Stephen Lee has cast doubt on his chances of returning to professional snooker once his 12-year match-fixing ban ends this year. Lee was found guilty of fixing matches in 2008 and 2009 but the former world No. 5 is eligible to return on October 12, 2024, which is is 50th birthday.
Former five-time ranking title winner Lee was found guilty on seven counts of fixing matches after charges were brought upon him by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA). He was suspended from events in 2012 and then found guilty by an independent tribunal the following year.
Lee had been described as one of the finest players of his generation alongside the Class of 92 of Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams. However, with only a few short months left on his ban, the question has been raised over whether he would make a return to snooker.
He did previously hint that a comeback could be on the cards, but in a recent post on Facebook appears to rule that out. “Not a chance of it my friend,” he replied to comment encouraging him to return to snooker, before adding: “I struggle to break off nowadays. It’s down to my son now…”
It marks a stark contrast between Lee’s comments in 2022, when the door was firmly left ajar over reviving his professional career. “I must get asked this weekly, daily, minutely,” he explained. “I would like to say no, but I am still capable of playing. Let’s see what happens in two years. It’s not a no, and not a yes.
“We can only just see what happens in a couple of years’ time. I have some exciting things coming up, and I’m also getting older. My eyes are getting worse, and I never had good eyes to start with. As you get older the determination and the goes.”
The idea of Lee appearing in professional snooker once again becomes further complicated after the Mirror claimed that he still owes the WPBSA £125,000 in legal fees and costs after his unsuccessful appeals.
The unpaid debts would need to be repaid before a decision is made by the governing body over whether he can rejoin the tour. He would also have to go through the qualifying process in either Qualifying School, Q School or tournaments such as the WSF Championship.
Higgins once suggested that Lee would be welcomed back “with open arms” after serving a 12-year suspension, but now his focus appears to be firmly on his son Alfie, an aspiring pro himself who competed in Q School and at the WSF Championship in 2023.