New concerns over editing of Higgins sting video as fake website cover-up continues

By Nick Harris

18 May 2010

As snooker’s governing body, the WPBSA, continues its inquiry into claims by the News of the World that John Higgins agreed to fix frames, a new analysis of the video evidence against Higgins published by the NotW suggests the footage has not only been cut and edited without full context to suit the NotW’s story but that some sub-titles are factually wrong and that some words presented as attributable to Higgins do not appear to have been spoken by him.

Whether there is a plausible explanation for this remains to be seen. Perhaps haste was to blame: the piece of footage most damning to Higgins involved him and his agent, Pat Mooney, and was filmed during a meeting in Ukraine on Friday 30 April. The edited video “highlights” had to be turned around within a day so they could be on the NotW website by late the following evening.

Whatever the reasons that some “errors” crept in – and on the basis of “innocent until proven guilty”, the assumption must be that the NotW did not introduce them to mislead – they are sure to be of interest to the WPBSA.

Its inquiry is being led by the former Metropolitan Police chief superintendent, David Douglas, and he has apparently been promised full assistance by the NotW, although it is not known whether he has had full access to all the details of the NotW’s sting (including a fake website, now taken down, more of which later), or all audio and video footage amassed during it.

The discrepancies highlighted by the new analysis of the video at the heart of the case against Higgins suggest full context will be required for a full and thorough investigation.

A full transcript of the video as screened is further down this page, but three discrepancies are as follows. (The timings mentioned are as found on this YouTube link of the video).

17-23 seconds: in a context unclear, the “main man” on the NotW sting team (we call him MM), says: “You’re going to tell him frame three I’m going to lose”. This is accurately reflected in the sub-title: “You are going to tell him frame three I am going to lose.”

The NotW sub-title then has Higgins saying: “Oh yeah. Frame three I am going to lose yes, yes”. The sub-title evidently draws the eye. But looking solely at what Higgins actually says and does reveals a difference between presentation and fact.

What Higgins actually appears to say is: “Frame three I’m going to lose, yeah. No. [Shakes head no].

.

42-46 seconds: The MM, again in an unclear context, says to Higgins: “So you narrowly miss a ball go to pocket and that’s it.” This sentence, albeit oddly worded, is reflected correctly in the subtitle.

In the video, it is clear from Higgins’ lip movement that he says only a single word here in reply: “Yeah”.

Bizarrely, Higgins’ reply according to the sub-title, slightly out of sync, is: “Yeah, simple as that.”

Yet the words “simple as that” are spoken by a different voice, apparently in an English accent and not obviously attached to anyone in the room.

From all the footage made public, it appears there were four people in the room: Higgins, Mooney (both Scottish), the MM (whose voice is disguised) and somebody later named as Jaroslav, who speaks in heavily accented English. The person saying “Simple as that” is not known, but the NotW clearly suggests in subtitles that Higgins speaks those words.

It is to be expected that Higgins’ legal team will doing their own detailed analysis of all and any materials that have led to his suspension from all snooker. A sound recording expert who has analysed the video for sportingintelligence says: “This is neither Higgins nor Mooney saying ‘simple as that’ as their lips do not move. It is also highly unlikely to be anyone in the room, as the voice is a clear English accent which has not been treated with the same pitch-shifting effect as the interviewer.”

.

1min 15sec – 1min 17sec: MM’s voice is heard asking a question: “How are we going to do the payment side?” but the question appears not to be in natural sync with the response from Mooney.

The sub-title for Mooney’s answer states: “I suggest put, you know you name the company you want . . . ”

What Mooney actually says on the video is: “ . . . is I suggest you put, you name the company you want . . .”

Analysis of the clip suggests Mooney either began his answer mid-sentence with the word “is”, or else the question and answer were cut together to appear to be something they’re not.

Such issues can quickly and easily be answered for Douglas by him being given the full footage as originally shot.

Douglas almost certainly will not have any access to the “sports insider” who set in train the NotW’s investigation in the first place. As the NotW states clearly on its “Sell a story” page, it has “a duty to protect the identity of confidential sources”.

Protection of sources is fundamental to investigative journalism for numerous good reasons, and sportingintelligence of course endorses protection of sources, especially in pursuit of corruptors in sport; match-fixing is a subject we have already covered often and take seriously.

Douglas may or may not be concerned with the elaborate nature of the sting, but solely its end product.

Higgins and Mooney are sure to argue that context is everything, and that they were entrapped by reporters pretending they wanted to stage events – or “exhibitions” as one NotW reporter was quoted as saying in the paper’s first-day coverage of the story on 2 May.

Part of the sting involved the setting up of a website for a fake company, Alfa Equity, which used details from real and respectable companies to appear authentic.

Some of these companies were and remain unhappy about this. The fake website has been taken down but sportingintelligence saved scans and other related data before it disappeared, a small amount of which we published here.

Most of the cache of the website has subsequently been removed, although other evidence has been left behind.

The News of the World ran two weeks of the Higgins story, on 2 and 9 May, but did not follow this up with any further revelations last weekend. The paper did, however, carry a small editorial on the subject, despite carrying no new copy, saying:

“THE News of the World’s investigation into snooker star John Higgins, leading agent Pat Mooney and match fixing goes to the heart of the game’s integrity and credibility.

This week we handed a detailed dossier of damning evidence to Barry Hearn, chairman of the sport’s governing body.

We know many of our readers are huge fans, and Mr Hearn will be keener than anyone to root out corruption and do for snooker what he has done for darts.

Anything less and the game as a national TV spectacle is finished.”

.

TRANSCRIPT of the key “sting” meeting (the only taped footage of Higgins released so far)

Sequence begins, title: ‘Snooker champ John Higgins bribe scandal’

Cuts to room, John Higgins (JH) on left of screen, Mooney (PM) on right, main man (MM) reporter, off camera bottom right, at least one other person present, ‘Jaroslav’, (R2) bottom left.

MM: Again, this conversation is only between us.

JH: There’s no cameras is there? (Laughing)

MM: Yes. There is one there, look into it.

CUTS TO NEXT CLIP WITHOUT CONTEXT

PM: You make one mistake, it would be, you know, it’s er …

JH: You don’t even have to make a mistake.

PM: No, it’s [bleeped and inaudible]

MM: No, no, you have to be sure. If you’re going to say, and you’re going to tell him frame three I’m going to lose.

JH: Frame three I’m going to lose, yeah. No. [Nodding no].

[NotW sub-title says: Oh yeah. Frame three I am going to lose yes, yes]

MM: But, how, I mean, what if he gets a good break? I mean, what’s a risk factor, I mean.

JH: No risk, no you couldn’t, you could miss.

CUTS TO NEXT CLIP WITHOUT CONTEXT

JH: If you start leaving, leaving, leaving, leaving, leaving chances, people are saying ‘wait a minute, what’s happening here?’ But against other players it’s no problem.

MM: So you narrowly miss a ball go to pocket and that’s it.

JH: Yeah.

[Subtitles have Higgins saying “Yeah, simple as that”. But Higgins says only “Yeah”, while a separate voice, apparently with an English accent, and not the “main” reporter says “Simple as that”.]

PM: You roll two inches out of position. He knows that if a bounce off the top cushion or something like that and then suddenly you’re on a very difficult black which is, in any normal run of the day, you know that’s . . .

MM: [interjecting] I don’t know the sport that well but what I’m saying is you can miss one. I mean. You can’t keep missing them.

JH: You can. Yeah, you can.

MM: Well that’s your, that’s your, that’s your side of it. You’ve got to deal with that. So as long as we can agree on that.

CUTS TO NEXT CLIP WITHOUT CONTEXT (without any ‘agreement’ of anything shown on film)

PM: Another thing is, is it would be World Series only.

CUTS TO NEXT CLIP WITHOUT CONTEXT

MM: How are we going to do the payment side?

PM: [appearing to start his answer mid-sentence] … is I suggest you put, you name the company you want and you stick the logo on, and if you get a . .

MM: [interjecting] you see the problem with that is, what figure did we agree?

PM: Was it net 200, 300. Gross? Or what was it . . .? [Subtitles incorrectly states ‘It was net 200, 300’].

MM: Was it two or was it three?

PM: What was it? I mean . . . [bleep, NotW says the word was f***ing]. I’ll go for three. [Higgins and Mooney are laughing at this point, apparently amused figures are being picked from the air. This is the moment used later in stills to show them relaxed and laughing]. It was three.

The subtitle then says ‘Inaudible’, suggesting Mooney or Higgins had said something. Neither did. Neither’s lips moved. If there was something inaudible it was by someone else.

Reporter 2 (speaking from left of screen): The money doesn’t exist, officially.

PM: Right, okay.

MM: We don’t want it going through our books you see. We can’t have it, if we sponsor you then it’s er …

JH: Right, so you can’t do that then? You can’t … [sponsor the event? Give bribes? Context unclear]

MM: We can, but it’s more problem for us. It’s not a problem for you. It’s got to go through our books.

R2: Through the books and pay tax.

MM: [garbled six syllables or so, then] it’s hassle for us. Easier if it’s cash.

CUTS TO NEXT CLIP WITHOUT CONTEXT

JH: But then I’m thinking to myself how do I swallow 200, 300,000 pounds, or euros coming into [inaudible].

MM: Let’s agree the figure Jaroslav. Let’s agree the figure. We’ve agreed four, four frames during year one. Right? We are agreeing the figure now. What is the figure we are agreeing?

[NB: there is no agreement from Higgins or Mooney at this stage. Not a word or a nod. Because of no context, it is not even known what agreement is being sought for: exhibitions, public appearances, frames ceded to local players in exhibitions.]

‘Jaroslav’: 300.

MM: 300,000 euros is agreed. Agreed?

[Mooney appears to say ‘Agreed’, but it is not conclusive. The subtitle says ‘Agreed’. Higgins says nothing. The MM voice is wholly off screen, so we take on trust he is asking the questions as they appear and the answers to those questions are not dubbed].

MM: Are we happy with that?

[No response]

MM: Now the mechanics of paying it. How do we pay?

CUTS TO NEXT CLIP WITHOUT CONTEXT

JH: I’ve got a property in Spain, but I’m thinking to myself, what would we do, can, is there any way, if you’ve got a small mortgage or something on the property, and you can pay it off, would they be . . . ?  [Another garbled voice talks for half a second] Would they look me out with it? If you paid it off, in a lump sum.

CUTS TO NEXT CLIP WITHOUT CONTEXT

MM: So, four frames, one per, yep?

JH: Yeah (nods).

R2: Which one?

MM: He’ll tell us whenever. We are not going to discuss this ever again. You’ll just tip me off. Yep?

PM: (Nods.) Yep.

MM: OK? We agreed? OK?

JH: Yep (shakes hand with R2, and MM).

.

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36 Responses to “New concerns over editing of Higgins sting video as fake website cover-up continues”

  1. Darya says:

    That is very interesting, Nick.
    But – there is one question.
    Yes, the video is indeed heavily edited, but I wonder why didn’t Higgins and Mooney complain that everything is fabricated and their words were taken out of context? Instead of their rather lame explanation of “yes we’ve said it all, but we were scared”, which seems to imply that they are not protesting the authencity of the video.
    How do you explain that?

    Also here is a quote from John’s statement:
    “In all honestly I became very worried at the way the conversation developed in Kiev. When it was suggested that I throw frames in return for large sums of money, I was really spooked. I just wanted to get out of the hotel and onto the plane home.

    “I didn’t know if this was the Russian Mafia or who we were dealing with. At that stage I felt the best course of action was just to play along with these guys and get out of Russia”

    Doesn’t it mean that he basically admits that he agreed to NotW’s proposal – or am I misunderstanding something?

  2. IVJ says:

    That was very interesting, Nick. But, friendly speaking, I can’t understand what was the purpose of this article? Did you want to point that NOTW is tabloid? But every sensible person who knows the track record of NOTW and can remember – speaking about the snooker – the articles of [NAME DELETED FOR LIBEL POTENTIAL, NH] clearly understands that NOTW was, is and will be sued for one reason or another. But as an average snooker fan I don’t care about the NOTW morality. I care about Higgins’s behavior. And John Higgins didn’t say a word about the inadequacy of his words in the footage to his real words.

    So can you explain what did you want to prove? If the fact that JH didn’t agree to lose the frames for money, then you’re better advocate of JH that JH himself.

  3. admin says:

    IVJ, Thanks for your comment.
    You ask the point of the article: the point is that the story, and video, are not what they originally seemed; and may be very, very different, ie: untrue.
    If Johh Higgins is guilty of match-fixing, fine, then produce the evidence and let him be convicted. (That has yet to happen). I approach this as someone interested in the area of betting-related corruption in sport.
    As for Higgins behaviour; all his public statements to date have proclaimed innocence, which he insists he’ll prove. That is entirely in his hands and those of his lawyers.
    I don’t know what their thinking is – that’s their business. I would assume they were waiting to see how many weeks of “revelations” came out, and then start to tackle them.
    You say JH didn’t say a word about the ‘inadequacy of his words’. Not yet, he hasn’t. I would be very surprised if he doesn’t at some point, whether it’s in a libel action or otherwise.
    Your questions about Higgins’ intentions are best directed to him, not me.
    NH

  4. Darya says:

    Sorry for being picky, but:

    [Subtitles incorrectly states ‘It was 200, 300’]

    Actually, the subtitle states ‘It was net 200, 300’ (1:24)
    Not much of a difference, but still

  5. admin says:

    Darya (in response to comment 1),
    I’m not sure I have seen, anywhere, quotes from Higgins and Mooney saying “Yes, we said this” or “No, we didn’t say that.”
    I have seen them saying, in general terms, they would say whatever necessary to get out of there.
    The video IS authentic in as much as it was indisputably shot on that date, Fri 30 April, in Kiev, in that hotel, with Higgins and Mooney present. Nobody can or does dispute that because it’s beyond dispute. So the video’s existence, per se, is authentic.
    What is much, much less clear is whether the heavily edited version as presented on the NotW reflected anything approximating what was said in the full conversation lasting 10 minutes or so.
    Some subtitles are wrong. Some words attributed to Higgins were not said by him. Other bits and pieces look like they might have been cut strangely out of sequence.
    IF this is the case, then what is the veracity of the whole tape? It will be easy, very easy, for David Douglas to establish the facts: get the whole tape and watch it as filmed at source. I’m sure he’ll try to do that.
    I don’t think JH’s statement means he agreed to the proposal: I think it meant he said whatever was coming into his head.
    But this is all detail for the inquiry to consider.
    Can I stress (again): If Higgins is guilty of match-fixing or frame-fixing, and there is clear evidence, then charge him and ban him.
    If he has broken a WPBSA rule related to throwing frames, charge him and deal with him.
    Gather all the evidence, in context, and see where it leads.
    So far, though: 1) there is no suggestion, let alone evidence, that he has ever fixed a frame or match in the past (not evidence the NotW has shared).
    2) there is no suggestion, let alone evidence, he has done anything to warrant investigation from the police or gambling commission (not evidence the NotW has shared).
    3) there is no evidence – clear evidence in clear context – he agreed to fix a match, or lose a specific frame at any event. If he had agreed to lose x frame at y event, surely, the NotW would have said so? It didn’t say so. The whole thing, after a massively elaborate entrapment, was still SO vague the video had to be heavily doctored to make a “case”.
    4) there is no evidence he asked for, or received, ANY money; and this is also key. The NotW may have OFFERED money, Mooney may have said all kinds of things. But purely as far as Higgins and his reputation goes, this story rests on what HIGGINS did. (From the NotW point of view, without him, it is a pretty rubbish story involving nobody anyone’s heard of). And NOWHERE, not even in the highly edited video or text, is Higgins depicted ASKING for, OR receiving any money.
    Or maybe I’m misunderstanding something.
    On the evidence I’ve studied (line by line of all the reports, and second by second of the video), it seems the NoTW’s whole case rests pretty much on what Mooney said at different points; and even the NotW themselves effectively branded Mooney a lying scumbag in week two (when effectively exonerating Dott and Selby).
    My question: If Mooney was a big-mouthed liar in week two, why did the NotW rely so utterly on his nonsense in week 1?

    To quote the paragraphs from the week one that “set up” the damning of Higgins:
    “Having raised the subject of match fixing with Higgins’ grasping manager Mooney at previous meetings, our investigators sat down with the two men on Friday morning to sort out the mechanics of the scam.
    “The idea agreed earlier by Mooney was for Higgins to deliberately lose four frames in separate tournaments. Now the player himself had to rubber-stamp the deal …”

    And if the video is “rubbing-stamping”, it leaves rather a lot unsaid about specifics.
    But as I said, this is for David Douglas to look at.
    NH

  6. admin says:

    Darya, comment 4: good spot. Now corrected.
    My point there though is Mooney ASKED a question in the real world, but made a statement in the subtitles.
    These are subtle differences, yes, but one version of that sentence implies a deal done, another the opposite.
    NH

  7. Elena says:

    In my opinion, the meaning of this article is not to justify John, but the fact that the newspaper is very easy to manipulate public opinion, rending and cutting video clip in such a way as NOW pleases. Personally, I would be offended, it’s so easy to be me. And you, the defenders of theses papers, not sorry for myself?
    I read very few opinions, which refers to the presumption of innocence, but a lot of that at once, emphatically declared in John’s interest, the sale of games and almost all the deadly sins.
    People, think for yourself! Read the different versions and opinions!

  8. [...] is turning into something of a soap opera, click here to read the latest of a series of interesting articles over at the Sporting Intelligence website, [...]

  9. John McBride says:

    Lovely to see that not everyone is on John Higgins case.

    Lets see what comes ‘out in the wash’ as a few may well be very suprised.

  10. IVJ says:

    Nick
    You said “Not yet, he hasn’t”. – that is the key words now. The rest – with all respect – is only your assumption or hope. And I can’t help but add, that waiting for two weeks while your image and image of the game are being ruined, is the strangest way of clearing the name I can imagine

  11. Darya says:

    Thank you for your reply, Nick.
    I agree with most of what you say, but there are still questions, and the main is – why didn’t Higgins say, and still doesn’t say that his words were taken out of context, edited to misinterpret the things he said in any way?
    Then, there is this phrase:

    JH: I’ve got a property in Spain, but I’m thinking to myself, what would we do, can, is there any way, if you’ve got a small mortgage or something on the property, and you can pay it off, would they be . . . ? [Another garbled voice talks for half a second] Would they look me out with it? If you paid it off, in a lump sum.

    Which raises all sorts of questions, whatever the context. Unless it too is a creation of editors.
    Anyway, we can only hope that David Douglas will be able to sort it out.

    But, on another note, whether Higgins is innocent or not is a bit beside the point, sadly. This story, and Higgins’ statement, went around the world, and even some people who can’t tell snooker from pool or even know what snooker is, now heard about it. It was in nespapers in Russia, it was in newspapers in Spain, it was on Belorussian TV (on one of the main channels even), in other countries too. Now if Higgins will be declared innocent in all this, I doubt it will gain half as much publicity. For a lot of people snooker will remain “some obscure sport where the world champion is taking money to lose matches”.
    NotW is to blame for all of this, yes. But Mooney’s (and maybe Higgins’ too) stupidity, sorry for the word, contributed to all of this. Just to think – it was enough to check the credentials of the company to see that this is a set-up. It was enough to get anyone who know a bit of Russian to look at the ‘company’s’ site to see that it is a set-up… They went with it anyway.
    So now NotW has their story, snooker has a damaged reputation, nobody is suing the newspaper (yet), and even if it turns out they were talking about the weather and nothing else, damage is already done.

    Sorry for talking too much.

  12. admin says:

    IVJ: I have no “hope” one way or the other in this case – if evidence is ever presented that Higgins fixed a frame or match, or clearly agreed to do so, then charge him and punish him.
    That’s it.
    How he and his legal team do things is up to them: direct your questions to them.
    I think you misjudge how quickly things move legally – very very slowly.
    NH

  13. IVJ says:

    Elena

    As there were only two persons in the comments, I may answer. Yes, people think. It means, generally, that one should not support the version he/or she likes the most, but to ask questions whether it is NOTW or Sportingintelligens.

  14. admin says:

    Darya: the fact that you say ‘it’s beside the point, sadly’ is utterly depressing, because it’s true. The damage is done; Higgins is a cheating match-fixer in the eyes of most people now.
    Is that justice?
    You say “anyone who knows a bit of Russian”. I don’t know any Russian. Why should I? I could have called a mate in Moscow and said ‘A firm called Alfa want to get involved’. He would have said ‘Great, Alfa is Russia’s biggest commercial bank’.
    I would have said: “Actually, this is a subsid, but it works with XX company, YY company and ZZ company; I have spoken to A, B and C on telephone numbers E, F and G, and sent and recieved emails to Marcus D’Souzha etc etc.”
    The set-up was elaborate, any two ways you look at it; and for various reasons, only a small amount of that set-up is in the public domain.
    One last thing, that property in Spain.
    How about the “Alfa” execs were offering to “sponsor” an event, an exhibition they wanted locals to win two or three frames. You know, exhibition, like if I pay to see an re-enactment of Taylor-Davis final, I know Taylor is going to win: is that a fix? Does anyone bet on the outcome?
    Anyhow, say it’s an exhibition and they want to sponsor it, and for tax purposes Higgins is discussing how to make that tax-efficient. What if that entire quote is in THAT context?
    I have no clue whether it was, or wasn’t. I don’t know. I haven’t seen the full video.
    If I saw the full video and it WAS that context, I’d be taking a different view of things than seeing a video where Higgins discusses a specific fix. If the latter happens, charge him, ban him, get rid of him as a match-fixer.
    Evidence, charge, hearing, due process. Not trial by media.
    NH

  15. admin says:

    IVJ: Good point. Ask away: I will try to continue answering all the questions I can.
    Transparency = good.
    Let’s see the whole video, and all the prelim set-up, in context.

  16. Darya says:

    Nick, it’s not justice, but, sadly again, it is a fact. Worse still that it’s not all about Higgins, but more about “Ah, snooker – that’s where the bribe scandal was, yes?”.
    He may clear his name legally after weeks of silence, but someone will have to clear the name of snooker too.

    About the site – maybe I’m just looking from a different angle. I laughed very hard when I’ve seen this site – you have a web-page for Russian company (that makes its deals in Ukraine), and the Russian version of the site is a machine translation, for God’s sake! Well done, yes, but not good enough.
    Also – wouldn’t you check first if this company indeed has anything to do with a well-known bank? After all, organising the event means talking about large sums of money.

    “What if that entire quote is in THAT context?”
    I’d say it sounds a bit too close to tax-evasion.

    “Evidence, charge, hearing, due process. Not trial by media.”
    Agreed completely, especially if we talk about legal or disciplinary charges.
    But when it comes to reputations – that’s where it turns a bit more complicated.
    And I’m not for one moment saying that it’s a good thing.
    It all is a very sad affair, whatever the outcome.

  17. Doug Gordon says:

    A lot of people with very little knowledge of what goes on behind the scenes have been quick to form a Lynch Mob for John Higgins.
    As things stand with edited tapes John just has to invest money to ensure that he gets a high power barrister to salvage his career. It is an essential expense to ensure that he can generate future income.
    This is not a time to cheapskate.
    While I abhor the fact that this COULD happen to a game that has involved m for over 30 years, it seems to me that Higgins has yet to commit any offence.
    What he was discussing was not a WSA Ranking Tournament or even a European Tour. They were exhibition matches. Now it is not unusual to fix exhibition matches (primarily for PR purposes). What value is it for Higgins or any other top pro to show up and destroy the local hero 7-0. No they win a couple of frames then the opponent hita a ‘hot streak’ and pulls a couple back. He probably wins another frame before the star player shuts him out. The usual pleasantries follow – ‘you potted some nice balls there’/'you’ve got a lot of potential’ and everyone goes away happy. The result will often be a minor tournament the following year.
    As for betting on himself – again that is common practice. It is called ‘a saver’ and is practiced regularly by players. He wan’t betting on himself to lose, he was making a contingency wager as insurance against his opponent staging a genuine come back. It can happen (Taylor v Davis and Jimmy White’s opponents on numerous occasions). His bet would have probably have pushed his second place money up to no more than #133,000 wheras a winners cheque netted him #250,000.

    Regular gamblers who backed a player who successfully reaches the final of a tournament invariably put money on the opponent thus ensuring a guaranteed profit.

    I also find it inconceivable that any bookmaker would entertain bets on exhibitions. Those who do get what they deserve. The big money in this scenario must come from Soviet high rollers who bet between themselves because Betfred and Stan James are not stupid,

  18. Tommy says:

    Thanks Nick for your continued exceptional journalism.

    What I am seeing in the forums I’ve been visiting online is a polarisation of views. I’d like to explain from where I think they have arisen.

    The game has been in decline for quite some time and has been hurt more than most sports by the outlawing of sponsorship by the tobacco industry.

    As prize money and tournaments dwindled, some people involved in the sport initiated measures that they believed would address these shortfalls and they aimed to exploit those opportunities they believed were being overlooked by their governing body.

    There was some friction between those who govern the sport and those who sought to do better, for themselves and for their peers; and so, seeing the potential breakaway, the governing body decided to cut their losses, albeit relinquishing their threatened monopoly to a single man; still retaining a 49% share in the interests of the sport.

    Along came a knight in shining armour, a man who promised to bring the sport back to its former glory, and with those promises he brought previous form and a reputation to back it up.

    Fans of the sport became gravid with the expectation of a revival. And understandably so.

    Camp 1 – Those in favour of the prophetic savior of the sport.
    ================================================================
    It became apparent to the incumbent messiah of the desperate, that the hard work of those who took some initiative, was not going to be set aside quite as easily as would facilitate his rise to supreme power.

    So when dubious assertions were made about his rivals, no matter how it came about, whether he had a hand in it or not, he moved quickly. He did not state the alledged guilt of his opponents, but he played the part of a man who believed they were guilty, whether he believed it, or indeed knew it to be false.

    Camp 2 – Those who cannot believe that a man who was the best in the world, financially secure for the rest of his life even under the outdated format, an ambassador for the sport, thought “a really good guy” by all who encountered him professionally, a family man, a self professed lover of the game, suddenly turned out to be a cheat.
    ============================================================
    Those are the two poles, and those in between gravitate towards one or other.

    Those who were not Higgins fans gravitate towards camp one.
    Those who were Higgins fans gravitate towards camp two.

    Those who have no discernable critical faculty of reason gravitate towards camp one.

    Those who HAVE the critical faculty of reason are in the minority and still sit on the Camp two side of ‘I’m not entirely sure.

    This is where we should all be.

  19. Elena says:

    The worst thing in this whole story is what the player’s reputation at number 1 in the ranking list is really tarnished. Whatever the outcome of the investigation, even if they clearly explain all these issues that we are not clear, in the history of snooker will remain a stain. Tommy wrote about the two camps. In the camp № 1, there are people who believe that the case would be hushed up. And nothing, no evidence they were not convinced that John Higgins did not negotiate the future delivery of frames.
    In addition, there are people whom no evidence is convincing. They read these articles, and Nick said: “Well, clearly. He’s the fan of John.”

  20. Elena says:

    Sorry, correction
    They read these Nick’s articles and say:”Well, clearly. He’s the fan of John”.

  21. Kiwi says:

    I must admit to being more than a little suspicious of the video as presented.

    As an exercise replay the video and, since there is no way of knowing if they are what was actually said, ignore ALL of the questions. How damning is it now?

    Whilst looking at the piece that Nick says is Pat seemingly starting mid-sentence (1:14) I noticed that whilst MM is asking his question there is no discernible movement in the video until Pat begins speaking.

    A similar thing happens at 1:26 where Pat is supposed to be saying “gross” – the video looks frozen again during that one word (or have I just got a crappy version?).

    One thing that always bothered me was that on their return from the Ukraine they didn’t immediately contact Barry Hearn (ostensibly a close associate of both men) and inform him of the approach – this would be the action of people that thought they were into something they didn’t want any part of.

    Of course, you might argue that on the video they were simply discussing setting up some exhibition matches with the odd frame dropped to the local boys and how to reduce the tax liability of the payments.

    Without actually having the original video with the whole conversation it is impossible to know what was being arranged.

  22. ryan says:

    so what does it all mean has the wizard of wishaw john higgins been let off for saying what he said or will he get banned?

  23. Paul says:

    Doug Gordon says:
    What he was discussing was not a WSA Ranking Tournament or even a European Tour. They were exhibition matches. Now it is not unusual to fix exhibition matches (primarily for PR purposes). What value is it for Higgins or any other top pro to show up and destroy the local hero 7-0. No they win a couple of frames then the opponent hita a ‘hot streak’ and pulls a couple back. He probably wins another frame before the star player shuts him out. The usual pleasantries follow – ‘you potted some nice balls there’/’you’ve got a lot of potential’ and everyone goes away happy. The result will often be a minor tournament the following year.

    I’m sorry Doug but are you seriously comparing letting a club player in an exhibition match win a couple of frames to Higgins secretly agreeing to throw four frames over a certain period of time for a reward of up to €300,000? Come on buddy, get real. If you cannot see anything morally wrong with what Higgins has agreed to do here you are seriously suffering from a dose of headinsanditis.

  24. admin says:

    Paul,
    I think you misunderstand the premise: the NotW WERE apparently (from the vagueness of their own reports) offering money for Higgins to lose frames in an exhibition.
    That is one of the utterly absurd parts of this whole thing.
    The NotW were posing as business people wanting to stage these events (“exhibitions” is the word one their own reporters used). The NotW were also posing as gangster syndicates wanting to bet on these things in black markets. (ludicrous proposition).
    Just to stress: there NEVER WAS any 300,000 anything, pounds, euros. What Higgins was specifically offered (or accepted, or not) is NEVER made clear by the evidence presented thus far.

    This can all be cleared up, easily, and quickly, by the NotW providing David Douglas with all the relevant material. They have not done so, yet. Why? Who knows? Perhaps the full unedited material tells a completely different story.
    Once that material is handed over, it can be assessed.
    Higgins can be charged and banned, deservedly so if guilty.
    Or he can be exonerated, if innocent.

  25. Paul says:

    Nick, it galls me to have to side with the NOTW on this argument as I’m not a fan of the way they conduct their business but I think you’d have to be pretty naive to believe that John Higgins attended a meeting with a couple of dodgy “Russians” without any thoughts of personal gain for himself and Mooney. I realise that no money changed hands and that this was a sting but that’s not really the point. The point is that Higgins agreed in principal to lose a few frames in return for a cash reward.

    To be honest I think the inaccuracies and the mistakes that you point out aren’t really that strong in the grand scheme of things and don’t really make that much difference in the grand scheme of things. What you have to ask yourself after watching the video is this: Was John Higgins willing to cheat in order to make a quick buck? Sadly my answer is, yes he was.

  26. admin says:

    Paul,
    I still don’t think you’re getting it.
    John Higgins did not attend “a meeting with a couple of dodgy Russians without any thoughts of personal gain for himself or Mooney”.
    I think from your comment you have failed completely to understand the context.
    The context being: a long-term sting over many weeks, culminating in that meeting.
    Higgins and Mooney have been legitimate snooker promoters since 2007. Have you read the background?
    http://www.sportingintelligence.com/2010/05/03/revealed-the-tale-behind-the-snooker-sting-that-leaves-higgins-in-the-fight-of-his-life-030501/
    Also: if you can show me where Higgins agreed anything specific, in a clear context, I’m all ears and eyes.
    You and many, many people have taken what the NotW have produced at face value.
    I’m simply saying: let’s see some actual evidence, in context, and then decide.
    Which is what David Douglas will do. If he gets the evidence from the NotW.

  27. Doug Gordon says:

    I’m sorry Doug but are you seriously comparing letting a club player in an exhibition match win a couple of frames to Higgins secretly agreeing to throw four frames over a certain period of time for a reward of up to €300,000? Come on buddy, get real. If you cannot see anything morally wrong with what Higgins has agreed to do here you are seriously suffering from a dose of headinsanditis.

    Paul – I just checked my ears and there is a complete absence of sand.
    So you tell me how anyone who pays out 300 Grand and then wants to make a profit, can lay out sufficient money at significant odds to achieve that goal.
    I am sure that someone from the betting industry whose knowledge of such matters exceeds mine could let you know if this is achievable in matches of no consequence.
    I don’t know with what he is being charged and I have no idea if he is guilty or otherwise.

  28. Elena says:

    This can all be cleared up, easily, and quickly, by the NotW providing David Douglas with all the relevant material. They have not done so, yet.
    Nick, how do you know? They said they would provide all the evidence of Douglas, and many people realized that all the evidence available.

  29. Paul says:

    Nick perhaps I’m not explaining my points very well here but I am aware that this was a sting and I am aware that initially this meeting was set up with regards to legitimate snooker promotion.

    My point is that during the meeting in Moscow Higgins is on tape talking about how easy it is to lose a frame and he is also talking about the best way to hide the money that he is being offered to lose four frames over the course of the year.

    Three questions for you.
    1/ Are you denying that he was offered money to lose frames?
    And 2/ Are you denying that he accepted this offer and talks about the best way to hide the money?
    3/ Is there anything at all on the video that you think should have made Higgins report to Barry Hearn?

  30. admin says:

    Paul,
    1) The meeting was in Kiev, not Moscow.
    2) He is apparently talking on the tape about how it is possible to lose a frame. We don’t know the context. He may have been asked the question: “If someone wanted to lose a frame to a local kid, how would they do it?” But we don’t know what he was asked.
    3) How do you know he is talking about ways to “hide” money? It is presented as that. That doesn’t mean it is that. (The NotW front page headline the other week said Higgins had bet on himself to lose. In fact even the story itself said there was NO bet.)
    On the available evidence – and from hints in the first week’s coverage – Higgins could have been exploring a tax-avoidance measure. We don’t know without context.
    4) You repeat, again, “four frames over a year”. Nowhere is this explicitly stated what these frames are, when, or what is expected of who.
    Your 3 questions:
    1) I don’t need to “deny” anything because I am a reporter trying to assess whether what the NotW presented is actually as it seems. From the video, it looks like the reporters are offering money for something, but quite what is unclear. If we look solely at the evidence, it seems some kind of sponsorship deal is being discussed in the first passage where “200, 300″ is mentioned (no talk of frames at all in that extract, just contradictory statements from the NotW men about whether it needs to go via their books). Then frames are mentioned later, but with no context.
    2) Accepts what offer? Go and look at the video, in detail, and find any bit where Higgins says “yeah” or nods or agrees to anything specific, APART from the very end, out of context, when it says:
    MM: So, four frames, one per, yep?
    JH: Yeah (nods).
    What does that MEAN? If the NotW had ANYTHING specific, why are they not publishing it? If they have a single sentence, anywhere, on tape or on film that says, or suggests, “You’ll lose a frame at this event”, why not publish it? Because it doesn’t exist, I’d suggest.
    Mooney may well have promised all sorts of things when Higgins wasn’t there. The NotW have already trashed Mooney as a liar and unreliable in relation to Selby and Dott. How can they consistently claim he was being truthful in relation to Higgins? They can’t, unless they have Higgins on tape. They DO have Higgins on tape, but saying / agreeing nothing specific whatsoever.
    3) Of course Higgins should have reported this the moment he got back. As I wrote from the start, in my view that’s the biggest single question mark against him. He needs to explain that, and a lot more.

    As I’ve also written from the start: if he’s guilty of match-fixing or agreeing to fix matches, and there is clear evidence, charge him, prove the charges and punish him.

    But he should be given the chance to defend himself.
    You and many others have already found him guilty, based on incomplete and possibly badly flawed evidence.

    In the grand scheme of things, this case is relatively trivial (to those people not involved); “trivial” in as much as nobody is suggesting any offence, of any kind; no police, no gambling commission. This would be laughed out of court if you tried to prosecute Higgins for anything on the evidence shown so far.

    And yet, in the past, a NotW sting has actually led to innocent people spending many months in prison because of fabrications later thrown out of court. Read this:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/why-i-am-out-to-nail-mazher-mahmood-474264.html

    Higgins may be guilty. If so, the inquiry should establish that. If it does, let him be punished.

  31. Paul says:

    Fair enough Nick. You are obviously a lot more knowledgeable than me on this subject and I admit you’re posts have got me thinking.

    I still think Higgins has a lot of questions to answer but as you said maybe we should wait to hear what those answers are before nailing him to the cross. Anyway, thanks for the replys and extra information.

  32. Anna says:

    Nick, sorry, but sometimes it seems you think JH is totally out of his mind and only you can protect him and find missing evidences of his innocence. Anyway, it’s a good try! And let me repeat the Q of Elena – how do you know that NOTW didn’t provide ‘relevant material’ to David Douglas???

  33. Sonny says:

    Hi Nick

    It’s good there’s someone like you taking such an interest and breaking down the NOTW allegations in such detail. This is also being discussed here: http://www.snookerisland.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=933 you are welcome to join up and add your comments to the topic, after all it was based around your initial report.

    cheers

    Sonny

  34. admin says:

    Anna: I don’t know if John Higgins is innocent or guilty. I don’t know because I haven’t seen the evidence. I have actually written only four stories on this altogether in 16 days: but I have now written a lot of comments because people keep asking me questions!!
    I don’t think JH is “out of his mind”.
    I don’t think JH needs “protecting” by me or anyone.
    As someone who has written and investigated, extensively, betting-related corruption in sport, including in football, tennis, cricket, snooker and other sport, I think it is a serious subject, and a serious potential danger. So it needs to be tackled properly, effectively, and appropriately. Trial by media, in my view, does not help, especially when there is not even a suggestion of any actual wrong-doing, ie: anything actually fixed by JH to date.
    And I said the NotW have not handed over all the relevant material, yet. My definition of “relevant” is all footage, uncut, in context, as originally shot. My understanding, from sources, is that while some information has been handed over so far, it’s not all the footage, uncut.
    But of course if the News of the World can clarify, explicitly, that they have handed over all footage, audio and video, as shot, uncut, including of all meetings with Mooney, plus the last meeting with Higgins, they can do so.
    In fact, if they want to confirm that, and David Douglas confirms that is the case, I’ll make it a front-page story on this website. I also make an offer to screen on this website, in full, the meeting with Higgins, if the NotW let me have the footage. And I’ll also be happy to make a full transcript of that complete footage, and post that too – however damning it is.
    Let’s get it all in the open. That’s all I’m saying.
    NH

  35. Elena says:

    Nick! Thank you for your work. Thank you for your answers. But I’m afraid that even if he Mahmood (this is impossible, I know, but still) say that there is a clear falsification of video, there are people who will say: “Oh, Mahmoud pressed!” Simply, there are people who like to savor the mud. They rejoice that a man with an impeccable reputation was in this story. They do not care for snooker, honesty, the fight against corruption as such. They like to peek behind its neighbors in the keyhole. These people are nothing to persuade otherwise.
    AND, after all, the main thing – it do what we must do.

  36. Elena says:

    Keeping in mind that suddenly appeared Plan of J.D. as opposed to the Hearn’s plan, as well as the fact that Lee Doyle is behind this plan, as well as a convenient lack of Mooney and Higgins, begs the next version …

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