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Page last updated at 18:00 GMT, Thursday, 12 March 2009

Higgins support for inquiry pair

John Higgins with his wife Denise and children Pierce and Oliver,
Higgins received his MBE from the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace

John Higgins has backed fellow Scots Stephen Maguire and Jamie Burnett to put recent controversy behind them when they meet in the World Championships.

World Snooker is investigating claims of betting irregularities around their UK Championship meeting in December.

"I think of it has been blown out of proportion," said Higgins after receiving his MBE from Princess Anne.

"I am sure they will both approach it in a professional manner and the best man will win on the day."

In December, Burnett lost to his friend 9-3, the exact score-line that attracted heavy betting.

And their rematch was the biggest story to emerge from this week's draw for the World Championships starting in April.

Fifth-ranked Higgins will face Michael Holt in the first round and admits that he could have had a tougher draw than the world number 34.

"I have played Michael there before and beat him and, no disrespect to him, I could have got the likes of two-time winner Mark Williams," the 33-year-old double champion told BBC Scotland after picking up his MBE from Princess Anne.

"But it will all be down to who plays best on the day again.

"I would love to win the title again and, if I can play as well as I can for the 17 days, I would fancy my chances.

"But there are about 10 other players who would say the same thing."

Higgins says he was more nervous about his appearance at Buckingham Palace than he was winning his many titles under the glare of worldwide television audiences.

"It was the most nerve-racking I have ever been," he told BBC Scotland.

"I was more worried about slipping up or saying the wrong thing, but it was a great honour and a great day for my wife and two boys.

"It was pretty humbling behind the scenes talking to all the people who served the army and what they went through when I am just a snooker player."

But Higgins hopes that his honour will go some way to helping restore snooker's reputation and standing in the world of sport.

"It's going through a big of a bad spell," he admitted.

"There are a lot of negative things around things like sponsorship.

"Any good news is welcome and hopefully it can get a bit better again.

"We are in a bit of a downward curve at the moment, but a lot of sports are having problems.

"However, we relied heavily on tobacco sponsorship and the decision to ban that has been eating into our resources."

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see also
Burnett to make Crucible return
09 Mar 09 |  Snooker
Burnett match to be investigated
18 Dec 08 |  Snooker

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