Ronnie and Mark are Hungary bound and Ronnie is Thailand bound…

As the 2023 “traditional” Championship League is in its last day, Ronnie and Mark Allen prepare themselves for two days of exhibitions in Budapest. Phil Haigh reports on the coming Magyar Gala

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Allen attract huge crowds as they head to Hungary for exhibition

Phil Haigh Wednesday 1 Mar 2023 4:12 pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Allen are on their travels this weekend (Pictures: Getty)

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Allen will be delighting Hungarian snooker fans this weekend when they face off at a giant sold out exhibition in Budapest.

The Hungarian Snooker Gala is back for another instalment after starting in 2017 and has hosted a number of the top names in the game, including Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, Mark Williams, John Higgins, Steve Davis and Jimmy White.

The Rocket and the Pistol will be making their first trips to Hungary, though, and unsurprisingly the world champion has attracted big crowds.

The exhibition event is played over three sessions at the Gerevich Aladar National Sports Hall in Budapest, which has a capacity of 1,500.

The event sold out within 24 hours of tickets going on sale, so there is no shortage of interest in snooker in the Hungarian capital, with 4,500 set to enjoy the event.

O’Sullivan and Allen will play each other in shoot out frames and against local players, with the two top players then playing a longer match against each other later on.

There have been five editions of the event since 2017, but for three years, meaning organisers are thrilled for the gala to return with the sport’s biggest draw.

The organisers explain: ‘The event series started in March 2017 and was created by three dedicated snooker fans, Gábor Wéber, Balázs Csurgó and Gábor Buzás. 

From the very beginning, the intention of the organizers was to promote the sport of snooker and to present Hungarian talents.’

Ali Carter and Neil Robertson played in the first event in Hungary (Picture: Magyar Snooker Gala)

It is a jet-setting for days for the Rocket who will head to Thailand after Hungary to play in the Six Red World Championship in Thailand, with his campaign there starting on 7 March against Jimmy Robertson.

Also in O’Sullivan’s group are Thai legend James Wattana and rising star Stan Moody.

I have been at three of the previous instalments of the Magyar Gala, including the first one, and it’s always a great, well organised and well attended event. Amongst the “Hungarian talents” I witnessed was a then very young Bulcsú Révész. He was about 11 years old and very small…

If you intend to go, the old Ghetto of Budapest is a great place to stay, and the Spinoza Cafe is a place to visit. If you’re lucky, you may even enjoy/discover the Klezmer music. Anyway…

That the event was sold out within 24 hours doesn’t surprise me. Snooker is well appreciated in mainland Europe, and Ronnie in particular is “big” amongst the fans. This is a market that is waiting to be further developed if only WST were ready to “depart” from their UK centric model. Yes, they do organise events in mainland Europe, but, other than the former PTCs, those events don’t feature the full “field”. Qualifiers are held in the UK. That and the structure of the ranking system, force mainland Europe young talents to go and live in the UK, as ex-pats, or to travel back and forth all the time. It’s not a level playing field. A true “European leg” of the tour, early rounds included, would certainly help. The interest is there.

Ronnie’s withdrawal from the Championship League may be because it would have been quite a hectic schedule with those two events to follow and he’s qualified for next season Champion of Champions already, having won the tournament this season. Mark Allen withdrew from the 6-reds event.