Golden Turkey awards are the ones you don’t really want to get, but, hey! Here they come anyway …
Permanent fixture: the Shoot Out being a ranking event.
No need for an explanation.
Matchroom Golden Turkey: the terrible quality of the streaming
For long periods this season, those who watched the streaming were “treated” to a psychedelic “trip”, interpersed with brief spells of normality and episodes of blackout. That’s when the “service” was actually available … It seems that the cause of this nightmare was the poor quality of service “offered” by the company Matchroom was working with. The problems seem to have been addressed now but it was a really bad “trip” …
Media Golden Turkeys: yes they get two…
Before I deliver the media Golden Turkeys, I want to stress that we had a lot of really excellent media coverage all season, be it in the written press or in the form of podcasts. Special mentions here for Dave Hendon, Hector Nunns, Phil Haigh and Nick Metcalfe. So, thank you for that guys. Nevertheless here come the Turkeys:
- For the constant use of the word “shock” whenever a top player loses. Those who watch snooker for many years will know that the standard of the lower ranked players is much higher than it used to be. There may still be a few weak players on the tour, but not that many. Top players are human. They have bad days. We all do. They may struggle for motivation at times. We all do. At times, the very demanding schedule takes its toll on them. All that is NORMAL, it’s not a “SHOCK”.
- The “Should or stay or should I go” Crucible saga oveshadowing the World Championship at times. This has been a theme since the 2022 Masters. Yes, the Crucible theatre has shortcomings: it’s too small, it’s cramped, it’s not particularly adequate when it comes to hospitality. We know that. But when the World Championship is on, the focus should be on the action, not on the venue. And my feelings of frustration are amplified by the fact that I suspect that all this fuss was somehow artificial, that it was orchestrated with the help of some top players, for a purpose: preparing this announcement.
World Snooker Championship consider plans to build a new 3,000 capacity ‘Crucible 2’
World Snooker Championship organisers are looking into a proposal to build a new 3,000-seat arena to stage the tournament alongside the Crucible.
Jason Ferguson, the chair of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, is in talks with architect James Burland, who has designed a purpose-built venue with a bridge linking it to the event’s existing and iconic home.
Burland’s idea is for the new development to act as a ‘Crucible 2’, with matches spread across there and the old theatre like Wimbledon’s Centre Court and No1 Court.
The plan comes amid recent criticism from a number of high-profile players about the limited capacity and facilities of the 980-seat Crucible, which has hosted the World Championship since 1977 and has a contract until 2027.
‘This is a concept and an idea to try and grow this event in some way,’ Ferguson told Sportsmail.
‘We have no intention of moving from Sheffield. It is our home. But we know we really need to be looking at around 3,000 seats for the World Championship now.
‘Events like the Masters are growing so much and the danger is that the World Championship starts to look smaller, which it really can’t because it’s the crown jewels of what we do.
‘This is not the only route but it is an initial concept that James has come up with. Can the Crucible be a dual site?’
Burland, along with entrepreneur Peter Bainbridge, first proposed a ‘Billiardrome’ almost 20 years ago when Sheffield was fighting off bids to host snooker’s premier event from rival cities.
It is those plans that have been revived and reworked after Ferguson recently renewed contact with Burland, who he invited as a guest to last weekend’s world final.
‘He and I had a discussion a few months ago and we have rekindled the relationship and started discussing what it could look like,’ said Ferguson.
‘He has been up here for a few days and speaking to people, building up a picture of what the perfect outcome looks like. His initial sketch has got some great ideas in it.’
Burland, who designed Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium with a team at Arup, said: ‘When we looked at it years ago, we were thinking it would be the new venue, but this is different now – this is working with the Crucible.
‘The second venue doesn’t have to be a replacement, it can be an adjunct. It makes the whole event easier to run, with more facilities.’
Burland’s proposed site for the building is Sheffield’s old Roxy Disco, which is now the O2 Academy, with a bridge to the Crucible over Arundel Gate.
The main auditorium would be round and divided into three tiers – upper and lower spectator levels, with corporate and media seating in the middle.
Burland’s concept includes a snooker museum at the spiral entrance, a giant screen wrapping round the outside of the building and TV studios on the roof.
The ground floor would be the practice area and could also stage the World Championship qualifiers.
‘I quite like the idea you are scrapping it out to get a position in the colosseum above,’ said Burland. ‘Then the Holy of Holies is to win and go across the bridge to play.’
The 3,000-seat arena could convert to 1,500 seats with folding tables for conferences. The venue could also host music concerts and other sports, such as boxing and table tennis.
During his recent visit to Sheffield, Burland conducted a study of the Crucible atmosphere, speaking to legends including Steve Davis and John Parrott, to feed into his design.
‘These guys have 40 years of experience in the game,’ said Burland. ‘Who am I to say I know what you need because I’m an architect?
‘History is hugely important. You don’t want to lose what the Crucible has got, just make it better.
‘That is why I am looking at it from the point of view of the atmosphere first. I know I have to do my research on atmosphere to get this right.
‘In a pilot study I did, there are three descriptors that come out – drama, history and conviviality. A mixture of these need to be in every part of how this thing works.’
Former World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn also revealed last month that initial talks had been held with Sheffield City Council about building a new Crucible. But Burland is the only architect to have so far come up with a design solution.
‘At this stage, it’s very early discussions but we are coming up with a concept of what would be a huge benefit for the city and a true international destination,’ added Ferguson.
‘There is a huge road to go down with this. That would involve what is possible from a planning perspective, how can it be financed, who are the partners in it.
‘We will have a meeting to try and move the discussion on with Sheffield City Council. They are very open-minded about what could be done.
‘I think a feasibility study will throw up the answers and I think that would be the next phase.
‘We are not panicking about moving. We are fixed for the next five years. But the question is, within that period, can we come up with what the future looks like?’
Don’t get me wrong, the idea is interesting and it’s an important topic. It’s the timing that annoys me, and the way it was brought forward.
WST/WPBSA Golden Turkey: the structure of the season’s calendar
This season started with a procession of “low key”, short format events. The Championship League and a number of qualifying events. It really dragged for far too long before it felt like the “proper” season actually started, and then it became hectic for those at the top. The whole feeling was amplified by two factors:
- Only four tables were used. There was a positive side to this: they were all streamed, and provided the streaming was actually working, fans were able to watch all matches. But it meant that the action was “diluted”. There was no intensity and it was quite uninspiring at times.
- The Home Nations were split into “qualifiers” – without the top 16 players – and event proper. This decision surely pleased the broadcasters but it’s not great for the lower ranked players, and in particular the younger ones. For them it means weeks on of qualifying matches, in front of a spare crowd, if any, follwed, for most, by weeks of inactivity. They don’t meet the top guys, they don’t play in a “proper” arena, there is not much of an atmosphere. It’s not giving them the experience of a “proper” event, with cameras on the floor, a big crowd, the media around. It’s not helping their developement. Stuart Pettman, in his book (*), explained how playing most of their matches in cubicles was putting lower ranked players at a huge disavantage whenever they managed to get to the main venue. In a way, we are heading back to that now. Surely this is going backwards?
You know my views: there should be NO qualifiers, the early round should be played at or near the “main” venue for ALL events. It’s absurd that someone like Simon Lichtenberg – who is from Berlin – had to try to win two matches in England for the right to play at the Tempodrom. He din’t manage. Yet, surely, his presence would have boosted local interest. Whenever this question comes to the fore the answer is that it’s cheaper this way for most of the players … understand: the UK players. This is plain UK bias by WORLD snooker. OK, I won’t start on that again (for now).
This season the calendar looks quite similar, although there are “noises” about a possible event in Hong Kong this summer (the source is Marco Fu, hence reliable). The ongoing absence of the Chinese events is of course problematic and can’t be helped. That’s nobody’s fault. But surely, there is room for some improvements.
(*) IF you can find that book BUY IT, READ IT. It’s one of the best books ever written about snooker. It’s not a self-serving biography, it’s the down-to-earth reality of a snooker journeyman described with a good pinc of bittersweet humour.