By Phil Goodlad
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn believes John Higgins' name has been tarnished, despite the former world champion being cleared of match-fixing.
"The tribunal felt that Mr Higgins was not involved in any type of match-fixing. They were satisfied that he had no such involvement," said Hearn.
"But let's be honest, his reputation has been damaged."
Higgins, 35, was fined £75,000 and banned for six months for bringing the game into disrepute.
The Scot's ban, backdated to May, was imposed by Sports Resolutions UK and backed by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (World Snooker).
Hearn is now the leading man organising world snooker
His ban and fine were for "intentionally giving the impression to others that they were agreeing to act in breach of the betting rules" and failing to report the matter to World Snooker.
Higgins' former manager, Pat Mooney, was handed a life ban from snooker after a News of the World video appeared to show he and Higgins in discussions with an undercover reporter in Kiev to throw frames in return for £261,000.
Hearn explained why the subsequent investigation and ruling produced different punishments for Higgins and Mooney, who had pled guilty to the same charges.
He told BBC Scotland: "The two people's involvement was at an entirely different level: one was for potential financial gain and the other was not.
"It's the decision of some of the best legal brains in this country, bearing in mind the evidence and handled in an independent way.
"They obviously felt that the severity of the charge against Mr Higgins was not as serious as the charge against Mr Mooney.
All sport today is under a lot of pressure from the gambling fraternity and we have all got to learn from this
World snooker chairman
"John Higgins' involvement was limited as compared to the involvement of Mr Mooney."
According to Hearn, who backs the three-time world champion to return to the top levels of the sport, the charge of match-fixing was dropped on a technicality.
"It was felt that the match-fixing (charge) could be challenged legally because the matches involved were not under the auspices of World Snooker: it was an independent, private event," said Hearn.
"It fell outside the rules of the World Snooker Association.
"Had that technicality not existed, they would have charged Mr Mooney with everything."
And Hearn added: "We have had due process. We have gone through exactly the right channels as laid down by our rules.
"The case has been heard by a totally legal board of people independent in every sense.
"They have reached their judgement after seeing all the evidence.
"Sport Resolutions is a major arbitrator in world sport. They have handled many cases like this and they have a proven track record of total independence as well as any court would have in the country."
Despite the stigma that the controversy has attached to snooker, Hearn views the newspaper's revelations as a positive thing for the sport.
"All sport today is under a lot of pressure from the gambling fraternity and we have all got to learn from this," he said.
"Any story that makes us aware of a problem must be applauded. We have got to take certain actions to make sure that our sport is perceived to be and is in reality cleaner than clean.
"There are people that can be tempted by financial gain."
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