The “Vetoed Interview” – An Interesting Analysis By Graig Edwards and David Hendon’s views

As you would expect, the discussions around Ronnie “vetoed interview” go on and divides opinions.

Craig Edwards who wrote the piece about how the money is shared raises questions about Jason’s Ferguson’s roles and whether his position might be weakened by possible conflicts of interest.

Here is Graig Edward’s piece

Is there a “Conflict of Interest” at the top of professional snooker?

Published by Craig Edwards on March 25th, 2023.

Craig Edwards

Jason Ferguson is a man of many hats

He is chairman of the WPBSA and director of WST but realistically, is it possible for Jason Ferguson to do both?

My first recollection of Jason Ferguson must have been in the late 80s or early 90s when he travelled over from Nottinghamshire to Grimsby to play at Ray Edmonds Snooker Centre for the day.

Ferguson made a strong first impression, he was a precise positional player with a solid technique, very polished and accomplished for his age. There was no surprise, that he had a very respectable career as a professional until retiring young in 2004. Those first impressions undoubtedly, stood him well after his playing career ended. He became the Mayor of Ollerton and Broughton at the remarkably young age of forty, elevated no doubt by his chairmanship position of the WPBSA (World Professional, Billiard and Snooker Association) that he had held since 2001.

His tenure in that position was re-elected in 2010 when Barry Hearn assumed ownership and in 2022 it was confirmed he would continue serving until 2026.

What is Jason Ferguson’s role?

Considering Ronnie O’Sullivan’s allegations and the suppression of his press conference that he made them in, we ask the question, who is Jason Ferguson now and his role in the sport?

We know by 2026, Jason Ferguson’s tenure as Chairman of the WPBSA will have run for a quarter of a century.

What does the chairman of the WPBSA do? In the WPBSA case, Ferguson’s role is to preside over and protect the players interests, those players own the shares to the company. The WPBSA is owned by and the ruling body to the current 128-professionals. They are responsible for ownership of the rules and governance of the sport.

WPBSA own a 26% share in World Snooker Holding Limited as highlighted in my article from March 8th, titled Profit Increase of 150% for World Snooker shareholders in 2020/21. That profit share was defined at the time of Barry Hearn’s acquisition in 2010 for 26%, to protect and allow the players the opportunity to approve or deny any changes to ownership to World Snooker. A further part of the conditions was that Jason Ferguson stayed on in his role of chairman.

Having recognised who, I once briefly knew as a snooker professional, we can now see that Jason Ferguson has resided in his role of chairman or chairperson of the WPBSA for over twenty years. That provokes certain questions, as being a chairman is not really a defined career and Ferguson’s renumeration in the role can only be described as modest by today’s standards.

It is believed Ferguson was responsible and influential in the growth of snooker in the Far East (China) pre Covid-19 and he obviously had assumed the role of commercial director successfully at times which asks the question, was any finder’s fee renumeration applicable? To profit from such fine work in growing the sport should be reasonably expected by all members. That does mean that all business interests relating to snooker need declaring for honest transparency to the WPBSA players. With the current environment of growing resentment around professional snooker, the rank and file, would be within their rights to demand for a new level of transparency at the top of the game. Currently, the governing body’s actions appear shrouded in a smoke and mirrors culture.

That culture was never more evident than recently, when World Snooker held a short-notice players’ meeting in Leicester to address the shareholder dividends amongst other things on the 15th of March. No zoom links were allowed to players or their representatives who could not attend and in the modern world there can be no good reason for not doing so.

Then next frustrating lack of transparency from World Snooker came in an article that utilised my betting insight on March 15th, into the question of the suspension of Mark King. With my expertise and contacts around the betting industry, it was obvious that things were happening, yet WST chose to wait until the eleventh hour on March 18th before his scheduled match at the WST Classic to inform everyone, including the player, my sources tell me.

A chairman’s remit is to preside never dictate!

A chairman holds the reins of power for their members which is why any potential “conflicts of interests” need viewing by the members they preside over.

When Ferguson took on directorships in World Snooker Limited and World Snooker Holding Limited, it begged the question at the time and particularly now considering recent events, was there and is there a “conflict of interest” with his role to watch over the players rights? This is, of course, the original remit for Jason Ferguson as WPBSA chairman upon taking the role over twenty years ago.

Who would approach WST if there was strike action planned?

Theoretically, when Ronnie O’Sullivan hinted the players should strike if the membership of the WPBSA were to agree with the seven-times World Champion, it would be Ferguson’s job to approach World Snooker on their behalf as their elected WPBSA chairman. Is it possible that position then becomes a clear “conflict of interest?” Those sorts of conflicting issues are logical reasons for the recent surreptitious climate surrounding communications with the membership and for keeping players meetings behind closed doors and at a very short notice.

It can happen by chance or design that a good chairman who has been in the job for a long time, becomes dictatorial with their usage of power which could be the attributable reason for the quickly arranged players meeting.

Players have long felt appeased by Ferguson’s platitudes when they have aired their concerns, as Stephen Maguire discussed with respected snooker journalist, Phil Haigh which can only be contributing to the growing resentment within the game.

We have seen the growing power of social media and Ferguson is well versed in using those platforms which in the current climate is another area of concern for the players!

The fact of the matter is, the longer World Snooker and Jason Ferguson stay quiet the more questions are going to be asked.

Can the “Rocket’s” press conference be snooker’s saviour?

Ronnie O’Sullivan has long been thought of by many as bigger than the sport no matter the adage, that no one is too big. That’s because snooker’s global growth has been slow since he won the UK Championship at the precocious age of seventeen. In the years since, “the Rocket” has been the mainstay figure at the top of his sport for his adoring public and ever-growing cult following. Like it or lump it, there is truth in the fact that Ronnie O’Sullivan is too big for the sport and WST chairman Steve Dawson’s argumentative riposte in an unusually rare statement, after the attempted media blackout was a huge tell, that the seven-time World Champion hit a nerve.

Now, not only is he the sport’s saviour on the baize, could he inadvertently save his sport by doing something, the masses below him dare not, speak out!

Snooker fans know that occasionally over the years the sport’s talisman Ronnie O’Sullivan is prone to the odd out-of-line comment but, in recent years “the Rocket” has become a great ambassador. The encouragement and genuine guidance O’Sullivan have given the stars of the future has been much appreciated as Ben Mertens recently pointed out in an interview with Phil Haigh.

Ronnie O’Sullivan: DerHexer, Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-sa 4.0

Fans have enjoyed the “Rocket’s” honest punditry with Eurosport and his gentlemanly behaviour when defeated in several finals in recent years. Remarkably for the sport he has also retained the ability to win two of the last three World Championships.

O’Sullivan has taken offence to what happened with the players meeting and used his right to freedom of speech, and he at least, can speak out. Remember, those players below him in the world rankings with bills to pay, often talk about how frightened they are to speak out and how their social media comments are policed in a rather draconian fashion by World Snooker.

Could it be that Ronnie O’Sullivan’s comments from his press conference kick start a process that can save snooker from the growing crisis engulfing the sport and the fanning of the flames that a lack of transparency brings?

Only time will tell, but the professionals who must earn a living from the dwindling prize pools would do well to arm themselves with the facts as to whether their chairman’s remit is being met contemporaneously at present, so they can be the masters of their own future.

And David Hendon also shared his views in the snooker scene podcast (16:30 – 28:40). Basically he sees rights and wrongs on both sides. And just like me in my “open letter” he states that the European market has not been developed as it should have been.

The coloured backgrounds and “underline” bits are my doing: those are the part I found particularly relevant. But I won’t comment further. Please read, form your own opinion and share if you feel like it.

I will just add one thing: The media went to find Mark Selby who attended the meeting and got quotes out of him criticising Ronnie for not attending. Mark has not attended all similar meetings in the past. He went to this one, that was held in his home town. Would he have gone if he had to travel to London for such, having to play on the next day in a tournament that was important for him to secure his spot in the Tour Championship? Somehow I doubt it.

Interesting too is this on twitter by Hector Nunns…

5 thoughts on “The “Vetoed Interview” – An Interesting Analysis By Graig Edwards and David Hendon’s views

  1. It seems fairly certain at this point that, if Ronnie plays in the World Championship this season, he’ll be playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder…

  2. No way there should have been a £3.5 million to shareholders when it was abunduntly clear that revenue would be falling due to Covid. I dont care who the stakeholders are, that should have been obvious.
    ##note… this is my personal view and is not representitive of any players i may or may not know.##

  3. I’m not totally convinced by the Craig Edwards piece – I’m a little concerned about the balance there. There are of course ‘conflicts of interest’ whenever people have multiple roles, and ‘transparency’ is usually the mechanism for keeping things in check. But things can’t always be done transparently – Craig Edwards has criticised transparency in the match-fixing saga, even though there are obviously some things which are ‘sub judice’, or subject to official (or even legal) protocols. There will always be limits to transparency so to criticise lack of transparency is often fatuous: just journalistic rhetoric.

    But seriously, there is no point in trying to highlight problems in snooker, by causing even bigger problems. This current ‘debate’ has just descended into a mass slanging match, with everyone just targeting personal attacks on each other. The problem we should be addressing is why does nobody have ANYTHING POSITIVE TO SAY about snooker, or any ideas about snooker’s future? There is a complete lack of any vision, initiative or courage.

    These journalists need to start moving the debate forward. They need to create articles (and podcasts) talking about tour structures, tournament formats, ranking systems, prize money allocations, ways to engage younger players and fans. They provide the public face for snooker, and they have just as much responsibility as the governing bodies (who have a difficult job) to help snooker in these troubled times.

    • Lewis, I have just added Hector Nunns reaction to the whole thing. The very idea that one director tried to ban him from WST events is revealing. He’s been covering snooker in the papers for 20 years plus, he loves the game, he had to fight very hard with the media editors to get things through more often than not. It needs to be exposed.

      • Yes, the Hector Nunns comments are more substantial, and there are indeed issues there. I have also now listened to Dave Hendon’s podcast, and I do agree 100% with his sentiments. Indeed, he said at the beginning of this year that he hoped for less ‘negativity’, so I can only assume he is very dismayed and disappointed by what’s been said.

        I’ve tried my best to remain positive: I’ve travelled to 5 professional tournaments this season, booked 8 days in Sheffield for the World Championship qualifiers, and done the website.

        But, as I said, it’s too easy to get caught up on slanging matches, and I want to see the debate moved on.

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