Judd Trump: Snooker is stuck in a rut and this is how to fix it
Judd Trump feels snooker is failing to move with the times and risks being left a long way behind other sports if changes aren’t made to attract a younger audience. The world number one has plenty of ideas on the matter and wants to see commentary, dress code, marketing and TV coverage all seriously shaken up.
The 31-year-old has enjoyed incredible success in the last three seasons, winning his first World Championship and Masters titles and taking his career prize money to well over £5m.
Far from resting on his laurels, though, he believes snooker faces a difficult future as it is not appealing to younger sports fans and he wants changes made fast.
The Ace sees two major problems with how the game is presented. Firstly, how the players dress, which he feels is completely unappealing to a younger audience.
Secondly, he believes snooker has something of an obsession with the past, showcasing veterans rather than young talent on the television, and allowing unbridled waves of nostalgia rather than living in the present.
Trump sees other sports modernising and urges snooker to follow their lead.
‘It’s kind of stuck in a rut a little bit, it’s fallen behind some of the other sports and not enough is being done on the whole image of snooker,’ Trump told Metro.co.uk.
‘I’ve got the golf on and their clothing is all changing, becoming more lenient for the younger generation. People don’t want to go around dressed in waistcoats nowadays, they did 40 years ago but snooker is falling behind, stuck in their own ways and other sports have moved on.
‘I don’t want to be stuck in a waistcoat walking to the Crucible, it’s not cool to be wearing that nowadays, if I think that then I know people younger than me won’t want to be dressed like that either.
‘Golfers are wearing hoodies, got Air Max shoes on. This was all good 30 years ago but to make new stars and make the game popular again in the UK and bring it back to where it was you need to move with the times.
‘Keep the trousers, shoes, just maybe polo shirts or something more relaxed and different. You don’t need to be dressed in a five-piece suit every time you go to a game. It would attract more sports sponsors, it’s difficult to attract different sponsors when you’re doing the same thing year-in-year-out.
‘To be honest, a lot of my friends aren’t big snooker fans. They just watch it for me and they don’t want to be seeing people dressed in waistcoats, it should be more appealing to young people.’
Trump believes that the powers that be are also failing to promote young players in the game, continuing to broadcast well-known names from previous eras rather than take a punt on emerging talent.
The world number one has been watching the World Championship qualifiers this week and felt the event has been a prime example of that problem.
‘It’s how they advertise games,’ Trump said. ‘A lot of younger players are coming through in this World Championship and the social media all seems to be about people who were popular 30 years ago.
‘I’m not picking on Ken [Doherty], but he played and the Twitter was all about, “the 1997 world champion.” They should be advertising the upcoming stars, like Jamie Clarke and Iulian Boiko were playing.
‘They can’t keep these players in the spotlight forever, they haven’t done anything for 10-15 years. Everything they’re doing is 15 years out of date and not enough is being done to advertise the younger players in the game.
‘Things are never going to change unless they take a risk on advertising to different people. Otherwise you’ll get to a point where the older generation of snooker fans will be gone and you’re stuck with nobody because they haven’t appealed to the younger generation now.’
Trump does recognise that it is a wide range of people that tournament organisers are trying to attract, with plenty of snooker fans wanting to see the old faces they know and love.
The Bristolian feels that this focus is harming the development of young players, though, and it is making it harder to discover the next Ronnie O’Sullivan.
‘I know a lot of people want to watch some of the older players but I wouldn’t even turn the TV on for people from 30 years ago,’ he said. ‘It’s only my point of view, I know people will disagree, but I’m trying to speak for younger people.
‘They don’t want to see people they don’t even remember, it was before my era.
‘A lot of teenagers want to see more appealing quicker players. Jamie Wilson the other day, people like that. How’s he going to get a target audience or make a name for himself if he’s not covered?
‘People love Ronnie because he’s so fast, Jamie Wilson is trying to get through but he’s not going to be seen on TV unless he gets to the semi-finals of the World Championship or something silly.
‘Someone like Wilson, I don’t know how good he’s going to be, but someone who is playing as quick as Ronnie O’Sullivan, it won’t be much more exciting than that. There is young talent out there but the viewing public doesn’t get to see it.’
Trump sees an unhealthy focus on the past in front of the cameras but behind them, especially among the BBC’s veteran group of commentators.
He admits he is lost immediately when tales of the distant past are told and wants to see some more modern voices covering the game.
‘There’s not enough trying out new things in snooker for me at the moment, it’s all the same every season, not enough excitement, not enough different dimensions,’ he said.
‘Change the coverage, the commentators who have been around a long time, change the way the game is spoken about.
‘It doesn’t have to be every single tournament, but a few new faces. There’s not enough passion in their voices. When you hear people in Formula One, boxing, other sports, there’s someone with passion and a distinctive voice, kind of like what Clive Everton had. I think snooker is missing that at the moment, it’s all a bit samey.
‘It does frustrate me, not all of them, but when they start going on about things from the 1980s, I just don’t want to hear it.
‘Anyone my age, we just have no idea what they’re going on about, all these names, they just lose me immediately, lose my interest.
‘It’s doing nothing for making the game more appealing to the younger generation when they’re going on about something that happened 40 years ago. They need more of a mix, someone a bit younger at the same time as an older person. Then if someone is going on about a fact from 1975 they can just tell them to shut up.
‘It’s a lot of, “my friend did this” it’s just a little bit left behind, especially the BBC. I do like Eurosport’s coverage, [presenter] Andy Goldstein does an amazing job. I think the BBC need to mix it up a little bit more and get a few different personalities in the commentary box, maybe current players, get them in and ask them some stuff.
‘There’s no talk about the Golden Age of golf when the Masters is on, or the Golden Age of tennis at Wimbledon, it’s just about the here and now. Snooker is too much about 20-30 years ago. Is the standard better now? Nobody cares. The standard is what it is now and all that matters is the tournament coming up.’
The world number one also wants to see other players take responsibility for making the game a more appealing prospect for viewers, although this is easier said than done for many who are fighting to earn a living on the baize.
‘It’s about making the game as attractive as possible,’ said Judd. ‘Still obviously trying to win, but it’s the manner of how I’m doing it.
‘Open the balls up, make it attractive and if you can bring more people to the game the prize money is going to go up and up rather than if you’re sat there battling a frame out for 50 minutes and boring everyone to death.
‘Some of the other players forget that it needs to be entertainment as well. For me it’s not all about the prize money, you can get sponsorships and other areas to earn money, that’s why I try to appeal to a wider audience rather than taking 30-35 seconds a shot trying to figure it out.’
The Juddernaut does not expect everyone to be pulling off the shots that he does on the baize, but he is aware that whatever he does on the table is a chance to bring in new fans to the sport.
A memorable shot against Barry Hawkins at the German Masters went viral on social media and Trump says he is intentionally trying these things to grow the sport.
‘If everyone was doing the same thing that would get boring,’ he said. ‘Everyone needs to have their own personality, but just the smallest moment like that, I looked like I was out of the game and it sort of spurred me on.
‘That shot appealed to people that don’t even watch snooker, people who would never have it on, but they’ll see it and it could make someone flick on during the World Championship, to then become a fan.
‘Small moments that you think don’t matter can find new followers at any single moment, especially with social media. Different ages, different countries that might not even see snooker normally.’
Trump wants to see things shaken up but hopes his ideas can be seen as constructive rather than him trying to have a scrap with snooker bosses.
He feels he is having to talk for a couple of generations that are being left behind but is happy to use his voice and platform to do so.
‘Everything is taken as a criticism rather than constructive debate, Barry Hearn’s done an amazing job,’ he said.
’50 per cent of people probably love what’s going on and love seeing the older players but the other 50 per cent don’t, so there’s got to be a compromise.
‘A bit more could be done by listening to some of the younger players’ thoughts and how they think we could go about making the game more glamorous and more appealing.
‘That’s where I’m trying to come from on the dress code and that side of things. I’m a bit older now at 31, but I can see it from a young person’s point of view.
‘Myself, Jack Lisowski, a few others, we have different mindsets to other people who, for them, snooker is their whole life and I can sort of see it from a different angle.
‘I can see it’s not quite appealing to the masses. For the younger generation, football, golf, tennis are taking the limelight.
‘We need to appeal to people from the UK and get them competing with the younger players from China because we’re getting left behind a little bit.’
OK, there are things I agree with and others I don’t.
There is too much focus on the past, especially when it comes to the BBC events. I’m 66, not 31 but I’m sick and tired of the 1985 final that was a terrible match except for the last minutes. I’m sick and tired of commentators admitting without a hint of shame that they know nothing about the young lad at the table. A minimum of professionalism involves doing your research. I’m sick and tired hearing them butchering “foreigners” names: if you’re not sure, ask, and if a Chinese/Belgian/German person tells you how to pronounce one of their fellow citizen’s name, listen. I’m sick and tired about the “golf” references: this is snooker and I’m not one bit interested in golf. I would love to see more young players on television or stream and can’t understand why in this time and age we don’t get the choice to watch ALL tables. It’s a contractual matter? Renegotiate those contracts. That way everyone can watch what they want to watch or all of of it if they so wish.
The dress code. There is nothing wrong with dressing smart. Waistcoats don’t need to be boring. There was a lot more fantasy in the past, colours, patterns, frills… go back to that, but KEEP the dress code for the major tournaments. Drop the bow tie for the minor ones. That’s all. Even with the current dress code some players manage to look scruffy, I don’t want to think what they would look like if it’s relaxed! I also don’t want snooker becoming a fashion show or a “vitrine” for over-expensive snobbish brands of shoes or clothes that only top players can afford, unless the said brand sponsors the event and fits ALL players accordingly.
And… this is me, but I’m sure I’m not alone … please keep the long sleeves. I don’t want to see tattoos covered arms, hands or any other body part. As I said, that’s me though.
Instead of systematically deleting matches from platforms like YouTube, work with the said platforms to find a way to satisfy your broadcasters whilst making past matches accessible to the general public. This IS the history of the game, this is how fans like me got interested, got to know and understand the game and how it evolved over time. Here are some suggestions: allow publication but only after a week, or a month … something reasonable. True fans will always want to watch the action when it happens. The delay should make sure that fans remain interested in paying for the broadcasting/stream and the broadcaster is fairly rewarded. Allow only “non-profit” sharing. But DO allow sharing.