Snooker great Steve Davis has labelled the ongoing investigation into alleged match-fixing as “embarrassing” for the sport while raising concerns about what it could do to the growth of the game in China.
But the six-time world champion stressed anyone found to have engaged in fixing would be guilty of a “breathtaking level of stupidity”.
This year’s edition of the Masters, one of snooker’s leading tournaments, started in London on Sunday without Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao - two of 10 Chinese players suspended pending the outcome of a probe by World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, the sport’s global governing body.
Three-time Masters champion Davis told the BBC, “If the allegations are proven to be true, it shows a breathtaking level of stupidity by these players, but this is still to be developed.”
The 65-year-old Englishman added, “It’s embarrassing. I think all the players are aware of the situation and fortunately the WPBSA is on top of it. What effect it has on the game, it’s hard to evaluate at the moment.”
China has long been seen as a country with huge growth potential for snooker, a sport traditionally dominated by players from Britain and Ireland.
But China has not staged a major snooker competition since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic and plans to return there for a World Snooker Tour event may now be put on hold during the investigation.
“What effect it has in China is even harder to say,” said Davis. “It may have a detrimental effect on events over there - let’s hope not.”
Following their suspensions, Yan and Zhao were replaced in the 16-strong Masters draw by David Gilbert and Hossein Vafaei.
Zhao, who beat Luca Brecel to win the 2021 UK Championship title, and Zhang Jiankang, the world number 82, were banned from attending or competing on the Tour with immediate effect, it was announced on Tuesday.
Former Masters champion Yan and seven other Chinese players had already been suspended by the WPBSA.
Lu Ning, Li Hang, Zhao Jianbo, Bai Langning, Chang Bingyu, Yan Bingtao and Chen Zifan were all suspended in December after world number 56 Liang Wenbo became the first Chinese player to be suspended as part of the investigation in October.