Starting yesterday, I put a 24 hours poll on twitter. Here you see it, and its outcome:
Why did I do that? Well, because I wondered how “marketable” the young players are as it stands. The answer clearly is: not at all. To keep the game afloat, and the sponsors happy, WST has to maximise the viewing figures, and to get the sport in the paper. Promoting the young players isn’t high in that agenda.
What the above poll seems to reveal is that half of the viewers want to see the top players, even if they are involved in a one-sided, not very interesting match. The vast majority of the other half actually wants to see a “real” match, not caring about who is involved.
Very few would chose to watch a match because a young player is in it. There is no real interest in those who are, or should be, in effect, the future of the game, and this is worrying.
It is even more worrying because, unless my memory betrays me, it wasn’t that way when I started to get seriously interested in snooker. There was excitement and anticipation when the likes of Judd Trump and Michael White turned pro. People on forums were discussing the up-and-coming amateurs. It doesn’t feel like that nowadays.
There are surely many reasons for that. One that comes to my mind is that there were a lot more big pro-ams back then, The Paul Hunter Classic was huge for instance. Some were streamed. There was no need to have Worldsnooker’s sanction back then. Later came the PTCs. We got to see the young amateurs mixing with the pros in a much less “formal” environment. Quite often, there was a players’ party, where everyone was “mixing”, pros, amateurs and fans. There was a social side to it that I feel has disappeared, or, at least, partially disappeared.
One other reason I can see – and I thought long and hard before writing this – is that the majority of really young upcoming players, the under 25 ones, are no more British whilst snooker remains profoundly UK centric. All qualifiers are held in the UK, the Q-school is held in the UK. As a result, most non UK players have no choice but to come and live in the UK. It’s also likely that the majority of people discussing snooker on social media – usually in English – are from the UK/Ireland, and most of the feedback WST gets comes from them. There is almost always a tribal side to sport. People – most of them anyway – will support sportspersons originated from their contry/nation/region …