|Venue: Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 31 July-16 August|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four and Red Button, with uninterrupted coverage on BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website and BBC Sport app. Full details and times.|
While the eyes of the snooker world have been fixed on the Crucible this week, elsewhere in Sheffield one man was claiming a prize on the green baize every bit as precious to him as the World Championship.
At the English Institute of Sport, Jamie Jones reclaimed his Tour card at Q school and with it his future in the game after being banned for a year in February 2019 following a corruption investigation.
The 32-year-old Welshman was cleared of being part of a plan to fix a 2016 match between David John and Graeme Dott, but admitted failing to report a corrupt approach.
John got a five-year suspension, having admitted fixing two matches. There was no suggestion of wrongdoing by Dott.
Jones is keen to stress he has never tried to fix a snooker match – either one of his own or someone else’s – and says he is “proud of himself” and the “tough slog” he has been through to return to this point after considering quitting the game for good.
“I found myself in a very difficult situation looking back at it. The long and short of it is I broke a rule in failing to report a corrupt approach,” he told BBC Sport Wales.
“I did break the rules and I received a ban because of it… the tough thing about it was the headlines all said – ‘Jamie Jones, match-fixing’ – when in fact none of my games were ever involved.
“People would come up to me and say: ‘How many games did you fix then Jamie? How many games have you thrown?’
“My life came crashing down in a matter of days. It wasn’t even as if I had time to prepare for what I was about to face. It was just the most horrific time.
“I had a couple of weeks where I didn’t really want to leave the house, didn’t want to do anything, didn’t want to see anyone.”
‘Is this going to ruin your life?’
Although Jones was free to play again in October 2019 – he had been suspended since October 2018 while the inquiry took place – he missed most of the 2018-19 season and dropped off the Tour having finished outside the top 64 in the rankings.
He reached the World Championship quarter-finals on his debut in 2012, knocking out 2005 champion Shaun Murphy in the first round, and qualified for the Crucible again in 2015 and 2018.
Jones also reached the last eight of the 2016 UK Championship, but his past successes seemed far away as he tried to come to terms with his suspension.
“There comes a time when you think: ‘Is this thing going to ruin your life or are you going to use it as a milestone to make it better, make maybe better decisions?'” he said.
“It wasn’t going to defeat me. I’m a fighter… I think you can take a positive out of anything and I’m proud of myself, the way I’ve bounced back from it.
“I wasn’t going to play snooker again and that is the truth. Up until just before Christmas I wasn’t going to play again, I was just sick to my stomach of the whole scenario.”
Jones, from Neath, is father to a 10-month-old son and 12-year-old daughter, and made ends meet with bit-part jobs including delivering parcels for the council.
“I’ve got good friends, brilliant family and my girlfriend Elize has been absolutely amazing through all this,” he added.
Eventually Jones found himself back on the practice table, serving his ban and returning to the sport as essentially an amateur player again as he prepared for Q school this week.
A 4-0 win against Michael Georgiou saw Jones reclaim his Tour card and with it a future in the game he loves.
“I’m 32 now,” he added, “I watched Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan… they are what, 44, 45? I’ve got 20-odd years in the game, providing I win enough matches.
“I wouldn’t wish what I went through on anybody, but I made positive choices away from snooker and I’m proud and raring to go.”
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