Jack Lisowski about getting inspired and wanting to inspire and give hope.

This interview was done before the World Championship:

Jack Lisowski: I want to be world champion to give hope to people in the position I was in

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Four
Jack Lisowski wants to inspire those who are suffering as he did (Picture: Getty Images)

Jack Lisowski has found a higher purpose in snooker, no longer just motivated by money, trophies and personal success, but to inspire those who are going through the horrific ordeal he faced as a teenager.

Lisowski is steadily becoming a consistent force at the top of the sport, but he has had to overcome more than most to reach this point after suffering with Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a 16-year-old, a form of cancer originating in white blood cells.

The disease took hold immediately after Jack left school and his life was put on hold for a year as he fought through the terrifying situation.

‘It was like I had a tennis ball in the middle of my chest, a massive lump’ Lisowski told Metro.co.uk. ‘I had a biopsy then they cut a lymph node out of my neck, the white blood cell count in my blood was off the scale, which normally indicates a stage four cancer.

That was where I was at for about seven days, thinking it was the most serious cancer, then I met my doctor in Cheltenham who pretty much just said: “Look I’m going to cure you.” That was it from there. I just had that mindset from that point, I had to find a way through.

The chemo was the worst thing ever. Every two weeks I had to go and for eight months it just broke me down.

My whole body was so weak. All my hair, my eyebrows come out, my skin went a different yellowy colour. I’d have a big blast of chemo and I’d look at my veins the next day and they were stained red, all the way up your arm you have a red spider’s web.

Jack’s doctor was right and they did win the fight against the illness, allowing Jackpot to resume his promising snooker career, which seemed to take no time to get back on track despite what he had gone through.

Your body starts healing so fast, you start becoming your old self again, it’s amazing,’ Lisowski explained. ‘I think it took about a year until I was feeling strong again and then before I knew it I was in Sheffield getting the Paul Hunter Scholarship.

That let me play snooker every day against these pros, people like Ding [Junhui]. A year there and then I was a pro. It was all a bit of a blur. I was 16 getting ill one day then the next year I was turning pro. The last 15 years have been a bit of a blur to be honest. It’s weird.

Lisowski plays with, what looks like, a care-free attitude around the table, with a relentlessly attacking brand of snooker delivered in the most stylish of manners.

An obvious narrative would be that overcoming what he did as a teenager has allowed him to adopt a relaxed attitude to knocking balls about on a table, and while he says that is true to an extent, things have changed for him recently.

Lisowski is now as motivated as ever to succeed because he wants to be an inspiration to anyone who finds themselves in a similar position to his as a 16-year-old going through an awful illness.

The 29-year-old was inspired during his own ordeal by the story of Lance Armstrong’s recovery from cancer and, while the cyclist has seen his sporting reputation tarnished, he wants to provide inspiration to others as the American did to him.

I think I’m naturally quite relaxed but it did help me to think that it is just a game of snooker,’ said Jack. ‘But at the same time it’s made me want to do well. I’ve realised this recently I really want to do well because I want to help people in the position I was in when I was 16 and I was sick.

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Four
Lisowski is at the Crucible this year as the number 14 seed (Picture: Getty Images)

When you’re ill you need things to give you hope and be positive about. When they told me I was sick, straight away I was like: “Who’s that guy? That biker that was going to die from cancer but got over it?” It was Lance Armstrong and I read everything about him.

When you’re sick you need to see that people have recovered so you can see the way yourself. To believe that it’s possible.

I feel that’s what I want to do more than anything. To be a person that one day if someone is sick they can say, “look at that guy Jack or look at Ali Carter [who has recovered from cancer twice], they were in my exact position and overcame it.

How cool would it be to give someone hope when they’re sick? That’s what I’m learning. It would be amazing to win tournaments for myself, to realise my dreams, but that’s not the coolest thing for me to do.

What would my legacy be? I could win some tournaments, it is what it is. But in 50 years or whatever someone could say to me, “you helped me when I was sick” that would be a life goal for me. That would be the coolest thing for me to achieve and have some meaning in my life.’

Life in the pandemic has given everyone a bit more time to think and Lisowski has allowed himself to get deep and meaningful with himself and come out with this incredibly positive attitude.

He has had the best season of his career, reaching three finals, but is still hunting that elusive first ranking title, a search that will not end at one, but continue for many years so he can be the most inspirational role model possible.

I never really realised it until the last few months, but deep down that’s what I really want to do,’ he said. ‘That’s the frustrating thing when I’m losing because I don’t want to…not let those people down but I want to use the second chance that I’ve been given to inspire people if I can.

World Snooker China Open - Finals
Lisowski is aiming for the very pinnacle of snooker (Picture: Getty Images)

Look, it’s not what I wake up and think about first thing every morning, but if I’m going deep, that’s my deep goal in life. I want to be world champion because that would be the coolest thing for me to help people.

I’d call it a higher purpose. When you get deep you think, “what am I doing here on this planet?” I think that’s mine and it gives me a bit of pressure a good kick up the backside sometimes. I don’t want to be an average snooker player, I don’t want to not be learning, not improving, just getting to last 16s, last 32s.

My first goal was to pay my bills, then get a load of money, then nothing really changes so you think, “what’s it all about?” I could win a title, so what? There’s loads of players below me who have won one title. I really want to be a great player, not just a flash in the pan and win as many as I can and inspire people at the same time, It’s easier said than done, but that’s my motivation.

I do some stuff with the Teenage Cancer Trust, I’m an ambassador for their charity. I would love to do more but I’m…not embarrassed, but I’m only just top 16, I want to be doing stuff for them as world champion, world number one, that’s what I want.’

Lisowski knows first hand that this kind of inspiration can be the difference between life and death after Armstrong’s story helped him get through a spell of his own illness that seemed impossible at times.

I had eight months of chemo and four or five months in it was really breaking me down,’ he said. ‘That’s when I read Lance Armstrong’s book and I can remember he had some words for people going through that.

People can slag him off now but that inspired me to keep going. He basically just said how hard it is to get through and you need to keep fighting.  I felt like he was speaking to me and that gave me the motivation to keep fighting.

At one point I didn’t think I could do it because it was that bad. I was getting so sick for days after. He has no idea who I am but that guy did that for me at that point so that’s what I want to do for someone else at some point, that would be the coolest thing ever.

Lisowski is hoping that the World Championship this year will be a giant leap towards becoming that inspirational figure for people around the globe.

Jackpot battled past his good pal Ali Carter in the first round to set up a clash with Neil Robertson in round two, where he will be going out to attack the former world champ.

Sometimes criticised for his gun-slinging approach to the game, he says it is an innate drive to play this way, and while he is trying to holster his weapons sometimes, it is a constant battle against himself to do so.

I think I was always going for my shots, before I was sick,’ he said. ‘It’s something I was born with, I’ve never been that astute tactically. It’s easier for me to just see the ball going in a pocket rather than think: “If I play that shot then in two shots time he’ll have to play that.

I’m not into the game of chess, I like the shoot out, firing away shots at each other. If I miss I can tell you why, not because I’ve been out thought or anything, they just didn’t go in today.

I’m not scared of missing, that’s for sure. It would kill me to play safe and lose a match on a bad safety shot rather than going for one. I’d rather go down swinging if I lose.

‘I’m just learning to do it under pressure. I’m not going to say my bottle is as good as John Higgins because it’s not, at the moment, but I’m learning that. I can definitely do it and it’s coming.

Lisowski is a current and future star of snooker and is loving the journey he is on, which will hopefully end with a full trophy cabinet when he finally breaks his title duck.

He is relishing that challenge, appreciative of the life and career he has and the opportunity to help both himself and others.

‘It’s a great sport, it’s taught me so much, given me an amazing living, teaching me a lot about life as well: perseverance, discipline, hard work. I’m 29 and it’s a great career,’ he said.

‘It’s like the ultimate test. People putting your job under the microscope. If you play football, you can have a bad game and the team wins so no one cares. Even golf there’s no camera right in your face when you’re putting. It feels like the ultimate test. Have you got the bottle? Can you learn to be a machine under that much pressure?

It’s not like I wake up every morning and say, “I’m so lucky to be here,” but we do take things for granted and I am on a second chance so I’m having fun, my life is good.

It’s been the worst year for everyone with coronavirus, but when things get back to normal it’s all sweet. I really enjoy being a snooker player, I love it. I’m literally living my dream.

I wanted to share this interview because it touched me profoundly. Without going into details, let me just say that I have been there too. It wasn’t the same illness but I was a teenager too, even younger than Jack, and it was life threatening and cripling. It was a fight that lasted over many years of unspeakable pain at times. Such things change you forever. They make you or break you. They give you perspective. You realise that very few things are really that important. You realise that anything can be taken away from you in an instant, just like that.

What keeps you fighting is different for everyone I suppose, but deep down it always come down to keeping your dreams and hopes alive, finding something that makes the fight and pain worth it. For Jack it was his snooker dream and Lance Amstrong story. Now he wants to give back and help others. He wants to inspire by becoming World Champion. (*)

Good luck Jack! I sincerly hope that you will lift the ultimate trophy one day … but, you know what? You are an inspiration already, just by being there, alive, at the table, keeping fans on the edge of their seat, and doing it with a smile on your face. 

(*) for those interested or curious … Me, I wanted to be the next Schliemann. I ended up becoming a mathematician 🤨 Don’t ask.

2021 Q-Schools – Draws and Formats

WST has yesterday published the draws and formats for the three 2021 Q-School events. They will be played in Ponds Forge, Sheffield, starting in just over a week.

Over 200 players will be battling for 14 places on the World Snooker Tour at 2021 Q School, which starts on May 27.

The event at Ponds Forge International Sports Centre in Sheffield will run until June 13, with each of the three events running for six days.

Event one draw

Event two draw

Event three draw

Click here for the format for all three events

Notable players in the field include:

Those who dropped off the pro tour at the end of last season such as Ian Burns, Jackson Page, Soheil Vahedi, James Cahill, Yuan Sijun, Duane Jones, Luo Honghao, Daniel Wells and new World Seniors champion David Lilley

Snooker legend Tony Knowles, the former world number two, who last played in Q School in 2017

Former Shoot Out champion Michael Georgiou

Two-time ranking event winner Michael White

Up-and-coming European cuemen Ben Mertens, Florian Nuessle, Brian Ochoiski, Julien LeClercq and Antoni Kowalski

Promising British talent such as Robbie McGuigan, Westley Cooper, Dylan Emery and Stan Moody

Women’s world number four Rebecca Kenna 

The four semi-finalists in each event will all earn a two-year tour card for the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons. Plus the next two highest players on the Order of Merit will also earn a card. All matches will be best of seven frames.

A separate ranking list will be compiled during Q School with players earning one point for every frame won. During the 2021/2022 season, should the number of entries in any WST event fall below the required number of entrants, subject to wildcards and commercial agreements, the highest ranked players from the Q School ranking list will be used to top up to the required number of entrants.

Further opportunities may become available for the top 32 players on the Order of Merit who do not qualify for the Tour, on the WPBSA Q Tour. This remains subject to the easing of travel and Covid restrictions.

According to the usually reliable Nikolay on twitter there are actually 196 players in these draws, including one, Vyas from India, who has already forfeited and, unless WST is redifining arithmetic I’d dare to say that 196(5) < 200 😉 … anyway …

Snooker.org on twitter have published two interesting lists:

This one shows the recently relegated players who have entered, with their age, and number of years on tour.


There are 21 of them, including 7 who are aged 21 or less, that’s one in three. I will support all of them, but even more so the young Chinese players who had it particularly hard during the pandemics. Four of those seven are still teenagers, and one, Lei Peifan, is only 17. That doesn’t feel right.

The other list shows the former players, trying to return after at least one year out of the game.


Only two of those players are 25 or less: Chris Totten and Ross Muir. The latter was forced out of the game by health issues. Hopefully those are behind him now.

This list also features Michael White who, at 29, is a double ranking event winner but dropped off the tour last season. He topped the Q-School “reserve” list and competed in most events this season but was largely unconvincing. What happened there? I can only guess that it comes to crushed confidence and mental health issues. I’m not sure what would be best for Michael though. Maybe take some time off and trying to address whatever issues are affecting him would be the best course of action?

There are also 12 players, out of 28, aged 40 or more in this list. The oldest one, and the WST “poster boy” is Tony Knowles, 65, who is famous for inflicting the Crucible Curse on Steve Davis, as well as for some more “frivole” exploits. Many of those guys have been playing on the WSS Tour and it’s a huge credit to Jason Francis that they have rediscovered their love for the game and their faith in their ability to the point that they want to return on the pro Tour. But is it really a good thing to get those guys back full time as pros? Or should more efforts be put on the WSS Tour to make it bigger, more lucrative and with better exposure?

The fact that they chose Tony as the “face” of their annoucement on twitter shows that WST still relies on glories from the past for their promotion of the game. Judd Trump is right when he says there is too much focus on the past still. WST choice is probably motivated by their confidence that Tony is a “recognisable” figure amongst the fans. Maybe, but I’m far from certain that he is a recognisable figure or an inspiration for the younger generation of fans and aspiring young players.

Finally, Rebecca Kenna is the only female player in this draw. She had to face a lot of prejudices when she was given a wildcard at the World qualifiers. Yet, she has shown that she can play and gave a good account of herself. She has my supports as well.

Anyway… Good luck to all involved!


The British Open returns after 17 years

Here is the announcement by WST:

British Open Returns To Snooker Calendar

The British Open will return to the World Snooker Tour for the first time in 17 years when it takes place in August.

Click here for the updated calendar

It will be the second world ranking event of the 2021/22 season and will run from August 16 to 22. All 128 tour players will compete in the event, with further details including the host venue and broadcasters to be announced in due course.

John Higgins beat Stephen Maguire in the 2004 British Open final in Brighton

The British Open was ever present on the calendar from 1985 to 2004. Brighton was the host city in 2004 when John Higgins beat Stephen Maguire in the final.

As it stands there are 19 events scheduled on the calendar for the 2021/22 season, with discussions ongoing for several other potential tournaments.

WST Chairman Steve Dawson said: “We continue to work towards building a full calendar for the 2021/22 season and the schedule is gradually taking shape.

“We are delighted to bring back the British Open which has a fantastic history and has been won by many of the greats including Steve Davis, Jimmy White, Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams, Paul Hunter and John Higgins.

“Planning for the tournament is now in progress with the intention to restore its position as a prestigious event on the calendar.”

John Higgins will be the defending champion.

Here is a brief history of the even on wikipedia.

It reminds us that there was a time when the sponsors were not all bookies and gaming companies.

Other than the new event, the updated calendar also gives more infos regarding the qualifiers:

Screenshot 2021-05-18 at 14.46.37

The fact that the British Open will see the 128 at the venue, without qualifiers, suggests that it will follow the “Home Nations” format as we have known it in the recent seasons.

The Home Nations now have qualifying events and that may mean that they will return to the best-of-nine that was the “default” in a not so distant past. Well, I want to hope so anyway.

Good also to see the qualifiers for the German Masters played earlier than usual in the season. Having two rounds of them just before the Xmas break has done the event no favour in the past.




Is Eurosport anti Selby?

I have deliberately waited before going for this one until the rage and “word war” have come down a bit on social media. It all turned about two main issues.

Issue 1 – the studio discussion about the “snooker behind the brown”

During the 2021 World final and in the aftermath of it, there was a lot of criticism targeting the Eurosport coverage, and a perceived “anti Selby” bias.

The whole thing started when the pundits had a discussion in the ES studio about a difficult situation on the table.

Ronnie O’Sullivan has said it “ain’t right” that Mark Selby was able to benefit from a controversial re-spot in the World Snooker Championship final against Shaun Murphy.
Selby got a taste of his own medicine during the 19th frame of the World Snooker Championship as Murphy had him in a world of trouble with a very sneaky shot with the cue ball rolled in behind the brown, leaving a horrible snooker.
But after three misses on the tricky snooker from an extended ‘spider’ and ‘swan’ rests, Selby was strangely suddenly able to use a normal rest to eventually get out of the shot at the fourth time of asking.
Using freeze-frames in the Eurosport studio, experts O’Sullivan and Neal Foulds made it clear that the re-spot was not correct and the normal rest should never have been a possibility to get out of the original situation.
In O’Sullivan’s mind, it clearly was not right that Selby was suddenly able to play the shot with the different rest – and he was shocked that Murphy did not get out of his chair to flag the incorrect re-spot.
If the white was put back where it was originally, this shot is just not possible,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport. “Because you can’t hit enough of the white, and if you did, you would probably miscue and the white would go towards the yellow.
“So if this shot was playable in the first place, he would have done. But even still, even when the white has moved [from the re-spot] quite considerably, really, he still couldn’t hit enough of the white to come that side of the red.
“So that shot was just never possible. You try not to blame the players, but in that situation, if the player has got the spider out originally and then he is using the rest, surely they should be able to use the technology to see the balls are not right. Because if they were right, you [Selby] would still have the spider in your hands. So maybe they should have used the technology to get it right.”
Foulds added: “Listen, you don’t want to get too involved in blaming players, but the balls were not put back correctly, we know that because we saw how they were put back and it was not correct, so the referee, the marker and the player at the table really have the responsibility. Murphy didn’t leave his chair; he will always take it on trust from the other player, but I’m a little surprised that happened the way it did because the shot was not on that he ended up playing.”

The images above show the situation on the table, before Mark Selby’s first attempt, and before the last one. It’s obvious that the brown is sticking out more on the right side of the white in the second image.

The ES pundits were definitely right in their assesment of the situation. No player would have taken the extended spider or the extended swan-neck if they could reach with the extended rest. Originally Mark Selby needed to cue “on top” of the white because he wasn’t seeing enough of it to cue on the side.

The ES pundits have discussed controversial situations like this, at length, including when Ronnie was on the wrong side of it notably the incident with the extented rest happened during his match against Luo Honghao during the 2018 English Open. At the time nobody accused them to be “anti-Ronnie” and Ronnie was branded a cheat on social media because “surely” he must have felt it.

Well, I will say that surely in this case Selby should have seen it, or at least questioned why he was suddenly able to play a shot that wasn’t on before. Yet, I haven’t seen anyone branding him “a cheat” on twitter.

To summarise my sentiment about this incident: it was not a case of being “anti-Selby”, even less a case of being “Selby haters”, it was a relevant question, and discussion, about a controversial table situation, and it is puzzling that Mark Selby didn’t question the replacement of the balls. This is a non-issue.

Issue 2: Desmond Kane article after the final

After the final, the always prolofic and lyrical Desmond Kane wrote a long article where he basically defended the idea that Mark Selby is bad for the game.

The article is quite really a long one and it’s mainly nonsense. 

Mark Selby plays to his strength, he’s out there to try his hardest and win and it’s what he has to do. As a fan, you may or may not like to watch it, but it’s clever, skilful and within the rules, unlike what Ebdon did during the 2005 World Championship QF against Ronnie, where is was plain time wasting. Clearly Desmond doesn’t like it. I’m not a great fan either, but I disagree with the article all the same.

Desmond quotes various pundits/commentators to support his own views:

Quoting Ronnie:

O’Sullivan compared his old rival to a “boa constrictor” on Eurosport in his ability to tighten his grip on opponents with balls welded to cushions and Murphy left frozen in some sort of snooker Siberia.

Selby is keeping balls tight on the side cushion,

But he overlooks the fact that Ronnie actually admires Selby for being able to play that way, and that his advice to Murphy was just to do what himself had done last year in the World’s semi-finals to avoid being trapped in Selby’s game.

Quoting Steve Davis:

Davis – who was hardly the life and soul of the party himself back in the day – rather cruelly compared Selby to a villain from the Harry Potter canon of fiction called the Dementor, a sort of grim reaper figure. They are said to “glory in decay and despair, they drain hope and happiness out of the air around them” which pretty much summed up Selby’s mightily effective, but soul-destroying dismantling of fellow Englishman Murphy

One for the purists? Most definitely. One to win a popularity contest? Most definitely not.

Mark Selby adequately answered those criticism 

“What’s the point of going out there just to entertain the crowd if you keep losing? It doesn’t make sense to me. Look at your CV,” he said.


Quoting Stephen Hendry

The claws are in and they are in deep, Mark Selby is like a snooker vampire. He sucks all the life and adrenaline out of you,” opined Hendry, the record seven-times Crucible holder.

Stephen Hendry is probably the one who really struggles to see positives in Mark Selby’s game because himself played the exact opposite uncompromisingly.

Also, although Eurosport got all the stick, it’s worth noting that Davis and Hendry don’t work for Eurosport. they work for the BBC. Yet, I didn’t see any criticism aimed at the BBC for those comments and, to my knowledge, no one suggested that they were “anti Selby”.

Quoting Graeme Dott

I don’t think that is a good advert for snooker tonight,” said Dott. “That is just my personal opinion. I don’t like being involved in games were lots of people are actually leaving.


Now those quotes date back to January 2013… people were leaving indeed, but surely, the fact that Ally Pally is a rather isolated place, that it was freezing cold and snowing and that the last busses were about to depart had something to do with it. I would know, I was there, duly missed the last bus and caught the mother of all colds.

Desmond also brings in Judd Trump:

All the players need to do their job and make the sport as exciting as possible

Well, for me, one of the beauties of snooker is diversity and not everyone is “excited” by the same things. At the risk of being branded an “odd ball”, I’m not excited by Judd Trump’s game, and certainly would not watch the sport anymore if we had 128 “Judd Trump” clones on the tour.

And Stuart Bingham:

It was gruelling. It’s tough to lose a close game like that,” said Bingham. “Funnily enough, it’s the same sort of player, time in, time out, who plays slow. Does he do it on purpose or what?
I want a free-flowing game. Everyone knows there was one shot which took three minutes. It’s close to gamesmanship.”

So, regarding this issue, for me the main question is: is it a “Eurosport” view, or a “Desmond Kane” view? And should Eurosport distance themselves from the article, if they think it’s going too far, and doesn’t reflect accurately their position as a brand?

Journalists should have the freedom to express their opinion, as long as they stay factually correct. They are the ones responsible for those opinions. The media for which they work should have the possibility to distance themselves if they think things are going too far. I’m not a fan of censorship. In this case, my sentiment is that this article reflects Desmond Kane’s views, and his only. It’s not a Eurosport issue


Jason Ferguson gives more information about the Turkish Masters

Jason has been speaking to Phil Haigh about the new Turkish Masters

Jason Ferguson gives the latest on Turkish Masters, the upcoming season and possible new events

Jason Ferguson
Jason Ferguson has confirmed a huge first prize at the Turkish Masters (Picture: Getty Images)

The newly-announced Turkish Masters will have a top prize of ‘at least £100,000’ confirms WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson, who is plotting some more events around the Mediterranean in the near future.

After a low-key unveiling of the season’s calendar last week, with a number of gaps with ‘potential ranking event’ one of those gaps was filled in style with the announcement of the new tournament in Antalya at the end of September.

It’s a glamorous destination for the tour, especially after a year of behind-closed-doors action in Milton Keynes, and of the confirmed £500,000 prize fund, Ferguson says at least £100,000 will go to the champion.

It’s a full-ranking, flat draw, 128 players,’ Ferguson explained to Metro.co.uk.The intention is to take 64 players to Turkey, but we’ll hold some first round matches for over there, the world champion and a few others and it will be a minimum of £100,000 first prize.

‘I’m really excited. It’s been two years’ work for me, rumbling along in the background.

‘The promoter, a lovely guy called Tugba [Irten] has pulled everything together and made it work, it’s really exciting.

‘If I could send one message, I urge all players to support this event. This is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world.’

The players appear to share Ferguson’s excitement for a trip to Turkey in September – as long as Covid-related travel restrictions are eased by then – and they could have more appealing destinations to look forward to in the coming months as well.

‘I’m working on a few in this sort of area,’ Jason said. ‘We’ve had a lot of time to think in lockdown.

‘It’s been hard in Milton Keynes, it was great for us there, but we can’t keep going back to the same place. We need to get out and show the world what we’re doing.

‘It’ll be good for the players, good for morale and something to look forward to. I think it’s lifted the spirits a little bit.

‘I’m looking at a few other Mediterranean-style destinations, but it’s all to do with travel and countries opening up again, it’s hard to say too much at the minute.

‘That whole area is booming, the interest in snooker in the Mediterranean is booming and it’s not just ex-pats.

When the 2021/22 calendar was announced there was some concern among players that five slots were filled by ‘potential ranking events’ but Ferguson has allayed fears over these dates in the diary.

Restrictions thanks to the pandemic continue to make things difficult, but whether they take place in the UK or abroad, those gaps in the calendar will be filled.

‘Oh they’re happening, yeah,’ he said. ‘We’re in this difficult travel situation at the moment. We’ve had to hold on as long as we could.

‘Ideally we’d be qualifying for overseas events early, but we don’t know if we can do final stages before the new year.

‘We’re starting off with the Championship League [4-30 July], that’s a good way to get people back playing. Qualifiers for Turkey in the qualifying slot in August.

‘We’re looking at a revised WST Pro series, refining that into a better model.

‘There’s a lot of work to do. It might start gentle with some league-style things but it will gain momentum. We will backfill that calendar, we will fill it up.’

The fact that there will be a few held-over matches gives me a hope that Ronnie will enter. After all he remains one of the most popular players, if not the most popular player and the sponsor will probably want to be sure he makes it to the main venue.

One concern might be the conditions: at the scheduled dates the weather will still be quite hot in Antalya, albeit dry.


Soheil Vahedi about the fate of lower ranked players

Yesterday Phil Haigh published this interview with Soheil Vahedi and it’s certainly food for thoughts.

Soheil Vahedi on scrapping for snooker survival on foreign soil: ‘There’s nothing enjoyable for us here’

World Games 2017 - Men's Snooker Competition
Soheil Vahedi is fighting to survive on the snooker scene (Picture: Getty Images)

Mark Selby lifted the World Championship title earlier this month, pocketing £500,000 for his efforts at the Crucible, but while there are a handful of snooker superstars, there are far more who are kicking hard just to stay afloat in the game.

Soheil Vahedi is one of those players. The 32-year-old from Tehran finished last season ranked number 99 in the world, losing his place as a professional as a result of finishing outside the top 64.

He will be heading to Q School this month in a bid to regain his WST tour card and continue his journey in snooker that has taken him from his native Iran to a new home in Darlington.

With him in the North East are his wife and, as of last week, his son Radine, and while Soheil describes himself as ‘born again’ with the birth of his first child, he admits that life in Darlington is tough.

No,’ he said when asked by Metro.co.uk if he enjoys life there. ‘There’s nothing enjoyable for us here, nothing, absolutely nothing.

‘Snooker players just think about themselves, it all ends in the snooker hall, it all starts and ends in a greeting and a goodbye. On the table, play and go.

That’s what it is. There’s no life here for us really, it’s just snooker and snooker.

My wife is doing well not to moan at me eight hours a day because she has the right to do so. She had a family life, such a good life in Iran, but left all that behind to come here and help me achieve my goal, so I’m very thankful.

With the baby coming, she didn’t want to catch coronavirus, she probably went out of the house nine times in 10 months, just for a walk.

When I leave the house my wife is alone. I couldn’t focus on the table because anything could happen to my wife, I haven’t got family here to help, we’ve got nobody here.

Vahedi paints a bleak picture of chasing a snooker dream thousands of miles away from home, but says he still enjoys the game, even if he has to force himself to do so sometimes.

It is very hard but at the same time, 60-70 per cent I still enjoy snooker,’ he said. ‘Not fully, because of the lifestyle, what’s been happening and matches I’ve lost, but you have to keep the enjoyment, because if you don’t I don’t see a way to improve or win.

Vahedi travelled to Sheffield for the World Championship qualifiers in April hoping to become the first Iranian to appear at the Crucible and with some form behind him after a fine run at the Gibraltar Open in March which saw him beat Mark Williams en route to the last 16.

Things started well as he went 5-2 ahead of Belgian amateur Julien Leclercq in round one, but then disaster struck as he lost the last four frames and fell to a 6-5 defeat.

Soheil admits complacency crept in and it cost him, dearly, as the defeat confirmed that he would drop off the professional tour.

‘I was really gutted,’ he said. ‘This past season I lost maybe four or five matches from being in front or very close matches. Every time I got to that stage of being near the finishing line I was nervous, lost my focus.

I was excited I was going to win, get a little bit of money, all of that helps. I got excited before the game was finished, that was the problem, I needed to stay focused.

That’s experience, not ability, as soon as I start winning a few matches that feeling goes away. I couldn’t believe my eyes, I couldn’t believe it.

After the devastating loss Vahedi sat in his chair for some time rather than leave the arena, seemingly struggling to come to terms with the defeat, but he explains that he was actually talking himself round to a positive mindset.

‘I was thinking, “What happened there? Why did I lose? I can’t keep losing these kind of matches. Now two months off with no earnings, it’s going to be a difficult two months.

But I told myself that I need to be ready, just carry on clawing away, stay focused, don’t give up. If I didn’t do that I might have given up but I told myself I’ve come so far, done everything right, practiced so much, it just didn’t end well.

So I’ve got to carry on punching until everyone else is down. I’m thinking positive, unlike what people might have thought, I was telling myself good stuff, but people thought I was down on myself.

I’ve seen some people run away from the table as soon as they lose, feeling so bad they don’t want to stay there, but I didn’t want to run away from anything and made sure I left the arena with happiness and not anger and all those negative things.’

Other than serving his national service in the Iranian army in 2012, Vahedi has been set firm on a path to a career in snooker for years and is not ready to deviate from that goal.

He has been on tour since 2017 and does not expect the journey to end here.

I dedicated nearly 20 years of my life to this game,’ he said. ‘I’ve never done anything besides snooker so if I leave snooker I don’t know what I’m going to do to earn a living. I’m better at sticking with this and just carry on. Some top players have dropped off tour before and come back.

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Vahedi enjoyed a run to the last 16 of the Gibraltar Open last season, beating Mark Williams, Michael White and Tom Ford (Picture: Getty Images)

‘I’ve done okay, if I’d won the matches I should have won I would have done well, but I didn’t. I haven’t played so bad, I wasn’t terrible, I can win. I’ve beaten so many good players in these four years. Some players don’t win a match in two years, never beat top players, but I have. There is nothing to be upset about, I just need to gather my thoughts, pull myself together and keep working harder.

I thought I was going to win a few matches at the World Championship but the game doesn’t care what you think, it happens, it doesn’t listen to me. But I try my best, never give up.

With just £25,000 earned in prize money over the last season and the disappointment of no earnings from the World Championship, it is not easy to support a young family with no family in the country to help out.

Vahedi explains that he would be taking another job outside snooker, but visa restrictions stop him from doing so.

We can’t work, that’s the problem,’ Soheil explained. ‘Overseas players get visas and come over here, not allowed to work and have no sponsors but have played the game for so long and want to carry on as a professional and being here.

But they cannot work, so that’s not right. They need to find a way so snooker players who come to the UK are allowed to work, for certain hours, in any job.

That’s one of the things World Snooker doesn’t care about. They need to sit and talk about this. They need to find a way to support people so they don’t end up with no money at all. That’s what my request is and I don’t think there’s anybody out there who would disagree with that.

They can definitely find a way because we pay a lot of tax here. If they let us work or find a job for us, we’ll end up playing better, earning more money and paying more tax! We can live a better life and fulfil our potential.

If we drop off the tour and never play snooker again that’s not good for the game. There would be less people wanting to play snooker or come to the UK because they will know how difficult it is.

But if we had support we would say: “Come over here, don’t worry about money too much, if you run out there is support.”

‘You would see more players coming up, but like this, the way it is it’s always the same names in the finals, semi-finals, it’s never going to change.

WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson has rejected this criticism and says that help and support is there if needed, and has indeed been provided in the past.

Statement from WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson

A statement from Ferguson read: ‘In conjunction with the WPBSA, WST goes to significant lengths to help players from overseas to come to the UK to play snooker and to settle here.

‘Soheil has been a professional since 2017 and various levels of support have been available to him throughout the past five years. For example, during the first lockdown, the WPBSA made available financial support to all WST players, which Soheil took advantage of.

‘Soheil has been assisted in gaining a Level 2 qualification as an official WPBSA coach.

‘He currently has a visa as an elite sportsman which is appropriate to allow him to compete on the World Snooker Tour. If he wants to work in a different sector, he would need to apply for the relevant visa. WST and the WPBSA are always willing to give support, advice and encouragement to all players, as the growth of snooker around the world is our greatest ambition.

‘We do not accept the criticism that we don’t do enough for them.’

Vahedi will be hoping to put his snooker struggles behind him at Q School, which starts later this month, as he bids to return to the tour and continue his long and winding journey in the sport.

He has come through the arduous tournament before, winning his card back in 2019 at the first time of asking and expects to again, hoping to once more feel the thrill of success.

Yeah of course I’m confident,’ he said. ‘I try not to let negativity creep in, but I’m very confident. I want to get straight back on, this is what I want, I want to enjoy my life.

It wasn’t easy last time, I had a few tough, close matches, but I came through quickly. I was absolutely thrilled afterwards.

I can understand Jason Ferguson’s frustration as, under his helm, WPBSA has certainly done more than ever to support their players. But that doesn;t change anything to the lower ranked players everyday’s reality, especially those who had to expat to do their job.

This article triggered this reaction by Steve Feeney (Sightright) on Facebook:

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek2021 – is it now time for Professional Snooker to provide lower ranked players with greater financial security to head off mental health issues associated with zero (1st Round losers) / low income?

The Covid pandemic has highlighted how fragile things can be at times and maybe now is the time for our wonderful Sport to show it fully understands the financial stress many lower ranked Professionals are experiencing, the impact this is having on their mental health and take action which is in their power to alleviate this?

As someone with a considerable background in HR issues, once your job is confirmed, you expect a minimum level of pay, even in an Apprenticeship.
A Sport which supports mental health must surely consider the impact low or zero income has on a player who has followed the correct path to become a Professional on the Main Tour.

Pro Footballers get paid when they lose a match or get relegated and this in my opinion should be the same in professional snooker.

When our incredible Sport offers pay at the lowest Professional level it will be far more attractive for young people to consider this career path.

Instead we have many lower ranked players – those recognised as Professionals by the Sport – going broke and that, I feel, can be avoided with relatively small changes #hardfacts #mentalhealthawareness

This is no different to what I have been saying here many times. By playing, they bring value to the tour, to the sponsors, to the venues’ managements, to the broadcasters. They deserve something for it. At the very minimum, playing shouldn’t cost them. Paying them a minimal wage, covering their basic costs when at a tournament would only be right. If it doesn’t count towards ranking, it will not help players who aren’t good enough to stay on tour. This would not be “rewarding mediocrity”, it would be paying them for a work done. No matter how well both player play, and how hard they both try, one of them will lose and that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve anything for their efforts.

Now that Barry Hearn has retired, and not underestimating at all how much good he has done for the game which is immense, I hope that such change will be considered and implemented because the current situation is not right. It would not cost much. It can even be done at no cost by making the prize money structure just a bit less top-heavy. It would not make a huge difference for the top players but it would be massive for the lower-ranked ones and the young.

Just as an example, based on the 2020 prize money distribution for the UK Championship:

Winner: £180000 instead of £200000 >> £20000
Runner-up: £75000 instead of £80000 >> £5000
Losing Semi-finalists £35000 instead of £40000 >> £10000
Highest break: £10000 instead of £15000 >> £5000

Would be enough to give all first round losers £625, without additional cost for WST/WPBSA.

Andrew Norman the happy coach

We are facing the longest break in snooker in years, at least when it comes to live snooker on television or stream, unless some of the coming Q-School matches are being streamed.

During that forced break I will try to find and share some slightly different, interesting snooker related stuff.

So, here is the first one: Andrew Norman speaks about the joy and fulfillment he finds in coaching and in helping young aspiring players.

Former professional Andrew Norman excited to take on head of snooker role at Stratford Sports Club

ATTRACTING a new generation to the sport while trying to find a future world champion – that’s what Stratford Sports Club’s new head of snooker hopes to achieve.

Andrew Norman
Snooker player Andrew Norman at Stratford Sports Club. Photo: Mark Williamson S40/5/21/7662

Former professional Andrew Norman starts his role on 5th June and is already looking forward to introducing youngsters to the sport, as well as coaching regular players of the game.

It’s an exciting chapter for the 40-year-old Bristolian, who told the Herald that being a coach can be very rewarding when seeing players he’s tutored go on to bigger and better things in the world of snooker.

Norman landed the role at Stratford Sports Club purely by chance when working as manager and head coach at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester.

“What I didn’t know was at the time I was giving coaching lessons to one of the sports club’s committee members,” said Norman.

“We formed a friendship and he responded really well to the coaching. About two months or so later I had a phone call saying that I had been recommended by that committee member to spearhead the sports club’s snooker operations.”

Norman, who peaked at 42 in the world rankings, retired from the game five years ago and is always on the search for the next champion.

Having had a number of positive conversations with the committee at Stratford Sports Club and club members, Norman cannot wait to get started.

I gave up snooker due to family reasons and the fact the cost of being a professional was not enough to support my family due to the era I was in,” he said.

After I gave up snooker I came back to the ‘real world’ with a normal job and decided to become a professional coach.

I’ve always wanted to find a future champion because it inspires me to help others.

Juniors are good to concentrate on as they’re the future, but it’s also rewarding to help the average club player.

“I have been talking with the sports club and a few players there and can see there are fantastic facilities available for people to use.

“The tables are of championship standard and everything about the club shows it is very well run. The club is a professionally run outfit and is one I am proud to represent.”

Although finding a future champion is the ultimate dream for Norman, he stressed being able to attract a new generation to the sport was much more important.

I’ve done summer clubs in the past for children who did not know what snooker was because it isn’t televised as much as the likes of football, cricket or tennis,” he said.

Children then see the tables and are amazed at just how big they are. However, it amazes me just how quickly they grasp the hand-eye co-ordination – their enthusiasm to learn is brilliant.

Playing snooker gives children the chance to learn about angles and mathematics, as well as manners, etiquette and sportsmanship.

Norman added: “I love coaching and seeing those I coach go on to bigger and better things in the world of snooker.

I’ve now realised through coaching that it’s much harder to watch people who you have coached play than playing myself.

To see children or anyone go from two to three years barely holding a cue to making a century break gives me such a buzz.

To get phone calls and texts from parents telling me how well someone I have coached is doing just spurs me on to do even more for them.

Looking back on his time in the professional game, Norman has no regrets but admitted he wished he could go back in time to give his younger self some all-important advice.

At my highest I was number 42 in the world in 2007-08. I’m not sure why I did not get any higher as I have played snooker all my life and practised the right things,” he said.

I was very dedicated. Looking back I was probably too dedicated as I trained too hard.

Snooker has brought me a lovely life and some amazing experiences. I’ve played everyone on the tour apart from Steve Davis, who I’d love to play against.

I look back on my time as a pro with no regrets as I have had some lovely moments. My biggest achievement was getting to the last 16 of the 2006 Grand Prix, where I lost to Neil Robertson in the last frame on the black ball.

That was the year Neil won the Grand Prix and look where he is now.

Looking back, I probably did not have the mental toughness to get better.

Now that I’ve got an older head on my shoulders, I wish I could go back in time and tell the younger me how to handle myself and how to get more out of my game.

When the South West Snooker Academy closed down in 2019, Norman got himself a job at the local Co-op as a goods-in manager but kept his foot in the game by continuing his private coaching at a small snooker club in Clevedon.

But with the opportunity to now spearhead Stratford Sports Club’s snooker operations, Norman is looking forward to the next stage of his career.

“Stratford Sports Club is really investing into the game and to be able to coach there is a fantastic opportunity,” he said.

“There’s the chance now for Stratford to get its name on the snooker world map.

“The sports club is a hidden gem and is clearly set on bringing the game to a higher standard, almost like a centre of excellence.”

He added: “There are some fantastic facilities here with brilliant people behind them. Everyone is welcome to come down and experience snooker for the first time.

“These snooker facilities are a brilliant thing to have on your doorstep and I am looking forward to seeing as many people as possible at Stratford Sports Club.”

I have known Andrew for many, many years. He’s a dear friend and a lovely man with a lovely family. He absolutely loves his sport, and he loves coaching. Nothing will please him more than seeing one of his students progress and reach their goal, no matter how humble this goal might be. He will help you and encourage you and be genuinely pleased with your progress  no matter how small the progress and no matter how clumsy and untalented you might be. If you love your snooker he will put all his heart in helping you, always patient, always smiling, always positive.

The closing of the SWSA  came as asurprise and a shock to Andrew. I’m glad that he has found another place where he can do what he loves and does best.

If you live in the area and you know a kid who wants to learn to play but is shy for whatever reason, don’t hesitate to direct them or their parents at Andrew. Young girls in particular are often feeling unwelcome in clubs. Gender prejudices are still very much alive unfortunately. Andrew will make sure that they are treated with respect and seen as “players”, not “girls”.