own investigation into these allegations.
“On October 5, 2012, the WPBSA met with the Gambling Commission in order to review material collected by the Gambling Commission which may prove relevant to the WPBSA investigation.
“The WPBSA is now in the process of conducting a thorough inquiry into the circumstances and this will be led by Nigel Mawer, the chairman of the WPBSA Disciplinary Committee.
“On October 12, the WPBSA was informed of suspicious betting patterns relating to a game between Stephen Lee and John Higgins played on October 11. This suspicious activity has also been referred to Nigel Mawer, the chairman of the WPBSA Disciplinary Committee.
“The WPBSA has carefully considered both the initial information from the Gambling Commission, which was reviewed on October 5, and the new information regarding suspicious betting patterns in relation to the match between Stephen Lee and John Higgins from October 11.
“The WPBSA has concluded that it would not be appropriate for Stephen Lee to continue to compete on the World Snooker Tour whilst these investigations are undertaken and therefore WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson has taken the decision to suspend Stephen from competition whilst this inquiry is ongoing.
“Subject to his right to appeal, this suspension will remain in place until either the conclusion of the investigation or any resultant hearings,” it added.