Snooker (not great) news and a lovely podcast

The Scottish Open 2018 starts today, and maybe not surprisingly, Ronnie has withdrawn from it. Surely winning the UK Championship yesterday has taken a lot out of him and he deserves a break. His next event will probably be the Masters in January.

Meanwhile, this podcast by Rhiannon Lambert and Ronnie is worth a listen, especially with the end-of-year celebrations, and over-eating coming soon!


Regarding the sports itself, it was announced in the media last week that a ban will be enforced on adds for gambling and betting on TV during sports events. There were many articles in the press about it, and this is one of them, by the Guardian.

UK betting firms back live sports advertising ban

Online gambling firms such as Bet365, William Hill and Ladbrokes agree ban amid fears of impact on children

Online gambling companies have agreed in principle to a voluntary “whistle-to-whistle” ban on advertising during live sports, in an effort to address concerns about their impact on children.

Companies such as Bet365, William Hill and Ladbrokes would agree not to advertise during live sports, including after 9pm if the event started before the watershed.

While the proposals have yet to be approved, they are likely to be rubber-stamped at a meeting of the five major gambling industry associations next week, with a view to implementing the ban within six months.

A senior gambling industry figure said he would be “surprised and disappointed” if the measures were not agreed and said that while not every online betting firm would support them, all were likely to comply.

“It would be a very brave company that would stick its head above the parapet in isolation,” he said.

The whistle-to-whistle ban, which excludes horse racing, would involve the industry falling into line with Labour party proposals.

The advertising proposals, first reported by the BBC, have been put forward by the Remote Gambling Association (RGA), which represents online betting firms.

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said: “I’m delighted that gambling operators have adopted Labour’s proposal of a whistle-to-whistle ban on gambling advertising during live sport.

“With over 430,000 problem gamblers in the country, many of them children, the number of adverts during live sports had clearly reached crisis levels.

“There was clear public support for these restrictions and I’m glad that for once the industry, led by [the RGA], has taken its responsibilities seriously and listened.”

Several chief executives in the gambling industry, including the bosses of William Hill and Paddy Power Betfair, have said they would support greater restrictions on advertising to protect children.

Concern about the normalisation of gambling has risen due to the sheer volume of ads during televised sport.

Research by the Guardian during the World Cup found that children were “bombarded” with 90 minutes of gambling adverts during the tournament.

Shares in gambling companies fell on reports of a plan that would restrict their ability to reach TV viewers, while broadcasters are also likely to take a significant hit on lost advertising revenue.

One senior executive at a media agency told the Guardian that gambling ads were worth £200m to broadcasters last year, with the majority going to Sky and, to a lesser extent, ITV.

Online gambling companies are thought to have learned a lesson from the resistance shown by the Association of British Bookmakers, which fought tooth and nail against the cut in maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals.

Their campaign was ultimately unsuccessful and caused considerable damage to the industry’s reputation over efforts to prevent curbs on machines that the government branded a “social blight”.

RGA chief executive Clive Hawkswood is thought to be determined to get the measure approved by the gambling industry before he steps down in January.

It requires agreement from the National Casino Forum, Association of British Bookmakers, Bingo Association and the amusement arcade body Bacta, although their blessing is likely to be a formality as the online industry is by far the biggest TV advertiser.

The RGA has also put forward other proposals but is expected to stop short of adopting Labour’s stated policy of banning gambling companies from sponsoring football shirts.

Matt Zarb-Cousin, spokesman for campaign group Fairer Gambling, said: “This is long overdue but to be truly effective it should have also included bans on shirt and league sponsorship and pitch-side rolling displays.”

This is indeed good news as far as I’m concerned, and it’s not just about children either. But for snooker, a sport that is relying so much on the gambling industry, at least outside China, this might be only the start of a massive issue, very similar to what happened with the tobacco ban. If the bookies see their TV adds cut off, they will be less likely to sponsor live sporting events because the whole point for them is to expose their “brand” and promote their “products”. This was coming, and it baffled me how much in denial so many fans were when I raised the point earlier. I very really hope that WS will act wisely and diversify their sponsoring sources. And it might not be that easy because the strong association with the gambling business has created an image already that many other businesses don’t want to be associated with, especially in mainland Europe.

Speaking of mainland Europe, Snookerstars have announced on Facebook that the Paul Hunter Classic 2019 will take place, but as an invitational event for 16 players only. I’m not sure at this stage what the status of the event will be, nor if it will still be a pro-am. My guess is that no amateurs will be involved in the main competition. This is both a good news and a bad news. Good because I really feared that he would disappear entirely, bad because this was the best pro-am you could play in, or watch, and it has been ruined. Making it a full ranking event, without the financial backing to attract top players has killed it. And getting financial backing from sponsors in mainland Europe is extremely difficult (see above!)


8 thoughts on “Snooker (not great) news and a lovely podcast

  1. So weird: we were in Madrid 2 weeks ago and at the airport saw some football match was on TV with Bet365 advertisement, which – my partner, who si Spanish said – was not the case before.

  2. I was hoping that Ronnie would withdraw from the Scottish, both so that he can fully enjoy his UK victory and so that he wouldn’t have to decide between forcing himself to try to play well when he would rather not be playing at all or essentially just losing more or less on purpose in the early rounds. Plus, withdrawing helps to highlight the ridiculousness of having all of these tournaments back-to-back, especially for the players that made it to the final of the previous event. I wonder if Ronnie will still do punditry with Eurosport this week…?

    As for the gambling sponsorship, without knowing any of the facts I would have to assume that Barry Hearn has put so many of his eggs in the gambling basket simply because he has failed to find more “reputable” sponsors instead. It probably wouldn’t be easy for him to simply switch from gambling to something else, without (at a minimum) having to cut the number of events and the amount of prize money available. Perhaps he has good reason to think that there couldn’t even be a viable snooker tour (outside of China) if the tour were only to be sponsored by non-gambling sources…?

    • We don’t know, but I think it’s a reasonable assumption that tournament organisers and sponsors want to have the top players, particularly Ronnie, in the draw. Barry Hearn will HAVE to listen. Alternatively, if things start getting tight, he might cut his losses, ‘retire’ and leave the mess to somebody else. That fact is, Barry Hearn has tied his own future to continuing growth in prize funds.

      • Yes, Barry himself said that players are free to skip events if they need a break, but I don’t think he will like it so much if the top players start taking him up on that suggestion. It’s tempting to think that Barry might have to give in to the players a bit if they band together and start picking and choosing more often, but it’s also possible that Barry would simply change the rules by requiring players to play in a (large) minimum number of events and penalizing them in some way if they don’t…

  3. Yes exactly, more and more invitational events. Consequently, a smaller number of ‘ranking’ events. Perhaps we’ll end up with the Home Nations, UK, China, World Open and World as the only ‘ranking’ tournaments. Ironically, this would actually suit Ronnie, as the fewer ‘ranking’ tournaments there are, the fewer he would miss, leaving him in a more comparable position. Imagine what might happen if Ronnie actually decided to enter! How would the organisers of the German Masters, European Masters, Indian Open, etc. respond to that?

Comments are closed.