Stephen Lee at the 2011 Paul Hunter Classic
12 October 1974 |
|Highest ranking||5 (2000/2001, 2003/04)|
|Career winnings||UK£ 2,060,765|
|Highest break||145 (2008 Northern Ireland Trophy)|
Stephen Lee (born 12 October 1974) is a banned former professional snooker-player from Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England. He turned professional in 1992 and was ranked in the top 16 between the 1997/1998 and 2007/2008 snooker seasons, reaching a career-high of fifth in the rankings. He won four ranking titles between 1998 and 2006, reached the semi-finals of the 2003 world championship and the final of the 2008 Masters. Thereafter, his form declined dramatically and as a result he dropped out of the top 16 after a run of eleven consecutive seasons, meaning he would no longer automatically qualify for tournaments. A return to form in the 2011/2012 season saw Lee reach two consecutive finals in ranking tournaments and collect his fifth title, as well as regaining his top 16 seeding. Lee is a heavy break-builder compiling 176 competitive century breaks during his career, and his smooth cue action is regarded by some pundits as the most natural in the game.
Lee's playing career came to a premature end when he was suspended from WSA competition on 12 October 2012 on match-fixing charges. He was found guilty by an independent tribunal in September 2013 of influencing the outcome of seven matches in 2008 and 2009. He received a twelve-year ban backdated to the start of his suspension and which will run until 12 October 2024.
- 1 Career
- 2 Match-fixing allegations and suspension
- 3 Personal life
- 4 Career finals
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Stephen Lee turned professional after winning the English Amateur Championship in 1992. During his first season as a professional he had a run of 33 successive frames won during qualifying matches, an all-time professional record. He reached the Top 16 of the rankings five years later, despite never having reached the semi-finals of a ranking event at this point. He entered the Top 8 after winning his first ranking title during the 1998/1999 season.
His first ranking victory came at the Grand Prix, in 1998 defeating Dave Harold 6–4 in a hard-fought semi-final that saw Lee come from 3–0 and 4–1 down, before beating newcomer Marco Fu convincingly in the final, 9–2) and 2001. His first ranking title and first two ranking semi-finals were all achieved without beating a top-16 player. After a failed drugs test in 2000 briefly upset his momentum, he scored more ranking points than any other player in the 2001/2002 season (winning the Scottish Open as well as the Grand Prix), thus briefly making him the provisional world #1 early in the following season. Lee was favourite to win the 2001 Masters, but lost 5–6 in the first round to John Parrott. He was part of the England team which won the 2001 Nations Cup. His best run in the World Championship came in the 2003 event when he reached the semi-finals.
Due to a dip in form, at the 2006 Welsh Open he came to the competition outside the provisional Top 16 after failing to win a ranking tournament for four years. He went on to win the tournament, beating the then World Champion, Shaun Murphy, 9–4 in the final.
For 2007/2008 he slipped to #13 in the rankings after reaching just one semi-final, partly due to missing the China Open for personal reasons. He nevertheless reached the final of the 2008 Masters, losing 3–10 to Mark Selby. Following a heavy defeat by Joe Swail in the first round of the 2008 World Championship, confirming his drop out of the top 16 of the rankings, Lee considered retiring from the game.
However, he did compete in the first ranking event of the 2008/2009 season, the 2008 Northern Ireland Trophy, and after convincing wins over Judd Trump and Stephen Hendry, he reached the last 16, where despite making three century breaks he lost 4–5 to eventual runner-up Dave Harold. He then failed to qualify for the Shanghai Masters, losing 4–5 to Tom Ford. He reached the televised stages of the 2009 World Championship by defeating Judd Trump in qualifying, but was beaten 10–4 in the first round by Ryan Day.
During the 2010/2011 season Lee managed to regain some form including a win in Event 4 of the EPTC events. However, he drew John Higgins in the first round at both the UK Championship and World Championship, losing on both occasions with Higgins going on to eventually win both events. At the China Open he drew Mark Williams in the first round and despite Williams making four centuries he won 5–4, making a gutsy 61 clearance to the black in the decider. He went on to reach the quarter-finals, where he lost to Ding Junhui 5–2.
Return to form
Lee began the 2011/2012 season ranked 18 and lost in qualifying for the Australian Goldfields Open and in the first round of the Shanghai Masters. However, he had an excellent run of form in the PTC Events by reaching the quarter-finals of Events 3 and 4 and going one better in Event 6, as he lost to Neil Robertson in the last 4. This meant that Lee returned to the top 16 in October, as he was ranked 13 and therefore gained automatic entry into the upcoming ranking events. He lost in the first round of the UK Championship and in the German Masters reached his first semi-final since the 2006 Northern Ireland Trophy, but could not get past Ronnie O'Sullivan, who won 6–4. He then made it to the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open, where he was put off by a mobile phone ringing on his back-swing in a deciding frame against Ding Junhui and went on to lose the match. He used his frustration from the incident to good effect however, as he beat Dominic Dale, Neil Robertson, Graeme Dott and Robert Milkins to reach the final of the World Open, his first since the 2006 Welsh Open. He played Mark Allen, but was dominated throughout, as he lost the match 1–10.
Lee enjoyed further success on the PTC calendar as he reached another semi-final, to finish 14th on the Order of Merit and therefore qualified for the last 24 of the Finals. It was in the finals where Lee won his first ranking title for six years as he dropped just three frames during the tournament, including 4–0 whitewashes over Mark Selby and in the final versus Robertson, where Lee became the first player to beat the Australian in a ranking event final. Lee's form in the second half of the season continued into the China Open as he registered his third ranking event semi-final of the year by defeating Judd Trump again, but could not feature in three successive finals as he lost 2–6 to Stephen Maguire. His season did finish in disappointment though as he was beaten in the first round of the World Championship 6-10 by Andrew Higginson. Nevertheless, Lee climbed 10 places in the world rankings to end the season at number 8, the highest he has been since 2003.
Match-fixing allegations and suspension
Lee was arrested and bailed on suspicion of cheating on 11 February 2010, following a police investigation into suspicious betting patterns relating to a match played in 2009, believed to have taken place at the UK championship. On 2 October 2012, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) released a statement confirming that the Crown Prosecution Service would not be taking further action against Lee over the claims. A week later, on the 11th, Lee was involved in another controversial match which resulted in a 2–4 defeat by John Higgins at a Premier League fixture, having previously led 2–1, which caused fellow professional Judd Trump to question the integrity of the result on Twitter, especially since Lee squandered a golden opportunity to level the match at 3 frames all. The following day—on his 38th birthday—Lee was suspended by the WPBSA following reports by at least two bookmakers of irregular betting patterns connected to the Premier League match, pending a full inquiry. Lee appealed against the decision made by the Chairman of the WPBSA; Robert Englehart QC—appointed by Sport Resolutions UK to consider Lee's appeal against suspension—dismissed it, deciding the suspension should remain in place until either the conclusion of the investigation or any resultant hearings.
On 14 February 2013, the WPBSA brought charges against Lee concerning his group matches at the 2008 Malta Cup, two matches at the 2008 UK Championship, his match at the 2009 China Open, and a match at 2009 World Snooker Championship. He was charged with violating sections 2.8 and 2.9 of the Members Rules and Regulations, which concern divulging information not already in the public domain with the express purpose of it being used for match-betting, and entering into an arrangement to influence the result of a game. Lee applied for permission to play in the 2013 World Championship in the event that the proceedings against him would be brought to a close before the draw was made, but it later transpired that he would be unable to participate in the tournament after learning that his hearing would not take place before the qualifying draw. On April 10, the WPBSA announced that they would no longer be proceeding with the investigation into the Premier League match, although the inquiry into the remaining match-fixing charges would still go ahead. While suspended from WSA tournaments, Lee continued to compete in independently organized events, winning the RKGKhar Gymkhana Snooker Masters in May.
The case was heard by independent tribunal, Sport Resolutions UK, in a three day hearing chaired by Adam Lewis QC, starting on 9 September 2013 and concluding on the 11th. The verdict was delivered on the 16th, with Lee found guilty of influencing the outcome of seven matches in 2008 and 2009. On the 25th, he received a twelve-year ban from WSA events, backdated to the beginning of his suspension on 12 October 2012 running through to his 50th birthday on 12 October 2024, and ordered to pay £40,000 in costs. Lee subsequently appealed against the "finding of the tribunal, the sanction and the costs awarded". Sport Resolutions appointed Edwin Glasgow QC to chair the appeal, with the Appeals Committee determining that the appeal should be heard in two parts. Originally set for 30 January 2014, the appeal was adjourned to February 17. In the first stage of his appeal Lee challenged the independence of Adam Lewis, chairman of the original tribunal. Lewis had previously represented Leyton Orient F.C.—owned by World Snooker's CEO, Barry Hearn—in a legal dispute and Lee's legal team argued there was a conflict of interest. The argument was rejected on the 25th, and he was ordered to pay a further £30,000 in costs. The appeals panel recused itself from the second part of the appeal—in which Lee would challenge the guilty verdict itself—after finding him to be an unreliable witness. On May 15, Nicholas Stewart QC presiding over the remainder of the appeal dismissed it and increased the costs awarded against Lee at the Adam Lewis hearing from £40,000 to £75,000. Stewart also awarded further costs of £20,000 against Lee for the second part of his appeal, bringing the total costs awarded against him to £125,000. He was removed from the snooker tour and world rankings in June 2014.
He married long-term partner Laura in the summer of 2005 in Florida. He has four children – a daughter called Shana, son Connor and twin sons Ronnie and Alfie. He is noted for his unusually high weight for a professional sportsman, although he has attempted to reduce this by not binge-drinking or eating late at night. On 9 June 2014 Lee pleaded guilty to fraud at Swindon Magistrates' Court and fined £110. Lee had sold his personal snooker cue to a Facebook fan for £1,600 but when he failed to deliver the cue the fan reported the matter to the police. Lee was also ordered to repay the £1,600 cost of the cue.