Dec 16 2008 By Neil Goulding
SCOTS snooker stars Stephen Maguire and Jamie Burnett are at the centre of an alleged match-fixing probe.
The pair clashed yesterday at the Maplin UK Championship first round and Maguire won 9-3.
But prior to the match in Telford, Shropshire, a number of top bookies suspended betting on it after large correct-score wagers were placed on a 9-3 win for Maguire. The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) issued a warning to its members but heavy cash had already been placed.
Cliff Wilds, head of sport for leading bookmakers Victor Chandler, said: "When you get new accounts opened from Glasgow addresses to bet correct frame scores, alarm bells go off. It's very unusual to lay frame score bets so far in advance and we took half-a-dozen for fairly large sums of money.
"We took no money on Maguire to win 9-2 or 9-4, only 9-3. That set alarm bells off as well. We started out laying odds of 5-1, which was quite short, and they were still trying to back 9-3 at 4-1.
"We suspended betting four days ago. If we'd left the odds up until the start of the match who knows how much we'd have laid? Boylesports and Stan James have taken money for 9-3 too."
Graham Sharp, the William Hill spokesman, said: "We don't put up any correct-score betting until the quarter-final stage but saw the way the market was shaping on Betfair and did not like the look of it.
"In the actual match betting we started at odds of 1-5 on Maguire but it was backed down to 1-7 and then we suspended on Friday evening.
"There were a number of rumours doing the rounds in the business and we thought discretion, valour and all of that stuff and took down the price."
Maguire, world No.2 and last season's UK runner-up, admitted he knew big sums had been wagered on the match but insisted he gave 100 per cent.
He said: "I heard a little bit of word there was a lot of money bet on the match but I'm there to play snooker.
"I'm not there to listen to people who bet money. That's up to them if they've got an inkling of the score. I hardly bet, so if people want to talk about betting it's got nothing to do with me.
"When you're 8-3 down in front of millions of people it's not exactly the nicest feeling and you could see that in Jamie's face. There was no way he was going to win the match from there.
"I could tell because I've been in that situation. You just want to get out of the arena.
"I'm surprised he missed the final black ball in the last frame but it was a thin cut. And the way he played the blue and the pink, he was playing quick, so they go in or they don't. But I'm just glad to get over the line.
"It was surprising to win 9-3. Jamie's good but he's not as used to the TV stages as he probably should be. That told a lot during the match, so 9-3 was a good victory. We used to play in the same club but he's moved on and I've not practised with him for about six months. We used to be good friends."
The pressure of knowing bookies had suspended betting on a 9-3 result made Burnett all the more nervous.
He said: "I seemed to know which balls I was going to miss. It's crazy, I'm down on shot and just had a feeling.
"My friend phoned the other day and said bookmakers had taken the betting off. I don't know what the script is.
"In the last few years there's been talk about matches going to be this score or that but it's nothing to do with me."
BBC snooker commentator Clive Everton, who worked on the match, said: "In independent inquiry should be conducted by snooker people with knowledge to appreciate the relative difficulty of shots. The last two frames should be studied particularly closely."
A World Snooker statement read: "A thorough assessment of the players' performance will be made.
"World Snooker has in the past taken a particularly stringent line when players have been judged guilty of fixing or intent to fix."