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Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Ban was hardest period of my life, says John Higgins


Happy Higgins back on trophy hunt

Three-time world champion John Higgins says the six-month ban he served for not reporting a match-fixing approach was the hardest time of his life.

Higgins returns to the big time at Telford in the UK Championship on 4 December having won and been runner-up in two minor comeback tournaments.

But he told BBC Sport: "It's something I'll have to live with the rest of my life - nobody needs to tell me.

"I hope the dark days are over. I just want to concentrate on moving forward."

Higgins was suspended from snooker in May in the wake of match-fixing allegations made against him by the News of the World newspaper.


At a disciplinary hearing in September, he was cleared of the allegations but admitted bringing the game into disrepute by not reporting the approach.

As a result, he was fined £75,000 and banned for six months, backdated to when his origin suspension began.

Since returning to action, the 35-year-old has won a tournament in Germany and reached the final of another in Prague, but his return to major competition will be at the UK Championships in Telford starting on 4 December.

"It's been the hardest six months of my life, but it's great to get my cue back out and be talking about forthcoming events, as there were times when you maybe think that might not happen again - it's given me new focus."

Higgins revealed that while the decision over his future was being made, there were times when he did not know if he would have a career in the sport.

"You don't know what's going to happen, you just hope and pray that the judge makes the right decision - he made it and we've all got to move on," he stated.

"It's been tough for the whole family [his father's health worsened during the same period], but family are there for good and bad times, and the last six months have definitely been bad times."

And, although Higgins accepts that some spectators may never view him in the same light following the ban. he argued that the incident could act as a wake-up call for the sport.

"Some people out there will never change what they think but everybody has their own choice and I've got to respect that," he added.

Hearn welcomes back Higgins

"I'm sure every player now is aware of the duty we have as professional sportsmen - maybe a lot of the players didn't know what the boundaries were, but we all know now in no uncertain terms what's black and white.

"If you step over the line it'll be tough for the players - it's been a big message to us."

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn has welcomed back Higgins "with open arms," and hopes the whole sport has learned a lesson from what Higgins had been through.

"No-one wants to go through what John went through and what snooker went through, but I feel there is a huge amount of benefit that has come out of this for the sport.

"I feel we have been awakened to the type of people who are out there and can cause problems."

Hearn is also keen to make sure the sport does not get complacent and that it continues to clean up its act.

"I'm going to do it with a balance of education and penalties, and my penalties will be draconian because I don't like to take prisoners," said Hearn.

"If I'm going to give as much time and commitment as I am to the increase in tournaments and prize money, I have to expect a similar return from my top players - and some of them are not delivering.

"I'm afraid some of the players in snooker have got a little bit of an 'Oh well, it doesn't really matter' attitude.

"They have been allowed to get away with things in the past few years that I would never allow, and I have been quite shocked that some of them are still following that route.

"John has paid a price for being unprofessional in some aspect of his previous dealings and taken it like a man - and I'm sure the other players will.

"If we are going forward, you either play under my rules, or you don't play at all."

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see also
Holt denies Higgins second title
22 Nov 10 |  Snooker
Higgins wins comeback tournament
14 Nov 10 |  Snooker
Higgins makes final in comeback
14 Nov 10 |  Snooker
Higgins into last 16 on comeback
13 Nov 10 |  Snooker
Snooker opens corruption hotline
12 Nov 10 |  Snooker
Anxious Higgins set for comeback
07 Nov 10 |  Snooker
Grand Prix draw
17 Oct 08 |  Snooker
Grand Prix final scores
19 Oct 08 |  Snooker
Snooker on the BBC
08 Apr 11 |  Snooker

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