Dave Hendon and Michael McMullan discuss rankings and “Gods of Snooker”

Episode 159 of the Snooker Scene podcast is out and can be found here.

Dave and Michael discuss two main themes: the ranking system and the BBC “Gods of Snooker” series.

Regarding the rankings, basically they believe that the current system is too top-heavy and that, with Barry Hearn retiring, now is a good time to maybe reconsider it. I agree.

David Hendon actually comes up with a proposal, and here it is provided I understood it correctly:

  • Each event should be classed in a category, depending on the prize money available for the winner of the event. A category or “band” woud be associated with a “range” of prize money. For instance: “500000 or more”, “200000 to 499999”, ect …
  • In Dave’s proposal, each category would be associated with one of the snooker colours, the black category being the most prestigious, the yellow category the less prestigious.
  • Within a category, all events would carry the same amount of ranking points at every stage, in effect “decoupling” the ranking points and their repartition from the prize money. The idea being to make the system less top heavy and to have a certain level of harmonisation between events when it comes to rankings.

I would be 100% in favour of that, with one additional “twitch”: the bands should not be solely about the money but also about the format and matches length. Similar efforts should be rewarded in similar ways. If some lunatic were to offer one million to the winner of the Shoot-out it wouldn’t make the event worth of the “Black band” with huge ranking points in my views, mind you, it would not change my opnion that it simply should never be ranking.

Also, first round losers should still get some money, as they did contribute to the tournamen, did bring value to the sponsor and broadcasters. At the very minimum, playing should not cost them. “Decoupling” money from ranking points may help to get this idea through as giving them something for their work and efforts would not impact the rankings in any way.

Their other main subject was the BBC “Gods of Snooker” series which they praised. I managed to watch all three episodes and I agree: it’s interesting, with lots of material I had never seen before especially in episodes 2 and 3. Also, for once, Alex Higgins wasn’t presented as a “victim” of the system. Whilst his impact on the sport can’t be denied – he changed snooker, and its image foerever and made it what it is today – as a person he was far from “great” and Michael McMullan, who is Northern Irish himself was clear about his opinion that Alex Higgins went away with a lot, far too much actually. I can’t agree more.

Despite its obvious qualities, this is yet another BBC feature focusing on snooker’s past and David was left wondering how and why the BBC always refused to do a feature about Ronnie for instance.

The series “triggered” this “review”:

TV review: Gods Of Snooker went out in a baize of glory

© Andy Hooper/ANL/ShutterstockAlex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins was seen as the wild man of snooker in the 1980s
Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins was seen as the wild man of snooker in the 1980s

Is there a more dreary game to watch than snooker?

Men dressed as waiters push little balls around a table in dead silence for days at a time; as a sleeping aid, it’s probably second only to being hit with a tranquilliser dart while listening to Douglas Ross read Atlas Shrugged.

Yet, in the 1980s, snooker was more rock’n’roll than even rock’n’roll. Well, it was the days of Spandau Ballet.

Gods Of Snooker was a fantastic look at the years when seemingly everyone, high on colour televisions, became obsessed with the parlour pastime.

There seemed to be something about the game that sent the players slightly snooker loopy.

Alex “Hurricane” Higgins wielded a cigarette more than he did a cue, and sank more lagers than he did difficult pinks.

His rival, the more successful and rather dull Ray Reardon, complained nobody talks about him any more, while Higgins is still hailed to this day.

It’s no wonder. Staggering round the table playing cavalier snooker – well, as much as snooker can be described as such – Alex was prone to a rampage away from the table.

Slurred resignations, throwing cues at spectators and threatening to have rivals shot; current snooker wildman Ronnie O’Sullivan looks like Cliff Richard in comparison. They don’t make ’em like this any more.

This isn’t a review, it doesn’t say much about the feature itself and  it’s taken as an opportunity to disparage the sport we love. and I’m not sure that the author watched beyond the first episode, if that. I’m the one who put the “bold” highlight.

Judd is rigth that there is too much focus on the past, and on the UK, and it showed as well in the features WST did in the building of the Q-School: they were mainly about over-40 yo British players trying to regain their tour card. If the sports want to grwo global, and have a future, the focus should be on young aspiring players, and not just the British ones.



4 thoughts on “Dave Hendon and Michael McMullan discuss rankings and “Gods of Snooker”

  1. Getting points for beating higher ranked players existed in tennis 20-something years ago, but they scrapped it for some reason. I certainly like the idea of classifying tournaments based on the number and length of matches to be played and hate that the same kind of tournaments carry different numbers of ranking points based on the money some sponsor is willing to throw at them.

    “Snooker Gods” was enjoyable, but after each episode they showed some older BBC-documentaries and that pretty much showed that some quotes were just lifted from them. I certainly don’t understand why they don’t want to make a feature film about Ronnie, which would perfectly fit into today’s fashion of “inspirational” and “redemption” stories – I would understand though waiting till he retires and they can present a full and more or less closed story. In the meantime they could replace the “black ball contest” with what I call the “pink ball”, that is last year’s semi against Selby: it has everything, the crazy, the sublime, the fight and all the necessary background story/history, I have the screenplay ready in my mind… 🙂

  2. I generally do listen to the Snooker Scene podcast, although of course it’s mostly about the 1980’s and 1990’s. They started talking about the new British Open, but then immediately diverged into something about John Parrott…

    So it was a surprise to hear a proposal for a change to the ranking system! This sounded like great news, but unfortunately the suggestion was irreverant. The problem is, these guys are amateurs. Everyone always starts out with the idea of ‘ranking points’ – an oxymoron. What they are describing is a ‘reward system’, not a ranking system. You still have the same problems that are strangling the game of snooker: a rigid 128-player structure where players have to participate in every event (apart from a few privileged top players who can afford to miss a few). A ‘reward system’ will always end up rewarding the big name players, a natural progession.

    OK, true ranking systems, something that measures the standard of players, are more complex and can’t easily be calculated on the back-of-an-envelope, as John Spencer’s, Barry Hearn’s or Dave Hendon’s can be. But this is 2021 now – we live in a world of mobile-phone apps, which do the calculations and permutations immediately. I could implement all of this in a weekend. Perhaps I will.

    In terms of measuring tournaments, Dave Hendon’s ‘yellow’, ‘green’, ‘brown’ classification sounds like the ‘category’ system used in chess, but based on prizemoney alone. It’s possible to do statistical analysis to measure how ‘strong’ a tournament is, potentially for ranking tariff reasons. This is obviously MUCH better than the ‘ranking’/’non-ranking’ distiction where the Masters’ (etc.) is dismissed. In addition to player-strength and length-of-matches, a practical formula could have prizemoney and ‘prestige’ (essentially using opinion polls to quantify).

    • Kurt Maflin was talking about the ranking system on Norwegian Eurosport a couple of years ago. He felt he should get more points for beating Mark Selby than Billy Joe Castle. I think us fans could handle a complex ranking system. You don’t hear people moaning about the FIFA ranking system and it’s complexities.

      • Such systems exist for a long time and are being used in other sports: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elo_rating_system
        I am however not convinced that the average fan understands them. And they are rating systems, not ranking systems. Properly used they would make the “professional tour card” irrelevant as they would blurr the distinction between “amateur” and “professional”, something that WST probably does not want.

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