STEPHEN Lee has seen the first stage of his appeal against a 12-year ban from snooker for match-fixing adjourned until Monday 17th February.
Lee's appeal against a record 12-year ban from snooker for match-, frame- and spot-fixing started on Thursday 30th January at an undisclosed location in London.
Just as for the original tribunal, Lee’s reputation and career which have seen him win five ranking titles and reach No5 in the world, were on the line at the new hearing.
In charge at the appeal, again staged by independent body Sport Resolutions, is Edwin Glasgow QC, a barrister who appeared at the Bloody Sunday inquiry.
The 39-year-old from Trowbridge was branded snooker’s biggest ever cheat after being found guilty last September by appointed chair Adam Lewis QC on seven charges issued by governing body the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association.
That followed a long police and Gambling Commission investigation, though the Crown Prosecution Service declined to bring criminal charges against Lee - who always maintained his innocence. With his reputation in tatters, Lee has insisted he can clear his name.
Unlike the first tribunal Lee now has legal representation for the appeal, and it is understood that the first stage of the process saw him raising concerns that he did not receive a “fair hearing”, and about alleged conflicts of interest involving Lewis.
The barrister had acted for World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn’s Leyton Orient Football Club over the Olympic Stadium. The WPBSA strongly refute any suggestion there was any conflict of interest, or other procedural issues and claim Lee was made aware of Lewis’s CV and other clients prior to the tribunal.
This may be disputed by Lee, and he may also raise the perceived level of independence of the WPBSA from World Snooker, separated in 2010 into the commercial arm (WS) and a regulatory body (WPBSA).
Lewis said last week he was unable to make any comment on the appeal, and Glasgow has the power to decide what information is released, and when.
Lee, a professional for more than 20 years with five ranking titles to his name, was found on the “balance of probabilities”, the standard of proof applicable, to have fixed outcomes in seven matches in 2008 and 2009.
In a long summary of the first hearing held in Bristol last September, Lewis said three groups of gamblers made a total profit of nearly £100,000 from betting on his matches.
The tribunal ruled he deliberately lost matches against Ken Doherty and Marco Fu at the 2008 Malta Cup and agreed to lose the first frame against both Stephen Hendry and Mark King at the 2008 UK Championship.
In addition, Lee was found to have lost matches by a predetermined score to Neil Robertson at the 2008 Malta Cup and to Mark Selby at the 2009 China Open.
Lee, from Trowbridge in Wiltshire, was also found to have conspired to lose his 2009 World Championship first-round encounter with Ryan Day, a match in which he was beaten 10-4.
The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) said that Lee was involved in “the worst case of snooker corruption that we've seen”.
Lee and manager Adam Quigley have not spoken to regular snooker reporters for well over a year, but tried to sell his story to other journalists.
With few takers, in the wake of the guilty verdict and sentence Lee did an interview on talkSPORT radio station.
In that, he maintained his innocence and signalled his intention to appeal, saying: “I have put all the money trails in place to show it is all legitimate and statements from seven players and two top-class referees who saw no wrongdoing [in the matches].
“I’m going to clear my name. The facts will be coming out shortly. The money they said had gone into my wife's bank account from betting is all lies. Complete lies, and we’ve got proof of that.
"No wrong money has gone into that account at all. It's in the appeal. There is no way in the world I would ever take any money to lose a frame or a match.”
Lee used three sets of lawyers from the time charges were issued by the WPBSA to the tribunal hearing - though eventually went in without legal representation, supported by former manager Neal Clague.
Lee will, though, have new lawyers acting for him for the appeal. Paris Smith, based in Southampton, has been appointed, with a barrister believed to be working pro bono on the case.
Robert Payne, for Paris Smith, this week could say only: “My instructions are not to offer any comment at this time.”
Clearly there is again a huge amount at stake for Lee, who goes in to the appeal hoping to overturn his current status of convicted match-fixer and cheat - but there could potentially also be plenty on the line for the WPBSA, its Integrity Unit, Sport Resolutions, Lewis, and the sport itself.
Should Glasgow find evidence of an unfair hearing and conflict of interest, the case would in all likelihood be heading for an expensive re-trial. The costs for the WPBSA alone are already well into six figures.
If no evidence of that nature is found, Lee will move on to a straight appeal against conviction, sentence and the £40,000 costs. Should that happen and he was to make no inroads on the verdict or sanctions, Lee would again be cast into the snooker wilderness.
Photographs by Monique Limbos