The Snooker Thread

Stevens. In his day? He’s only 31 for fook sake.

Yeah - but his form has taken a hammering in the last five years. Dropped out of the top 16.

Ah I know that but there have been a serious amount of players that have become serious contenders in that time frame. His form did dip but it was compounded by the fact the quality of opponent increased across the board.

Interesting article from BBC. Not too sure what my thoughts are really. Certainly I wouldn’t be as interested in snooker as I used to be but I reckon it’s a function of other things rather than a decline in the sport. Don’t think there’s any need to sex it up but a few characters would be good. There are too many robots but it seems to be what’s needed to be competitive. Seems like an increasing trend in sport where talent is getting less important and hard work/professionalism is becoming more important.

By Mark Ashenden

After snapping his cue “for fun” and squeezing into the Masters quarter-finals, Ronnie O’Sullivan claimed snooker was a “dying” sport, in need of an injection of X Factor-glitz from the likes of Simon Cowell or Barry Hearn.

“It just feels boring” he said, venting his fury upon the sport’s organisers and applauding Hearn’s efforts with darts, transforming sweaty 19-stone players into highly-marketable athletic machines.

There is no doubt snooker is wobbling. Clubs are disappearing, the World Championship remains sponsorless and could move to China, while players no longer set tongues wagging in the media or the school playground.

Apart from the Rocket of course, who blows up at regular intervals.

Players are all moaning but not doing anything about it

Commentator Clive Everton
World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association chairman Sir Rodney Walker, who has presided over the sport since 2004, expressed his surprise and disappointment at Ronnie’s latest outburst.

But is the world’s finest ever cueman kick-starting welcome debate, or doing his sport a disservice?

Discontent with the governing body from some players has been rumbling for some time.

Two-time world champion John Higgins has been particularly critical of the inability of the WPBSA to promote snooker overseas - something Walker refutes, highlighting three new tournaments in China and a ranking tournament in Bahrain.

With arguably the most talented player in the history of snooker making such negative feelings public, where is the future of the sport heading?

Phil D - BBC Sport
Veteran snooker commentator Clive Everton is firmly in the O’Sullivan camp, but believes there have been problems for 30 years.

“The game used to be run by players but now it’s run by experienced businessmen who have no passion for snooker,” he says.

“There is an unharmonious atmosphere between players and organisers. Players have either given up with their opposition or are unwilling to take action. They are all moaning but not doing anything about it.”

Although the WPBSA board was re-elected in November, 67.6% of players abstained from voting, certainly hinting at a silent protest. The board does have its supporters though.

“This isn’t a case of the governing body not working hard enough,” says new UK champion Shaun Murphy, who blames the credit crisis - “people haven’t got any money to spend” - and a change in the way people consume sport.

“The culture of Britain has changed massively,” Murphy added. “Twenty years ago clean cut professional sportsmen were entertaining people. Now people tune into Big Brother because they want to watch people crack up. I hope it doesn’t go that way.”

O’Sullivan has spoken of his frustration despite his success
Talk of dwindling viewing figures is futile with the arrival of hundreds of TV channels affecting most sports, and snooker still holds up well in terms of its TV audience.

Hearn, the man behind the Matchroom stable of stars that dominated the sport in its 1980s “loopy” heyday, believes a lack of “fantastic characters” - O’Sullivan aside - is a major factor.

The impresario has latterly turned his hands to darts, relocating the Professional Darts Corporation World Championship to London’s Alexandra Palace, but has yet to introduce the flamboyant entrances and scantily-clad women into snooker’s Premier League.

So what is the prevailing mood this week at the Masters - not a ranking tournament but one of the most prestigious - about snooker’s so-called demise?

Tony, 30, and Rob, 28, both from Surrey and attending their first tournament, have been snooker fans for 24 years and were a little alarmed by the amount of old people in the crowd.

They both still love to watch the sport but reminisced warmly of the ‘golden days’ when Alex Higgins, Jimmy White and Bill Werbeniuk were sinking as many pints as balls.

Rob believes changes to snooker would be healthy. “The players these days are too professional,” he says. "They are robots. There is no joking or talking to the audience. My mum used to be able to tell the name of every player, but not now.

I don’t think snooker’s boring. The sport is fun and has a great future.

World number 41 Judd Trump
“You would think the game would have continued to grow but it doesn’t seem to have. The thing is, I don’t care who wins. It doesn’t have any tension or arguments off the table. We want the snooker but we want to be entertained.”

Rob suggested the razzmatazz seen in darts would be “tacky”, while Tony thought drinking five pints (for the players) before each game would be interesting.

One idea getting the nod from most I spoke to at Wembley is the 25-seconds-per-shot ruling used in snooker’s Premier League. “Why not speed things up a bit?” said Tony.

The nightmare scenario for snooker is a chasm that grows so deep and so vitriolic that more than one governing body is formed, with World Championships in Sheffield and, say, Abu Dhabi.

The examples of darts and boxing are warnings enough.

It is a scenario Clive Everton is loathe to consider and wants the WSPBA to start urgently working with independent promoters, a view endorsed by six-time world champion Steve Davis.

“The sport will become either an area of co-operation or a battleground,” Everton warns.

But it is not all doom and gloom. Bristol’s 19-year-old Judd Trump may have lost 6-4 to Mark Allen but his demeanour hints at a dose of much-needed glamour for the sport.

With his Armani earring and spiky hair, he has the look of a man dressed by his mum 10 minutes before his brother’s wedding.

But his quiet confidence and passion for the sport suggest a future champion in the making.

“Ronnie can think what he wants,” Trump said. “He almost lost (to Joe Perry) so that’s probably why he said what he said. I don’t think snooker’s boring. The sport is fun and has a great future.”

Jamie Cope - another bright young star shining on the baize
One change Trump would like to see is the outfit players have to wear at the table, a view echoed by Jamie Cope, who declares that “no player really likes wearing the tie and waistcoat”.

The 23-year-old from Stoke, ranked 19 and known as “The Shotgun”, is one of five players used in World Snooker’s Hotshots initiative aimed at attracting new fans.

While agreeing with some of O’Sullivan’s sentiments, Cope remains in love with the sport.

“Some of Ronnie’s points are true,” he said. “It would be good to try new things in snooker but what all players want is what’s best for the sport.”

Wembley Arena was only half-full on Monday, when the likes of Trump, Mark Allen, Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy were in action.

But on Sunday 1400 fans watched the opening match of the tournament featuring world number two Stephen Maguire, while more than 2,100 cheered on Ronnie later in the day.

There is no doubt, as Davis says, snooker needs a “shot in the arm”.

It may be struggling to breathe at times, but dying? Hardly.

Was listening to Doherty on Morning Ireland yesterday talking about this. He said that they need a Barry Hearne type promoter - I think he is already involved in the Premier League snooker on Sky.

He said a few funny things. ‘Most snooker competitions are not as exciting as they once were. I am not involved in the Masters this week but I am commentating on it for the BBC. I should say the BBC tournaments are still very good!’

When asked if he enjoys punditry he said that he would rather be playing at the top level and not sitting beside ‘the likes of Steve Davis’ - whatever that is supposed to mean.

I love snooker. There is nothing like sitting down watching a match between two good players on top form at any time but particularly a final on a Sunday evening on the BBC. I think that they provide excellent coverage - as good of coverage as any sport on any channel.

Snooker was very badly hit by the end of tobacco sponsorship, more than any other sport. It’s pretty obvious that the people in charge of it haven’t a clue what marketing is. There was nearly a Darts-style split in 2001 but it fell through. Sky used to cover about four tournamnts during the season like the British Open and the Scottish Open etc but now they only do the Premier League and I don’t think many people consider that to be an event that “matters”. One of snooker’s other problems is that the increase in standards has made actually things more boring as you never expect players to miss.

Personally I became disillusioned with snooker after Jimmy White kept losing every year. Still haven’t got over him missing that black off it’s spot in the final frame of the 1994 final. Bastard.

Things that need to change:
BBC need to get rid of Willie Thorne from the commentary - he’s brutal and talks way too much. Thorne and Davis together are dreadful. Bring back Ray Edmonds instead, I don’t care how old he is. Dennis Taylor is pretty good, Doherty could be alright too.
Bring back the proper theme music.
They should try and bring back that tournament they used to have in Goffs - that was a great venue.
The players need to start smoking during matches again as well.

Agree on Thorne. Shite. Taylor is superb as is Virgo.

Davis does talk too much commentating on a match but is alright in the studio.

Willie Thorne doesn’t strike me as a very likeable character. There’s just something smug about him in commentary and he seems to lack humility when he’s criticising players. That puts me off him as the other commentators, most of whom achieved more than him in the game, are much more fair-minded.

Agreed on Ray Edmonds - he was utterly superb. Taylor’s pretty good also and excellent on the illustrator thing to show potential escapes from snookers. I don’t like Virgo either and find the pairing of himself and Thorne to be pretty much unbearable.

As for snooker generally, I can take it or leave it now. There was a time when I gagged for the big tournaments, especially the Worlds obviously, but I’ve access to all sorts of sports from all around the globe in the internet age and I prefer to watch La Liga or Serie A or American Football these days online if I’m not at a GAA or football game myself. The fall off in my interest isn’t really related to ‘lack of characters’ or anything like that.

Virgo is excellent. Calls potenial pitfalls in shots long before they are taken - e.g. if he hits this thick he will kiss the red on the cushion and won’t get back to baulk. Can’t see how you could have a problem with him.

Maybe him presenting that show with Jim Davidson has clouded your judgement.

Ray Edmonds was nothing special as a commentator. I do remember him once going on about how attractive a lady Michala Tab was and commended players for not letting her attractiveness take their mind off the game.

I didn’t see him again after that.

[quote=“farmerinthecity”]Virgo is excellent. Calls potenial pitfalls in shots long before they are taken - e.g. if he hits this thick he will kiss the red on the cushion and won’t get back to baulk. Can’t see how you could have a problem with him.

Maybe him presenting that show with Jim Davidson has clouded your judgement.

Ray Edmonds was nothing special as a commentator. I do remember him once going on about how attractive a lady Michala Tab was and commended players for not letting her attractiveness take their mind off the game.

I didn’t see him again after that.[/quote]

I think Virgo’s very similar to Thorne as a commentator - dour, overly critical, generally quite negative. That’s why they annoy me terribly as a pair. It’s like they try to outdo each other in identifying those pitfalls you mention and then go overboard on the self-congratulation when a player makes the error they warned about.

Thorne definitely does that and often calls it afterwards as well.

‘That was a terrible shot. There was always a chance of that happening.’

Virgo vitally calls it beforehand and will call it careless and rightly so on many ocassions.

I always thought Vigro was excellent. I can see where bandage is coming from with his dour, monotone voice but that just suits snooker perfectly for me. As farmer said he’s excellent at pointing out the potential pitfalls about 2/3 shots before they happen.

Maybe I’m being harsh on Virgo then but I always regarded the likes of Taylor and Edmonds as much more engaging, sympathetic and understated whilst still projecting their knowledge of the game across equally as well as the likes of him and Thorne.

Joe Swail’s playing in his first ever ranking event final today after an 18-year professional career. He takes on Ali Carter for the Welsh Open title. There was a weird incident in Mark Selby’s quarter final the other day. He was served a writ by his former manager as he was sitting down between frames. Yer man strolled down the steps and leaned over and handed him an envelope. Some row about unpaid fees or something.

It’s nearly world snooker time. I don’t think Ken Doherty qualified. The likes of Alan McManus, Matthew Stevens, Jimmy White and Rodney Goggins didn’t make it either.

Stevens will be disappointed not to be there.

I’v given up on Jimmy.

McManus is a cunt.

Here’s the draw - Hendry and Williams should be cracker. Maguire and Burnett again after the dodgy game that is still being investigated.

Peter Ebdon (Eng, 9) v Nigel Bond (Eng, 23)
Ali Carter (Eng, 7) v Gerard Greene (NI, 33)
Mark King (Eng, 15) v Rory McLeod (Eng, 44)
Graeme Dott (Sco, 13) v Barry Hawkins (Eng, 27)
Shaun Murphy (Eng, 3) v Andrew Higginson (Eng, 38)
Ding Junhui (Chn, 11) v Liang Wenbo (Chn, 40)
Stephen Hendry (Sco, 6) v Mark Williams (Wal, 22)
Ryan Day (Wal, 8) v Stephen Lee (Eng, 26)
Joe Perry (Eng, 12) v Jamie Cope (Eng, 19)
Mark Selby (Eng, 4) v Ricky Walden (Eng, 35)
Mark Allen (NI, 16) v Martin Gould (Eng, 63)
John Higgins (Sco, 5) v Michael Holt (Eng, 34)
Neil Robertson (Aus, 10) v Steve Davis (Eng, 29)
Ronnie O’Sullivan (Eng, 1) v Stuart Bingham (Eng, 21)
Marco Fu (HK, 14) v Joe Swail (NI, 20)
Stephen Maguire (Sco, 2) v Jamie Burnett (Sco, 45)

Ebdon, while totally out of form, could be a good e-w bet…he is at a stage of his career now where he just get “up” for the big ones…he has a tricky one in Ali Carter in the 2nd round but I’d fancy him against Ding or Hendry after that.

McManus is shit.

Maguire and Burnett will get a lot of attention given the ongoing match fixing investigation over their UK Championship match from a few months back.