Stephen Lee world snooker championship 2012 Crucible

Stephen Lee's final appearance at the Crucible last year.

Stephen Lee was one of the 'golden generation' of snooker players turning professional in the early 1990's that included world champions Ronnie O'Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams, with many commentators saying he had 'the best cue-action' the game had seen.

The 38-year-old won five ranking titles in his career including one as recent as last year in March when he was victorious in the PTC Grand Finals in Galway, but that all came crashing down yesterday as the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) handed Lee a 12-year ban from competition.

The independent sports tribunal Sports Resolutions concluded last week that the Trowbridge man had had a hand in fixing seven matches, these date as far back as the 2008 Malta Cup where he deliberately lost round-robin matches against Ken Doherty and Marco Fu. 

The most prolific of these matches happened in snooker's biggest event, the World Championship at the Crucible, where he conspired to lose his 2009 first round match against Ryan Day, which he did by a 10-4 scoreline.

Nigel Mawer, the disciplinary chairman for the WPBSA who was heavily involved in the case even went as far to say "This is the worst case of snooker corruption that we've seen," he told the BBC.

By receiving a 12-year ban from all WPBSA and World Snooker endorsed events (including any future World Seniors and Power Snooker tournaments), Lee has the longest punishment a player has gotten for a case of match-fixing, the next longest being Australian Quinten Hann's eight-year ban in 2006 for conspiring to lose a China Open match.

Stephen Lee Ronnie O'Sullivan German Masters 2012

Lee's last encounter with Ronnie O'Sullivan at the 2012 German Masters 

Due to his age it is effectively a life-time ban, as no player to this day has managed to rejoin the tour after turning 50 and then produce enough results good enough to remain on the following season. Lee plans to appeal against the ban but judging on the evidence, it looks unlikely to prove successful.

So what next for Lee? Although the rewards are not as vast as they used to be a decade ago, he could attempt to earn a living from the US pool market, like Britain's Allison Fisher who carved out a very lucrative career for herself after leaving snooker in the 90's.

He could continue on the exhibition/challenge match path that he has been following since his suspension from snooker last October, although with his reputation damaged it could prove harder to obtain bookings. Another possible route is the overseas coaching market which former pros such as David Roe are involved in.

The ruling and Lee's subsequent ban will no-doubt provide an even greater deterrent for both established and newer pro's to never cast the dice themselves and risk match-fixing a professional snooker match, as in the long run it clearly isn't worth ruining your life and your reputation over winning a quick few pounds.

Let's hope that the next couple of seasons we will be free from similar stories like these dominating the few headlines that snooker gets and we will see more positive ones, similar to those that Reanne Evans received earlier in the year when she became the first women to qualify for the final stages of a ranking tournament at the Wuxi Open.

For a more in-depth and analytical look at the Stephen Lee case and it's coverage, check out some of the recent articles on the entertaining snookerbacker blog.

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