2023 Crucible – Day 2 – Four winners, Two 146s and Ronnie about the Netflix Documentary and Snooker

Four more players booked their places in the second round yesterday

They are Neil Robertson, Luca Brecel, Jak Jones and Stuart Bingham. All detailed results are on snooker.org.

Neil Robertson beat Wu Yize, the 19 years old debutant, by 13-3 and it wasn’t a case of Wu playing badly as he had two great centuries of his own. Neil though was scarily good and scored very heavily fron start to finish. Making a 146 is a rare feat, making two in one match … well I don’t think it ever happened before. This is, of course, the current HB of the tournament. Ryan Day, who has made a 146 in the qualifiers must feel sick! Neil is now the only player to have made 147, 146 and 145 at the Crucible. In his post-match interview he asked if he has now got the complete “140+ collection” and he was devastated to learn that the 144 is missing… I’m sure that he will try to put that right ASAP.

Neil’s 146 in frame 11, shared by Eurosport on their YouTube channel.

Stuart Bingham beat David Gilbert by 10-4 from 3-1 down. I didn’t watch the match but I didn’t expect it to be that one-sided, especially considering that Gilbert had breaks of 60, 90 and 121 to lead 3-1 at the first MSI. It seems though that Gilbert is going through very difficult times both on and off the table. This is what he had to say to “the Sportsman” after the match, and it’s pretty worrying:

It is what I deserve really. I have to go and sort my life out, I have been far too big a mess for far too long. I will never be able to play snooker again the way I am. I need to go away and do a lot.

Stuart probably thinks he played really well but it was like a club player versus a decent player, I was making it far too easy for him. Unless I get into my rhythm and get going, then I am alright. If I don’t, I haven’t got it in me to pot a tricky ball or play a safety. My confidence and belief isn’t there.

I don’t know, I don’t know what is going to happen when I walk out of it, I have no idea. I miss being able to play snooker to go a good level and compete with the big boys, it is disappointing, but who knows.

I don’t even know if I will bother again, I don’t know. I don’t mean that in a bad manner, or sound arsey, I have just got far too much going on.

I don’t know when I will look at my cue again .Who knows? I might put everything back into it. I might never play again. No idea. A pivotal time in my career? No, my life. I have bigger things than snooker to think about.”

Luca Brecel beat Ricky Walden by 10-9. Luca, who in 2012 had become the youngest player to play at the Crucible, had played in the famous theatre 5 times in previous years and had never won a match. He put that right yesterday by beating Ricky Walden by 10-9 in a hard-fought contest. Ricky had trailed by 6-9 but came back to force a decider scoring breaks of 93 and 71 in the process. Luca took the match with one winning visit in the decider, a good 84. This was a difficult match for me to watch, as I know both of them personally. Luca, of course, is Belgian like me, and I want snooker to further develop in mainland Europe, but Ricky and his manager, Lee Gorton, have done a lot for me when I started taking pictures on the tour some 13 years ago.

Jak Jones beat Ali Carter by 10-6. Lewis had predicted that no debutant would win this year but Jak Jones had other ideas. Of course, Jak is not a kid, he’s 29. He’s a bit of a late developer but he’s a very, very solid player with a good temperament. This is what is needed at the Crucible. Still it’s a bit of a surprise given Ali’s experience – he’s reached the final at the Crucible twice before – and the kind of season he had, winning the German Masters and getting to the final of the Players Championship. Well done Jak!

A very honest interview here by Ronnie

This was shared by Sporting Life on their YouTube channel. Ronnie is speaking to Hector Nunns here. Hector is one of the good guys in the media room, a hard worker, a true snooker fan and someone Ronnie trusts.

In this interview, Ronnie speaks about the Netflix documentary that he should be able to watch today for the first time but will be different from what initially planned, about his life and snooker’s place in it , about his love for his sport, about his new book, Steve Peters and finding the right balance.

It’s truly endearing interview and one that didn’t and won’t get much publicity probably, unlike those given in moments when frustration and negativity took the better of him. We all have such moments, we should remember that. We all have those moments when, no matter how much we love our kids/partner/pet/job, we had enough and just want to forget about it all and flee to Mars.

This is the Ronnie I know and like.

The “Vetoed Interview” is out

After Ronnie’s first round win at the 2023 WST Classic last week, there were no quotes by Ronnie in the very short WST report about his match. Rumours over social media were that Ronnie’s interview had been vetoed.

Jason Francis, who manages Ronnie and Reanne Evans, confirmed to me that Ronnie had spoken to two journalists, one of them being Hector Nunns, the author of the piece I share hereafter.

Everyone will have their opinion, but here are a few things I want to stress before you read it:

  • The WST/WPBSA spoke person claims that Ronnie chose not to attend. This is not entirely true. Ronnie and Reanne were not due to play on the first day of the tournament, they had not planned to be in Leicester on that day. Jason Francis, who manages both, asked for them to be allowed to attend by Zoom rather than in person. That was refused.
  • Ronnie claims that he has been carrying the sport for 20-30 years and it IS true. There is no doubt that it has taken a lot out of him mentally, even too much at times. Judd Trump himself said it recently: for over 20 years Ronnie is always in the limelight, he’s always expected to win, if he doesn’t its because “he didn’t try”. Everything he says or does is scrutinised and judged. Judd is right and those who claim that Ronnie didn’t do enough for the game don’t understand what it takes to play and succeed for so long under that kind of pressure. He’s not a business man, he’s a player.
  • WST/WPBSA claim that the prize money has grown … for their UK events. Well, that’s a big part of the issue: the game is far too UK centric. It calls itself “WORLD” snooker but it IS massively UK centric, England centric even. You can’t expect big international companies to get behind a sport that basically looks like a national league with a few international invitees. Of course covid has limited what they could do, but that’s over now. Of course, China’s ongoing isolation policies have not helped either. But mainland Europe has been open for quite some time and the Women’s game has traveled a lot. So? One of WPBSA’s answer in the past has been that the UK centric organisation – especially that of the qualifiers – is cheaper for the majority of the players who are British/Irish. That’s true but that is also a big part of what causes the issue because it actually keeps it that way by making it harder, more mentally taxing and more costly for everyone else.
  • The way that money that is there has been used has prioritised the shareholders over the players. Matchroom basically “owns” the sport but since Barry Hearn has retired I feel that snooker has not been their priority. Eddie Hearn has never been interested in anything but boxing, the very dynamic and capable Emily Frazer is 100% behind the development of pool and has even been successful in attracting some of the top snooker players to “her” sport.
  • Jason Ferguson is someone I like. He’s been a player, he understands their needs, he genuinely cares for them and the sport, he understands the game but he’s not a business man. If anything, he is too nice maybe. He needs someone at his side who is a businessperson.

The whole situation reminds me of the start of the 2009/10 season: it has the same “feeling”. Discontent, players not allowed to speak their mind … Then it lead to Barry Hearn taking over snooker and initiating big changes. What will happen now? I don’t know but changes surely are around the corner.

So, here it is as reported by Hector Nunns, one of the two journalists Ronnie spoke to :

O’Sullivan launches most explosive interview yet ripping into snooker’s bosses

Reigning and seven-time world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan has ripped into his sport’s bosses in an explosive attack over the current state of the professional game

Ronnie O’Sullivan has ripped into snooker bosses in an explosive rant about the state of the sport(Image: PA)

Ronnie O’Sullivan has launched a devastating attack on the state of snooker and those running it – claiming the sport is in “the worst place it has ever been”.

In under a month the Rocket launches his bid for a record eighth world title at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. The world No.1 last year equalled Stephen Hendry’s mark of seven crowns amid hugely emotional scenes at the iconic venue as he beat Judd Trump in the final.

But this year’s blue-riband tournament will take place under the shadow of a match-fixing hearing also next month that sees 10 Chinese players suspended and charged with a range of offences.

There is also widespread discontent among top players over the calendar, cancelled tournaments and reduced overall prize-money levels post-Covid with China events not yet back on stream.

And recent efforts by the governing bodies to stop players speaking out appear to have been a red rag to O’Sullivan – who states the situation is “beyond a crisis”. The game’s No.1 box office star has even encouraged players to go on strike to force major change.

He said: “Listen, snooker is in a bad place. It’s in trouble. Forget Turkey [Turkish Masters recently cancelled]. This needs at least another £50million a year just to make it a proper tour.

When you look at the number, it’s bad. When you look at £10million prize money for 25 events across the year for 128 players, it’s never going to be good. It needs at least to triple that to make it work. Maybe you do need some proper people like Liberty [in Formula One] or someone with the vision to bring it up to date.

You look at the people actually managing the game, they are not the brightest sparks either. So you can’t see them digging themselves out of it. But you don’t have to be Einstein. It is probably in the worst place it has ever been. The image of the sport, it’s a bit like a pub sport now.

Look at some of the tournaments. The Shootout. Some of the venues we play at. It’s lost its charm of what it used to be. It’s cheap. If they can be honest enough with themselves, maybe the people that run the game need to say: We have taken it as far as we can.

If they really have the love of the sport they would hand it over to somebody else that had higher ambitions. It is probably as bad as it has ever been also because of the betting scandal.

There are a lot of players I know who are really unhappy and frightened to speak out because they will get fined. They are told that. The game is struggling, if you look at the numbers it is in a bad way. But we all want good for the game.

I can’t do more. I have carried the sport pretty much for the last 20-30 years. It’s not one player. It’s the sport, it’s not a massive sport. At Wimbledon it is probably £50million for the one event. You look at golf, minimum first prize of £1.2million and the top players don’t even turn up for that.

We are playing for the winner gets £80,000 most weeks and the runner-up gets £35,000. It’s bang in trouble. Mark Allen has done well this year, Judd Trump did well a couple of years before that. A few others do alright. But for the rest, there is nothing there.

A lot of these players are tempted by crumbs. If you give them a few crumbs, and they say, I will play, keep them quiet, keep them on board. But the only way to get change is for the players to say, we are not playing until you listen to us.

“If you want us to play in this tournament for six days then this is what we expect. This amount of prize money. Two weeks for this amount of prize money. Nothing will change until the majority of the players go, you know what, we are not playing.”

World Snooker have sought to reassure O’Sullivan and the tour that there are causes for optimism, with a plan in place that will kick in post-Covid as the Asian markets re-open.

A spokesperson said: “Last week we held a constructive meeting with the players, unfortunately Ronnie chose not to attend, where we set out our vision for the future of snooker and addressed issues which are important to the players.

The WST state that O’Sullivan chose not to attend a recent “constructive” players’ meeting (Image: Getty Images)

The outcomes were positive, and players were encouraged by the progressive strategy set out by WST. WST is working diligently across many of the areas Ronnie has raised and is achieving considerable success as a result. We have smashed records on ticket sales for the majority of our events this season, and our global TV and digital audience is bigger than ever.

Prize money for our UK events has increased since the start of the pandemic. Post COVID we are committed to returning to China in 2023 and optimistic about that prospect, which would put our tour in the strongest position it has ever been.

We are working with the leading agencies in sports, whose clients include the Premier League, FIFA, Ryder Cup and The Masters. Our long-term strategy is based upon best-in-class analysis and driven by data. We would always welcome Ronnie to share his ideas and discuss our plans and strategy directly with WST.”

The “underline” highlighting some bits in the above text are my doing. Opinions expressed are my own, and my own only

Phil Haigh spoke to Ashley Carty who will be back on Tour next season

Ashley Carty has not been invited to the 2023 World Championship qualifiers and, like Balvark, I find this very surprising. Also surprising to me was how Ashley, who qualified for the Crucible in 2020, plummeted down the rankings. In this interview he explains what happened

Ash Carty is back on the World Snooker Tour after traumatic time set him back

Phil Haigh Wednesday 8 Mar 2023 7:53 pm

Ashley Carty
Ash Carty picked up a crucial win at the Q Tour Playoffs on Sunday (Picture: Andy Chubb/Sheffield Sport)

It was a painful end to his previous stint on the World Snooker Tour, but Ash Carty is back and feeling better than ever as he prepares for another crack at the professional circuit.

The Yorkshireman won the Q Tour Playoffs on Sunday, beating Farakh Ajaib, Hamim Hussain, Ross Muir and then Florian Nussle in the final to earn himself a two-year tour card.

Still only 27 years old, Carty had four years on tour before falling off last year and is thrilled to bounce straight back, especially without having to go to the notoriously difficult Q School.

I’m absolutely buzzing,’ Carty told Metro.co.uk. ‘It’s relief more than anything, to do it so soon, the last thing I wanted was to have two, three, four years off tour. It’s nice to be back on within one season

Avoiding Q School was the main thing, to avoid that at all costs because it’s just absolutely brutal, anything can happen and it’s just not a nice tournament to be in.’

Carty looked to be making progress on the professional tour, reaching the Crucible in 2020 with some fine qualifying wins over the likes of Jimmy Robertson and Rob Milkins before putting up a good fight in a 10-7 loss to Stuart Bingham on the sport’s greatest stage.

From there it was somewhat surprising to see him drop off tour last year, but after failing to come through Q School, he hinted at off-table troubles.

Ash tweeted in June last year: ‘Gutted to have fell off the tour and not gained my place back on

The last 6/7 months for me away from the table have been awful to say the least, thankfully things have been getting better slowly and I can start to focus fully on snooker again & to try and get back on the tour.’

Speaking about that tough time now, Carty explains that snooker was far from his chief focus as his father’s life was in jeopardy for months at the time.

My dad was seriously ill during my last season on tour, thankfully he’s getting better now but he was in hospital for about four months,’ Ash explained. 

He had Covid, he was in intensive care for two months, then he had a stroke which put him in hospital for another two months. 

For the first two months I wasn’t sure if he’d make it or not, so snooker took a back step completely. I was still turning up to tournaments, I actually got a couple of good wins, I beat Maguire and a couple of others, but I wasn’t practicing at all really, just an hour a day while that was going on.

‘I was going to tournaments and I wasn’t sharp, I wasn’t thinking about snooker at all, it was a really tough time for me. Thankfully now he’s on the mend slowly and I can concentrate on snooker a lot more now, but then I didn’t want to play snooker at all.’

The really tough time off the table brought bad habits into Carty’s practicing which he didn’t get rid of until very recently when his friend gave him a talking to.

With his dad’s health improving, Carty needed to get back to the grind and has been putting in the hours on the table and on the road, which has paid off already with his Q Tour Playoffs victory.

I wasn’t practicing, I got into a bad habit and not even doing good practice when I was in the club,’ he explained. ‘I was doing that for probably a year and it was only three months ago that my friend who runs the club where I play had an honest chat with me

He told me I wasn’t practicing hard enough and it hit me a bit. I went home that day, thought about it and realised he was right

I changed a lot from then, I’ve been doing a lot of fitness, getting up at 6am and going for a run, my friend has been coming to the club and picking balls out for me, that’s really helped. I feel a lot more sharp, doing intense practice, maybe two hours non-stop, not going on my phone after doing a line-up, that’s no good.

That was just after the Q Tour had finished. I finished 13th and I thought, “I’m a lot better player than this, I need to sort myself out if I want to get back on tour.” Since then I’ve just felt really good, in myself as well. I’ve noticed a big difference in my game, feel a lot more confident and sharp.

Even my time on tour, I wasn’t practicing as hard as you have to to get to the top, which I’ve realised now. I’ve got to improve a lot more to get where I want to be, but it’s been a good kick up the backside.

With a reinvigorated attitude to practice and some wins under his belt, Carty is feeling good about his game again and is ready to take on the tour once more.

‘I do feel confident,’ he said. ‘This season off the tour has helped a bit. If you’re on the tour and not winning many matches then your confidence is rock bottom

I feel a lot more confident now, I think it’s done me good having a year off the tour, winning matches and getting confidence back. I’ve proved before what I can do, it’s just doing it more consistently.

Carty is also taking inspiration from his good pal Joe O’Connor, who he came up with in the junior ranks and has now watched him shine this season, reaching his first ranking final at the Scottish Open.

This season he’s been unbelievable and that’s inspired me,’ said Ash. ‘I’ve been good friends with him for years and we’ve always been at a similar level

As juniors I was even a little bit better than him, so to see what he’s doing, it’s inspiring. I know I can do that as well.

That’s where I want to be, I want to be back at the Crucible. I want to do what Joe’s doing, getting to quarters, semis, finals of big ranking events.’

Before he returns to pro status next season, Carty heads to the European Amateur Championships in Malta this weekend as he looks to add some more silverware to his collection and return to the tour in style.

First of all I want to wish Ash the best, on tour of course, but in his private life as well.

Next… a word for the conspiracy theorists who believe that covid was just a cold, measures to attempt to contain the spread of it were unnecessary and the vaccine did nothing: read what happened to Ash’s father.

Ash is only 27. His father is unlikely to be a frail old man in his 90th, is he? Yet he spent two months in intensive care.

The same happened to two close friends of my husband. One, in his early 60th, eventually survived, but one of his lungs is completely destroyed. The other one died. He wasn’t even 40. He was a professional sportsman (track and field).

Covid is NOT a cold. Covid can cause clotting that destroys your organs. Covid can fool your immune system that then attacks your own body. The more recent strains are milder, more contagious but milder. That’s how viruses evolve. What happened with COVID had happened before, most notably with the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. Then as well the virus evolved from an animal disease.

The confinement measures were necessary at the start of the pandemic, until the virus got better understood and adequate treatments were found. That said, it wasn’t necessary for them to last as long as it did. And completely isolating elderly, fragile persons for months – many with dementia – was inhumane. They needed to be protected but they equally needed human contact and love. There is a balance to be found in everything and it wasn’t found. Same when it comes to visiting very ill people in hospitals, or attending one’s child birth.

The vaccine doesn’t prevent those who get it from catching the disease, nor does it prevent from transmitting it. It does however protect from the worse symptoms and hence reduces both mortality and morbidity. The global stats prove it did that. The vaccine against the flu works similarly. All my kids got the vaccine against measles -it was mandatory at the time in Belgium – and all three still got the disease but in a milder form without pulmonary complications. That’s what it’s about. It doesn’t suppress the disease but it helps preventing the worse case scenarios.

In the aftermath of the 2023 Six-Reds World Snooker Championship

About the event

I really like the 6-reds format and if the shoot-out is ranking I can’t see why an event under this format can’t be. It presents the players with different challenges to what they face in 15 reds snooker. The frames are quick – most of them anyway – and that makes this format suitable for events with an initial round-robin phase. This could help new and young players as they would be guaranteed to play several matches against opponents of different strength and various “styles” and it wouldn’t drag as much as the ranking Championship League or the forgettable “Pro Series”.

In this particular event, most matches were streamed one way or another: on ES/Discover+, on YouTube and on Facebook. It can be done. It should be done for all events, on all tables.

A massive effort was made by the Thai organisers to ensure that all players felt welcome and valued. Although the main focus was on table one, all the tables were in the same arena, in the central space, with seats all around the “playing area”. Such setup contributes to a good atmosphere. It also ensures that no player feels “relegated” on that “last table”, far away from the limelights, where only a man and his dog sit watching … if you are lucky”.

About Ronnie’s performance

Ronnie came to play in the 2023 six-reds World Snooker Championship, having never played under that format before. He really wanted to do well but lost in the last 16 to Ding Junhui, the eventual Champion and a player who has lot of experience with the 6-reds format and had a lot of success in this event before as well. Ding has been in the final three times, winning it twice. Basically, up to and included the semi-final, he bossed everyone.

Hereafter are excerpts of an article by Eurosport. It contains quotes from Ronnie, about the event, about snooker in Asia, about his friend James Wattana, and about the way he currently sees his future. The latter of course may change over time, as, for him and all of us, life and new experiences constantly shape our dreams, expectations, hopes and capabilities.


Ronnie O’Sullivan has revealed he would like to finish his playing career in Asia after reaching the last 16 of the Six Red World Championship in Bangkok with a 5-2 victory over Stan Moody on Wednesday. He also praised former world No. 3 James Wattana for his “massive” contribution to the growth of the sport in Thailand. Stream the Six Red World Championship.


The six reds is scary, the frames are over so quick,” he told reporters. “One mistake and it is game over. You get someone in a snooker with the reds open and they are bang in trouble if they don’t get it right.

I wanted to experience it and I am very glad I came. I plan my year well in advance, there can be priorities, and everyone has the chance to invite me to their tournaments.

I can’t go to them all, but I am happy to be here this year. I’d like to finish my career off in Asia, snooker is more popular here than anywhere, Thailand and China, Hong Kong.

In Covid it was impossible but my sponsors like to see me in Asia – they are the No. 1 events they want me to play in. So in the future I may skip events in the UK to play the majority here.”

O’Sullivan also praised three-time ranking event winner Wattana for raising the profile of snooker in his home country.

I played James out here in his peak,” he said on WST. “I played him in a match and we had to stop for the adverts and he was on every advert, Nescafe, Thai Airways, and I was sitting there thinking this geezer is unbelievable.

I’ve never ever hung out with anyone so famous. When he was in his prime, he couldn’t go anywhere and needed a security police escort to go everywhere.

He’s been massive for Thai snooker. Thailand snooker is very strong. They’ve got some fantastic players and that is because of James and what he has done in the game.

Not everything is great in Asia, far from it, but I can understand why Ronnie likes it so much over there. The life is very different from what it is in Britain. The smells, the colours, the food … everything stimulates the senses, for good and sometimes, truth to be said, for not so good. It’s much closer to the mediterranean way of life than to what people experience in the north of Europe. As Laila, gently teasing Ronnie, once put it: “He’s so Italian!”.

You only need to watch the first minutes of this video shared by Jason Ferguson to understand what I mean. I starts with a stroll through the local open market.

The first minutes of this video show the open market near the venue

The reception players get in Asia, the hospitality, the decorum around the events … all of it make the experience very special. The players are made to feel valued. I’m certain that Ronnie was extremely disappointed to lose early.

Here are some more snippets – quotes and images – shared by Jason Francis:

Jason is already thinking about a series of exhibitions with Ronnie around Asia…

Snooker News – Unhappy Maguire and WST Classic

Following the announcement that the 2023 Turkish Masters was canceled, there was discontentment amongst the players, understandably.

Stephen Maguire was particularly vocal as he spoke to Phil Haigh:

Stephen Maguire launches scathing attack on snooker bosses

Phil Haigh Friday 27 Jan 2023 12:04 pm

2019 Betway UK Championship - Day 11
Stephen Maguire is frustrated with the current state of the World Snooker Tour (Picture: Getty Images)

Stephen Maguire has taken aim at snooker bosses, claiming the game is dying and those running it are not doing their jobs after the recent cancellation of the Turkish Masters.

It was announced earlier this week that the event in March has been scrapped due to funding problems, which has left a significant gap in the calendar for some players.

Anthony Hamilton explained that he currently has no matches scheduled between the Shoot Out this week and World Championship qualifying in April, a situation a number of players find themselves in if they haven’t qualified for the German Masters or Welsh Open.

With the string of big-money Chinese events still not back on the calendar due to Covid, players feel less busy now than they have done for years.

World Snooker Tour have confirmed that the Turkish Masters will be replaced on the calendar, so there will be more playing opportunities, but until that competition is announced, Maguire is sceptical.

The former UK champion played in the Shoot Out this week for the first time since 2015 and did so because he sees a lack of opportunities to play elsewhere.

The Scot says he spoke to people at the top of the sport at the start of the season and was made promises over tournaments, which he feels have been broken.

I have to because there’s no tournaments,’ Maguire told Metro.co.uk about his rare Shoot Out appearance. ‘I don’t want to play in it, don’t like it, but there’s no tournaments coming out. I can’t be selfish for my family, so I need to play in the tournament.

It’s dying, the game’s dying right in front of us. I spoke to the suits at the start of the season and they promised me there’d be tournaments on. Turkey was always a question mark and it’s turned out to be cancelled, so the suits aren’t doing their job, which isn’t good for the players

They might find a replacement, but it’s against time now. Is it going to be a best-of-five, a league, a PTC? It’s not good enough, definitely not good enough

I spoke to [WST chairman] Steve Dawson, [WST president] Barry Hearn, [WPBSA chairman] Jason Ferguson, I told them I didn’t want to speak to the press, I wanted to speak to them man-to-man, which I did. 

They all gave me the same answer: we’ll look after you, the tournaments will be there, don’t worry

The tournaments aren’t there, so there’s something wrong at the top of the game. It’s worrying for players. It’s not good enough for most of the tour. I’ve either been lied to that things will be ok, or they’ve just not been able to fulfil it. Something’s wrong.

I’ve never spoke to you like this, but the game’s dying right in front of our eyes. They have to do something, there’s something wrong. If somebody doesn’t do their job, in any walk of life, they get their ass kicked or they get the sack.

Players down the rankings who have failed to qualify for the German, the Welsh and the upcoming Players and Tour Championship are facing a lengthy spell without earning any prize money.

Hamilton explained that his last prize money came at the UK Championship in November, and while no more has arrived because he has lost matches, Maguire says this is not a problem that only a few players are facing, but many on the professional tour.

Am I going to tell my kid, or anyone tell their kid, to play snooker because it’s a good living? Is it a good living? Of course it’s not,’ he said. ‘We’ve put loads into the game, 30 years of my life, I love the game. But we’re not getting any help at all here.

There’s people out there ranked 28-29 in the world, looking at getting jobs. People from the outside think, “what a life you’ve got.” How can you be 20-odd in the world of supposedly a global sport, looking at getting a job, something’s wrong. The game’s dying, there’s no other headline.

[Waiting] January to April for a wage. That’s not a professional sportsman. The guys who are playing in the World Championships in April, they’re going to be playing their first or second rounds to pay back the loans they’re getting [a £20,000 guaranteed for each player this season]. Is that a professional sportsman? It’s just not.

The 41-year-old is not only frustrated with the reduced playing opportunities, but the nature of some of the tournaments now, with qualifying for the Home Nations events away from the main venues, in anonymous cubicles in front of a handful or no people, weeks before the actual event.

Streaming these qualifiers represents a revenue opportunity for World Snooker Tour, but Maguire questions where that money is going, he also wonders how the Turkish Masters can sign a five-year deal and be cancelled after just one event, similar to the announced 10-year contract for a Saudi Arabia Masters which has never emerged.

They’re making good money out of streaming, that’s why they fill the calendar up and it looks busy from the outside,’ he said. ‘They’re making money from the qualifiers, they’re getting their wages, where’s the money going? 

They’re cutting tournaments. There’s supposed to be contracts out there. Turkey was a five-year deal, Saudi was 10 years and they just cut them like that.

I played a couple of qualifiers, I can’t even remember where they were, it was pointless, it was daft. When the tournament came up, I couldn’t remember who beat me. It wasn’t me being horrible, it was just that far away. It’s rubbish.

On his own solution to the problems, Maguire says: ‘I’d cut the tour. Snooker is not big enough and I’ve said it for years, its not big enough to sustain 128 players. There isn’t 128 players out there who can play on the main tour. That might sound horrible, but there isn’t.’

Maguire has had a very poor season by his standards, sitting 58th on the one-year ranking list, so disappointing results have certainly contributed to how little he has played this season.

The other end of the scale, though, is Mark Allen who is top of the one-year list having won the UK Championship, Northern Ireland Open and World Grand Prix this season, earning over £500,000 in prize money.

The Pistol does not think the tour should be cut in numbers, but does agree with Maguire that the calendar should change, with all players going to main venues, as much as possible, and qualifiers replaced by other events on the calendar.

On Maguire’s idea to cut the tour, Allen said: ‘We disagree on this because I think if you cut the tour, the sport as a whole looks worse. A global game, with only 64 pros? I think that looks terrible

But all this qualifying in front of streaming cameras in Wigan, Barnsley, Leicester, that’s awful. Get everyone to the venue and then fill the calendar up, those qualifying weeks, put new events on. I’m not an advocate of cutting the tour, but you can’t have people playing the Welsh Open in Leicester, you can’t do it, it’s no good for the UK events.

I’ll be perfectly honest, I’ve been extremely selfish and unaware of what’s been going on because I’ve been doing alright. I know I’m in the Players, the Tour, but I talk to Jordan [Brown], to Stevie, who’s not had the best of years, and I know there’s not a lot

I think I’m super busy because I’ve been doing alright, but if you’re not doing alright, you’re struggling, there’s no in between. I don’t think there’s any in between.’

WST have responded to Maguire’s comments, stating that the Turkish Masters will indeed be replaced and that in many ways snooker is in very good health, given the challenges that emerged from the pandemic.

A World Snooker Tour statement read: ‘We share the player’s frustrations in the loss of the Turkish Masters from the tour this season. This event will be replaced, with further details be announced shortly.

We have recently enjoyed a fantastic resurgence in snooker’s popularity in the UK, smashing ticket records for many of our events. In January alone we have seen massive crowds at the Cazoo Masters, an 81% increase in fan attendance at the Duelbits World Grand Prix, and we have sold out the final day at the BetVictor Shoot Out. This pattern is repeated on every event in the UK this season, with previous attendance records broken. People are choosing to spend their hard-earned money by coming to watch snooker.

Our television viewing audience is also thriving. A peak of 2.5 million people watched the Masters on BBC, while last week’s World Grand Prix final on ITV peaked at nearly 1 million.

This is a very tough economic climate. The pandemic led to us being unable to host events in China, which previously made up 30% of the prize money available on the tour. But despite the global recession, we have been able to drive up prize money for the other events over the past two seasons. This means that when China events do return to the tour, we will be in a far stronger position than we have ever been.

The prize money available to the top players remains extremely high; Mark Allen has earned over £500,000 from ranking events alone this season. We appreciate that lower down the rankings, players have lost certain earning opportunities. But prize money for ranking events which all 128 players can compete in is now 71% of the overall total, compared to 68% pre-pandemic.

The opportunities are there for everyone on the tour – there are 12 ranking events this season which all 128 players can compete in, not including the Duelbits Series which are for the top performers on the one-year list. Snooker is a meritocracy and rewards those who are winning matches.

The initiative this year to provide a prize money guarantee to all tour players, ensuring that they have at least £20,000 over the season, has given players the security of knowing that they have an income and they can budget their season around this.

We are proud to have built a sustainable business where prize money is growing, where players have a guaranteed income and which captures the imagination of the fans.

Unfortunately this narrative doesn’t fit the story being peddled by a few players who have experienced the highs at the top of the sport in the past and now choose to criticise snooker rather than play a part in our journey forward.’

That may seem extreme from Maguire, but it’s not and many players will feel the same. It’s also honest from Allen to admit that he may have been blind to it because he’s doing well. And I understand WST position although the bit I have put in bold is at the heart of the issue: the prize money distribution is far too top heavy.

A replacement for the Turkish Masters has since been announced:

New WST Classic Added To Snooker Calendar

A brand new world ranking tournament, the WST Classic, will be staged in Leicester in March.

The 128-player knockout event will have total prize money of £427,000 and a top prize of £80,000. Open to all tour players, it will run from March 16-22 at the Morningside Arena.

This tournament, which replaces the Turkish Masters, will be best of seven frames from the first round up to the quarter-finals, then best of nine for the semi-finals and best of 11 for the final.

The top 64 players will be seeded in the draw, based on the seeding cut off after the Duelbits Players Championship, with all other players drawn at random.

WST Chairman Steve Dawson said: “We are pleased to add the new WST Classic to the calendar and to provide an extra earning opportunity for the players. Last week we had to cancel the Turkish Masters after several months of trying to get that event over the line, which was disappointing for us and the players. It was always our intention to replace that event and fill the space in the calendar.”

Details of whether the event will be open to fans, as well as how to watch online, will be announced soon.

It’s not fantastic, but it’s better than I expected.

As a side note… when Ronnie said, a few times, that he wouldn’t advice his kids to play snooker professionally, he was crucified by fans and fellow pros alike, most notably by John Higgins. Stephen Maguire here is saying the same … and no one bats an eye. Their motives are the same though: they don’t see their sport as providing financial security unless you are are the very top. Every parent wants the best for their kids, they don’t want them to struggle to make ends meet every month. The fact that Ronnie is at the top for nearly 30 years doesn’t mean he’s blind to the situation faced by lower ranked players.

An interesting perspective on the current match fixing situation

Yesterday, scanning the snooker related news as usual, I stumbled upon this piece by Al Jazeera

Don’t stop at the somewhat click-bait title. This piece actually does put the current issue into perspective and it also confirms some of the things Ronnie and Judd hinted at when they said that snooker will survive.

Match-fixing scandal threatens to turn snooker’s boom into bust

Concerns grow over the influence of organised crime in snooker, following charges against 10 Chinese players.

Andrew Wilks

Chinese snooker player Zhao Xintong prepares to take a shot at the table
The 2021 UK championship winner, Zhao Xintong, is among 10 Chinese players suspended over match-fixing allegations [File: Craig Brough/Reuters]

Match-fixing charges against 10 Chinese snooker players in the biggest corruption scandal to engulf one of the world’s fastest-growing sports has left fans and organisers fearful for the future of the game.

The players, including 2021 Masters champion Yan Bingtao and that year’s UK championship winner Zhao Xintong, have been suspended as part of an investigation into claims of “manipulating the outcome of matches for betting purposes” by the integrity unit at the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA).

The revelations have raised questions about the influence of betting syndicates often run by organised crime gangs on a sport with a growing global following.

The rise of snooker – a game invented by British army officers in India in the 1870s – has largely been fuelled by a growing interest in the sport in East Asia, particularly China.

Once largely confined to the United Kingdom and Ireland, where it came to attract large TV audiences in the 1980s and 1990s, snooker’s wider growth was driven by the emergence of Asian players, such as Thailand’s James Wattana and Ding Junhui of China, whose 2005 China Open victory at the age of 18 kick-started a Chinese snooker boom.

The sport is now played by more than 120 million people worldwide and attracts TV audiences of 500 million. It is striving to complete its image transformation from a game played in smoky back-street halls by vying for inclusion in the 2028 Olympic Games.

Snooker underwent a transformation from about late 2009 when Barry Hearn took control of the professional game,” said Marcus Stead, editor of Snooker Scene magazine, referring to the businessman credited with popularising the sport in Britain in the 1980s who became the WPBSA chairman two decades later.

The game was at a low ebb but there’s now a lot more snooker being played. If you go back to the so-called golden age of snooker in the 1980s, most of the players were from Britain or Canada or a few from South Africa.

It’s now much, much more global. The sheer number of players in China is absolutely enormous. You’ve also had growth in continental Europe and Australia.”

While some have questioned whether this growth has left snooker open to match-fixing, experts in sport integrity say it is at no greater risk than many other sports.

Snooker is not the most at-risk or most affected sport,” said Tom Mace, director of global operations for integrity services at Sportradar, the sports technology company that monitors betting and worked on the WPBSA investigation.

Because of the scale of this current action and the WPBSA’s strict zero-tolerance approach, where you’ve got 10 players from China being suspended, it may appear that snooker is the most at-risk or affected sport compared to others but from our perspective that’s not the case.

It currently sits seventh in our all-time list in terms of matches detected per sport. The likes of football, tennis, basketball, table tennis, ice hockey all have higher numbers of suspicious matches detected. Snooker is not exceptional in terms of match-fixing risk.

Sportradar’s 2021 annual report on betting corruption and match-fixing recorded 903 suspicious matches in 10 sports, across 76 countries – a record over the 17 years it has monitored sports integrity.

The company, which has its headquarters in St Gallen, Switzerland, estimated these matches generated some 165 million euros ($180m) in match-fixing betting profit. As the world’s most popular sport, football accounts for 694 suspicious matches, or 77 percent of the total, followed by basketball with 62 and tennis with 53.

This means one in every 200 football matches monitored by Sportradar in 2021 was suspected of being influenced by match-fixing.

The propensity for betting-related corruption is closely tied to the level of gambling associated with a sport. So while snooker’s risk is not as high as some other sports, “it does have a very consistent and very strong global betting coverage”, according to Mace, largely due to the fact that it is popular in places where there is a well-developed betting culture.

As an individual sport, snooker is vulnerable to fixing as a single player has a greater influence on a match than in team sports. While match-fixing is a global phenomenon – Sportradar’s report found Europe accounted for more than half of fixed matches – there is a perception that Asian snooker players touring far from home are susceptible to approaches from criminals.

The 10 players who’ve been suspended are all young Chinese players,” said Snooker Scene’s Stead.

They’re thousands of miles away from home, a lot of the time their English isn’t particularly good, they’ve only got each other for company and they’re not being managed particularly well.

That leaves them very vulnerable to being approached by well-connected people from the Chinese criminal fraternity,” added Stead.

The implication has been that these young Chinese players had been told there would be unpleasant consequences for themselves and their families if they didn’t do as they were told.

An independent hearing will evaluate the evidence against the 10 players, who face lengthy bans from the sport if they are found guilty.

There are also concerns about the effect the scandal could have on the sport’s following in its largest market.

Yan Bingtao is spearheading a generation of Chinese players at the moment who are said to be the future of the sport, so this news comes as quite a disappointment, mainly to [fans in] China who follow these players and hold them in high regard,” said Shabnam Younus-Jewell, host of the BBC’s Framed podcast.

Over in China, because snooker is such a massive sport out there – they absolutely love it, kids play it in schools – there will be a real feeling of dread there about what’s going on,” she added.

This feels like a huge investigation, one of the biggest carried out by the WPBSA, and there’s a feeling – people have called it a dark day but it could be more than that … It’s a really difficult and quite a murky situation.”

Many acknowledge that the WPBSA has done much in recent years to tackle corruption, with clear rules and methods for informing the authorities about approaches to throw games.

If you are approached you’re supposed to inform them using a confidential phone line or email address and the procedures make it very clear that if you are found guilty you will face a very long ban, which will ruin your career,” Stead said.

However, the disparity in earnings between those at the top of the sport and those who fail to progress in tournaments is thought to be an element driving corruption. Of the 130 players on snooker’s main tour, fewer than half earned more than 40,000 pounds ($49,600) prize money last season, from which travel and accommodation costs must be paid.

For risk profile, we look at the betting coverage versus the wealth of the athletes, how much money players earn,” said Mace.

In snooker, the top 16 are fairly comfortable but if you look at the prize money distribution and players’ earnings, once you’re outside of the top 16 or top 32, these players are not making huge money.”

We live in a dreamworld, if we think we can eradicate [corruption] completely, there still needs to be a greater investment in this on a global scale. It’s now on the agenda and there are not many sports that don’t recognise it as something they need to tackle and invest in but still the money needs to improve,” Mace added.

Highlighting some parts in bold/underline is my doing.

Again a lot of the quotes above hint at a strong possibility that some, if not all, of the currently suspended players might have been forced into this, as Ronnie and Judd both suggested in their reactions immediately after the suspensions were announced.

They are easy preys for crooks when they arrive in the UK. Just imagine … you’re a teenager, you barely speak the language, your family is on the other side of the world. The money you earn, if any, may seem to be a lot at first, and there are many temptations around, nice clothes, restaurants, maybe the casino … But the cost of living is much higher than at home. Before you know it, you have debts. And there comes a fellow citizen, an adult, who lives in the country for while, offering to help you… It’s easy to fall in that trap.

Of course we have to wait for the full investigation results. Meanwhile, I think that we should keep an open mind. I have read things like ” But how??? Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao have been earning good money from the sport!”. That’s true, they have earned good money in the last couple of years, but maybe the facts that they are investigated for are older than that, dating back to a time when they weren’t earning much.

Two titles in Two Days for Mark Selby and Spoty Nomination for Ronnie

It’s been an extraordinary couple of days for Mark Selby. On Sunday night he became the 2022 English Open Snooker Champion and yesterday, with his brother in law, Gareth Potts, he won the Ultimate Pool Pairs Championship.

This was reported on the Ultimate Pool Twitter account:




In a final where the standard was simply out of this world, Gareth Potts & Mark Selby end the reign of Karl Sutton & Shaun Chipperfield to become the new Ultimate Pool Pairs Cup Champions!

And they shared some images too…

Congratulations Mark and Gareth

Mark seems to be in a much better place than he has been for a long time and this is also shows in this piece by Hector Nunns:

Mark Selby: Ronnie O’Sullivan Is Snooker’s Lionel Messi

Mark Selby was inspired by football’s GOAT Lionel Messi to one of his most cherished title triumphs. 

But the four-time world champion admits that it may prove impossible to snatch that tag from the great Ronnie O’Sullivan in his own sport. 

World No2 Selby, 39 managed to catch Argentina and Messi winning a World Cup final for the ages between sessions of his 9-6 victory against Belgium’s Luca Brecel at the English Open in Essex.

And just as it was a highly emotional night for Argentina’s captain, so there were tears shed by Selby and wife Vikki after a tough year that saw him publicly and bravely confront mental health struggles. 

Selby said: “I have always been a Messi fan over Ronaldo. I know Ronaldo is also brilliant and has done it in several different leagues, while Messi was mainly at Barcelona

But if I was paying to watch one of them, I’d pick Messi over Ronaldo. I think it’s fair if he is now seen as the GOAT, and the greatest of all time. That is my personal choice

And I suppose for anyone else to be even in the conversation as the GOAT in snooker you’d have to break all of Ronnie’s records. 

So that means seven or eight world titles at least, the debate until now has been between Ronnie and Stephen Hendry, though most would now say O’Sullivan

It is Ronnie for me. And look, even if I won 10 world titles I am not one for saying ‘It’s me’. That’s for others. But while I am still playing, I’ll be trying to win eight.

It was brilliant with the timings to also get to see the World Cup final before the evening session. I went back to the hotel to get some food and it was on there

I think I watched it from about 75 minutes onwards. And I was cheering on Argentina because Messi is an absolute legend – the greatest player I have ever seen in my lifetime

Knowing that was his last World Cup, I would have been an absolute tragedy for the player he has been if he was never to have won it

So I saw him get the third, then France level at 3-3, and then the shootout. That is like a deciding frame in snooker – the toss of a coin.” 

For a generation Scot Hendry, despite the unparalleled raw talent possessed by the Rocket, would often come out on top in polls to decide who was the all-time best in snooker. 

But May’s most recent world championship win for O’Sullivan in Sheffield, seeing him equal Hendry’s seven Crucible crowns, has seen the world No1 inherit that mantle in the eyes of all but a very few observers for all his many other achievements. 

O’Sullivan has also won the most ranking titles, the most majors in the game’s Triple Crown series, made the most maximum 147s and scored the most centuries. But Selby remains one of very few still with any realistic chance of getting to seven in the blue-riband tournament. 

On his English Open success, Selby added: “From where I have come from and where I have been, it is incredible really to be back winning and enjoying my snooker and my life

Winning was all about what it stood for and represented, rather than the trophy itself. And to have Vikki and our daughter Sofia there was extra special. Vikki has been to the well and back with me

It may well have been harder for her than me, at least I was getting help and speaking to the right people. She didn’t always know what to say from day to day

But people didn’t always think about her and she was suffering as much as I was. It was hard for me to do that because I couldn’t even support myself. 

So she has been an incredible rock and I honestly don’t think I’d be here without her. She told me years before I did that I should seek help. But I thought I could do it on my own.” 

Mark is not the only one to recognise Ronnie’s status in snooker and in sport in general. After being snubbed several times when he should have been – most notably in 2013 – Ronnie finally got nominated for SPOTY:

Sports Personality of the Year 2022: Gadirova, Mead, Muirhead, Stokes, O’Sullivan, Wightman up for award – BBC Sport

54 minutes ago

Sports Personality

(Clockwise from top left) Jessica Gadirova, Beth Mead, Eve Muirhead, Jake Wightman, Ben Stokes and Ronnie O'Sullivan
(Clockwise from top left) Jessica Gadirova, Beth Mead, Eve Muirhead, Jake Wightman, Ben Stokes and Ronnie O’Sullivan
BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2022
Venue: MediaCityUK in Salford Date: Wednesday, 21 December Starts: 18:45 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app

A shortlist of six contenders has been announced for the 2022 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

The nominees are gymnast Jessica Gadirova, footballer Beth Mead, curling’s Eve Muirhead, cricketer Ben Stokes, snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan and athlete Jake Wightman.

Voting will be open during the show on BBC One on Wednesday, 21 December.

Gary Lineker, Clare Balding, Gabby Logan and Alex Scott will present the 69th annual awards.

The programme, filmed at Media City in Salford, will celebrate 12 months of incredible sporting action.

The public can vote by phone or online on the night for the main award, with full details announced during the show.

Other awards to be announced include Young Sports Personality of the Year,Team and Coach of the Year, Unsung Hero and the Helen Rollason Award.

Eight-time sprinting gold medallist Usain Bolt will be honoured with the Lifetime Achievement award, while football World Cup winner Lionel Messi is the World Sport Star of the Year.

Sports Personality contenders

Jessica Gadirova

Age: 18 Sport: Gymnastics

A rising star of British gymnastics, Gadirova claimed floor gold on the final day of the world championships.

It was the English gymnast’s third medal at the event in Liverpool after winning silver in the team event and a historic bronze in the all-around competition.

That was Britain’s first world all-around medal and Gadirova became only the fifth British gymnast to be individual world champion.

Gadirova, who took floor gold and team silver at the European Championships, is also on the Young Sports Personality shortlist along with skateboarder Sky Brown and diver Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix.

“I’m just so shocked to be in that shortlist with such incredible athletes and to be recognised for my hard work and achievements – it’s incredible,” she told BBC Sport.

Beth Mead

Age: 27 Sport: Football

Mead won the Golden Boot and was player of the tournament as England claimed a historic triumph at Euro 2022.

The Lionesses lifted their first trophy at a major women’s tournament with a 2-1 victory after extra time against the eight-time champions Germany at Wembley.

“It was a proud moment for me and a surreal moment, walking out of that tunnel and going to play football in front of a home crowd,” Mead said of the final played in front of a record 87,192 crowd.

“The day in general, the noise in general, the atmosphere was honestly something I’ll never feel or experience again.” 

Mead scored six goals and contributed five assists during the tournament as she bounced back from the disappointment of not being selected to represent Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics a year earlier.

The Arsenal forward was voted BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year 2022 and was runner-up in the Women’s Ballon d’Or, the prize awarded to the world’s best footballer of the year.

Eve Muirhead

Age: 32 Sport: Curling

Muirhead led the Great Britain women’s team that won curling gold at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

As skip, she claimed an elusive gold medal in China at the fourth time of asking, the pinnacle of a career during which she became Scotland’s most decorated curler.

“I look back and I still wonder how I got myself through lockdown, covid, everything. It was such a rollercoaster, standing on the top of the podium at the end of it all was very, very special,” she told BBC Sport.

In 2014, she was the youngest skip to win an Olympic medal as her team claimed bronze.

For Scotland, Muirhead won the European Championships three times and she claimed a sixth world mixed doubles title earlier this year alongside Bobby Lammie before later announcing her retirement from the sport.

Age: 47 Sport: Snooker

O’Sullivan claimed his seventh World Championship to equal Stephen Hendry’s record in the modern era.

Aged 46, he became the oldest world champion in Crucible history, eclipsing Ray Reardon, who won his sixth title aged 45 in 1978.

‘The Rocket’ cemented his position as one of snooker’s all-time greats with an 18-13 final win over Judd Trump.

It was a 39th ranking title for the English player who holds almost every major record in the game and also won the Champion of Champions and Hong Kong Masters in 2022.

O’Sullivan, who has on occasion been outspoken about snooker and his fellow players, told BBC Sport: “The love/hate doesn’t come from hating the game, I’ve always loved the game, just my frustrations would spill over and it would look like I had fallen out of love with the game.

But it was only because I wasn’t playing the game to the standard that I wanted to play.

Ben Stokes

Age: 31 Sport: Cricket

Stokes, the 2019 Sports Personality winner, starred as England won the men’s T20 World Cup by beating Pakistan in a thrilling final.

Under intense pressure at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground, Stokes was there at the end on 52 not out.

Having inherited a side with one win in their last 17 Tests, Stokes’ England claimed nine out of 10 in increasingly audacious fashion against New Zealand, India, South Africa and Pakistan.

He captained England to one of their greatest overseas performances, with a bold declaration helping secure victory with a record run rate in their first Test in Pakistan for 17 years and setting his side on the path to a historic 3-0 series win.

Stokes told BBC Sport: “I think it shows that you don’t have to be stuck in a particular way of playing Test cricket just because it’s been done for however long, a long period of time. It’s different but it’s exciting to watch.”

Jake Wightman

Age: 28 Sport: Athletics

Wightman produced a stunning run to take 1500m gold at the World Championships in Oregon.

The Scot was the first British man to win the world title in the event since Steve Cram in 1983.

He produced a brilliant final burst to pass Olympic champion Jakob Ingebrigtsen and clinch the title, called home by his father Geoff who was the stadium announcer.

“It’s that moment you cross the line, it’s just such euphoria, I just wish you could bottle that up because it soon fades away a little bit,” Wightman told BBC Sport.

“The disbelief and the shock are something that I will never have again.”

Wightman also won 800m silver at the European Championships and 1500m bronze at the Commonwealth Games.

I don’t think Ronnie has any chance to win it. The winner this year will very almost certainly be Beth Mead, and I expect Ben Stokes to be in the top three too. But maybe, only maybe, Ronnie could come second or third which would be fantastic as snooker is neither as popular as football nor “fancied” by the establishment …