Stephen Lee: Banned snooker player starts academy in China

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The snooker match Lee fixed

Disgraced snooker player Stephen Lee is hoping he can inspire the next generation of players in China.

Lee, who in 2013 was given a 12-year suspension for match-fixing, has set up an academy in Shenzhen.

The former world number five's ban will end on 12 October 2024 - the date of his 50th birthday.

"I've seen a lot of talent here, it's raw talent and they are very capable young players," the 40-year-old told the BBC. "I'm very impressed."

In an Inside Out West feature, Lee reveals he intends to travel to China once a month to act as a mentor for children as young as 12.

Stephen Lee
Ranking tournament wins: 5 (Grand Prix 1998; LG Cup 2001; Scottish Open 2002; Welsh Open 2006, PTC Grand Finals 2012)
Highest tournament break: 145
Highest world ranking: Five
Ranking at time of suspension: Eight

"I'm hoping to get involved and bring some really good young players through for the future," he said.

Lee, a professional for more than 20 years and the winner of five ranking titles, was found to have fixed the outcomes of seven matches in 2008 and 2009.

He was also found to have conspired to lose his 2009 World Championship first-round match to Ryan Day, in which he was defeated 10-4.

World Snooker chief Barry Hearn said he has "no sympathy" for Lee, but added he was "free to do as he pleased" in starting the academy in China.

"Stephen Lee was a top player, but he took the wrong path and as such he paid the ultimate price," said Hearn.

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Snooker's integrity is paramount - Barry Hearn

"The 12-year ban fitted the crime - I would have gone for a life ban, you have to send a message to the broadcasters and sponsors. Integrity is paramount.

"There is no sympathy when you are dealing with the future of the sport. It's a sad situation for the individual, no-one wants to see anyone suffer, but he brought about it himself, therefore he has to pay the price."

Lee first visited China in 1997 and said he "always liked" the country, adding: "The fans are brilliant, they know their stuff and love their snooker.

"There is raw talent and they need to be taught the right things from an early age and then the world is their oyster.

"The plan is to work closely with the players and bring them to a higher level in their game and give them a chance of turning professional. It's very exciting times."

Hearn has overseen a transformation of the sport in recent years and says Lee, who has always maintained his innocence, is no longer a member of World Snooker.

"Everybody deserves a second chance," said Hearn. "He is totally free to earn a living and support himself and his family. I wish him every success with that. He has paid the price with his professional career."

Watch the full Inside Out West feature on BBC One West on Monday from 19:30 BST

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