Sunday, 2 May 2010


Sport is all over the front page of the News of the World today. The paper’s legendary investigator Mazher Mahmood has world snooker champion John Higgins in the dock over allegations of match fixing.
According to Mahmood, whose previous victims include Sven Goran Eriksson, Higgins and his agent Pat Mooney were suckered by a typical NOTW scam and ended up agreeing to lose certain frames in certain matches in the future. This would enable a betting syndicate to clean up.
If true, the claims would be a severe blow for snooker. In fact even before the investigation has started the sport has been damaged. On the day when the World Snooker Final began, everyone was talking about foul play and not the match.
No doubt many will be as angry with the journalists as they are with Higgins. Messengers still tend to be shot. Especially when the paper has not actually uncovered any corruption which has already taken place, but instead set a trap and lured the snooker men into it.
So a lot hangs on the proof. Higgins claims his conscience is clear, Mahmood parades evidence from filmed conversations.
The outcome will be fascinating and if the NOTW has indeed flushed out a corrupt champion then that is a good result for journalism. Either way, it does the sporting world no harm to know that Mahmood and his ilk are out there. Which sportsman, when offered a bribe in the future, will be able to avoid the sneaking suspicion that he might just be on the end of a NOTW scam, and decide that the best policy is to stay on the straight and narrow?

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