Hong Kong’s Lee Cheuk-yiu stunned to learn of competitor’s match-fixing approach during his New Zealand Open triumph
Report claims an unnamed player rejected the proposal and immediately reported the approach to tournament officials last week
Men’s singles champion Lee Cheuk-yiu of Hong Kong said he was in the dark about a match-fixing allegation involving another player that hit the New Zealand Open, which he won on Sunday.
The 21-year-old had earlier stunned top seed Wang Tzu-Wei of Taiwan 2-1 in the final to claim victory at the US$120,000 grand prix gold event, which was his first major title since turning professional five years ago.
However, according to a report on Stuff.co.nz, another unnamed competitor said he was approached at the event by a person who tried to enlist him in a match-fixing plot, an offer the player rejected.
The article says the player immediately reported the approach to tournament officials.
Badminton New Zealand chief executive Joe Hitchcock confirmed the approach had occurred after the conclusion of the tournament.
But Lee, who returned to Hong Kong after his triumph to continue preparations for the National Games, did not know of anything untoward occurring during the tournament.
“I have not heard of [match fixing] and nor am I aware of anything like this,” said a shocked Lee. “I was approached by no one during the event, and we all know this is against the rules of the game.”
Coach Tim He Yiming said that although match-fixing is rare in badminton, it’s something the governing body should be resilient never to allow into the sport.
“As a coach, this is something I hope – not only my players – but any other players would never become involved in,” he said. “The players are pursuing excellence in the sport at the highest level and this kind of behaviour should never be tolerated. Players, officials and event organisers should work together to stop things like this.”
The New Zealand official declined to disclose the name of the player who was approached.
“I can’t go into the specifics of the incident, but from our point of view we want to be up front,” said Hitchcock.
“An incident did occur, but we’ve got a good policy and process in place to deal with it once we’re notified.
“It’s a first for us and something quite out of the blue. We’ve gone through a long process around sport integrity education under the thought process that it wouldn’t happen to us for a while at least, we thought it would be other sports that would be involved.”
The approach was believed to be an isolated incident, although Hitchcock would not comment on whether he was 100 per cent confident no other approaches went unreported.
According to the Stuff.co.nz report, when match-fixing and corruption expert Declan Hill visited New Zealand in 2016, he said sports administrators needed to prepare for the day that Asian sports gambling syndicates tried to break into the New Zealand market.