Barry Hearn steps down …

Yes, Barry Heaern is retiring … although he will remain involded to an extend 

The news has been confirmed on WST site:

Barry Hearn OBE Steps Aside

BARRY HEARN OBE STEPS ASIDE AS EDDIE HEARN BECOMES MATCHROOM SPORT GROUP CHAIRMAN

Eddie Hearn will become Chairman of the Matchroom Sport Group of Companies as Barry Hearn OBE steps aside after almost 40 years to become President of the Group in an advisory role, dealing primarily with event strategy and global development.

Barry and Eddie Hearn with Steve Davis

Eddie will become Chairman of the Group of Companies and Chairman of Matchroom Sport, Professional Darts Corporation, Matchroom Boxing, Matchroom Boxing USA, Matchroom Media and the PGA EuroPro Tour.

Also, in the group, Steve Dawson will take over from Barry as Chairman of the World Snooker Tour after this year’s World Snooker Championship.  Matthew Porter will become Chairman of Matchroom Multi Sport and Katie Hearn CEO of Matchroom Media.

Hearn founded the sports promotions company back in 1982, enjoying huge success with Snooker before moving into Boxing, Darts, Pool and Tenpin Bowling amongst more than a dozen different sports.

Through the 1990s Hearn turned several niche sports into major TV attractions with a succession of innovative ideas.  His acquisition of a majority shareholding in the PDC in 2001 and the World Snooker Tour in 2010 saw him appointed Chairman as both companies went from strength to strength.

Matchroom supplies a wide range of sports programming to broadcasters worldwide, producing over 3,000 hours of action annually across over 600 event days in addition to original documentaries and shoulder programming for all platforms.

Following several years in the sponsorship and event management industry, Eddie Hearn joined Matchroom Sport in 2004, he assumed the role of Chief Executive of the PGA EuroPro Tour and subsequently headed up Matchroom Sport’s rapidly expanding poker and online gaming operations.  With the swift growth of the company in recent years Eddie has assumed the role of Group Managing Director and will now become Group Chairman.

Eddie’s most notable public face is as the head of Matchroom’s Boxing division, promoting a stable he has grown, and which is littered with World Champions and Olympic gold medallists.

Under Eddie’s leadership, Matchroom Boxing has returned to the forefront of the sport around the world.  In 2018 he agreed a historic $1billion deal with live streaming platform DAZN to stage 16  fights a year across America under Matchroom Boxing USA.

Barry Hearn OBE said: “It has been a huge honour to have worked with some of the greatest sports people on the planet across the last 40 years and enjoyed so many wonderful experiences across our spectrum of events in that time, from snooker’s glory days of the 1980s to record-breaking boxing shows and the incredible growth of professional darts, as we have created opportunities for thousands of sportsmen and women during that time.

“Great challenges have been met, but none more so than the Covid pandemic.  I have been determined to stay in charge until this disaster passed and now there is light at the end of the tunnel and I believe it is the right time to pass control of Matchroom to my son Eddie and the brilliant teams we have assembled across all our activities.

“I shall continue to be available to all Matchroom companies as non-executive President, an advisory role concentrating on group strategy and global expansion, but Eddie will be elevated to Group Chairman with overall responsibility for the entire group.

“I could not be prouder of the Matchroom Group of Companies and the outstanding teams that operate in a highly competitive marketplace.  Matchroom has grown from two employees operating in an office under a snooker hall in Romford in 1982, to the global powerhouse it is today due to the efforts and performances of all our staff, contractors, broadcasters, and partners.

“I know the company is in good hands with Eddie at the helm and with my daughter Katie heading up Matchroom Media, Matt Porter at the PDC, Frank Smith at Matchroom Boxing, Emily Frazer at Matchroom Multi Sport, Steve Dawson my Chief Executive for over 30 years and Dan Godding at the PGA EuroPro Tour, along with all their teams.

“Now is the time to give all Matchroom employees the opportunity to take this great British company to the next level and beyond”.

Eddie Hearn commented:  “Anyone that knows me is well aware of what Matchroom means to me and our family. It has a legacy that spans 40 years from a small office under a snooker hall in Romford to a global powerhouse of sports entertainment. My father has dedicated his life to the company and since I joined in 2004 I have done the same. Now a greater responsibility falls on my shoulders and I am very proud to continue his great work and lead the business and the incredible team that we have built at Matchroom. We have seen astounding growth in the last ten years but we have only just begun. I look forward to continuously evolving and continuing the global growth of this astonishing family business.”

It was always going to happen of course, but I didn’t expect it to happen now.

I’m not sure it’s good news for snooker at all. Eddie Hearn’s focus until now has never been snooker, it’s mainly been boxing. Time will tell of course but I’m not too optimistic.

Crucible 2021 – More detailed infos about tests and safety measures.

WST shared this information aimed at ticket holders yesterday 

Crucible Ticket Holders: Testing Information

Ahead of the Betfred World Championship which starts on Saturday, we are now able to provide more information about the Covid-19 testing requirements for all fans who come to the Crucible.

The tournament in Sheffield, which runs from April 17 to May 3, is part of the Event Research Programme, and Covid-19 testing is one of the measures taken to reduce risk of transmission.

The following information has been emailed to fans:

Prior to attending the event, you must take a Covid-19 rapid lateral flow test at a Local Authority Asymptomatic Testing Site close to where you live or work. If you are travelling from outside of Sheffield, you must take this test prior to travelling. For attendees of multiple event days, you must take a test prior to the first event you attend, and then every third day thereafter. (To clarify, if you test on Friday to attend on Saturday morning, you would need your next test on Monday).

When you attend the Crucible, you will need to bring a text message or email confirming a negative lateral flow test result, photographic identification, which you’ll produce alongside your test result, and email confirmation that you have provided your consent using the online consent form.

A link to find your local rapid lateral flow test site is provided here. Please note that many of the lateral flow test centres offer a booking system, rather than a drop-in facility. Please be aware that some testing sites only operate Monday to Friday.

From Friday 16th April a limited drop-in facility will be available at the Sheffield Hallam University for attendees resident in the Sheffield area. Ticket holders attending multiple event days, and requiring multiple lateral flow tests, will also be able to use this site. You must bring your World Championship ticket with you to gain access to the testing site. To ensure you are able to receive your test result in good time, please look to attend the testing site one day prior to attending your event.

The Sheffield Hallam testing facility will be open as a minimum Mon – Fri: 09:20 am – 12:20pm, 1:30pm – 4:50pm. Sat, Sun: 10am – 2pm. Further information on how Covid-19 testing works at Sheffield Hallam can be found here.

Audience participation in this event is possible as it is part of the Event Research Programme (ERP) this will help to gather essential evidence to inform the government’s decision around Step 4 of the roadmap to lift lockdown, and will support the phased return of fuller audiences to venues and events up and down England. In order to collect the important evidence required to support the return of audiences we request that all participants undertake both a pre and post event PCR test in addition to the lateral flow test referenced above.

Participants are requested to take one pre-event PCR test as close as possible to their attendance at the event, and one PCR test 5 days after the event (or final event attended, if attending over multiple days). Both PCR tests can be conducted at home and returned by post.

A link to how you request these is provided here. Scroll down to the button which says ‘GET A FREE PCR TEST’ (start now). For this application you are not Key Workers, and on selecting No, you can scroll to the bottom and click continue. Continue through the questions and select that you are taking part in Contact Testing Study. Participants have permission to use this link to order their PCR tests for ERP research purposes, even if they are not displaying Covid-19 symptoms. Please be aware that this is a separate request to the Covid-19 rapid lateral flow test required for your entry into the Crucible Theatre.

With all this into place, I strongly doubt that any session will actually be at full capacity.

Meanwhile, Ronnie spoke to Eurosport about what his mother went through as she battled covid-19.

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP 2021: ‘CRUCIBLE SEAT ISN’T WORTH RISK’ – RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ON MUM’S COVID BATTLE

Ronnie O’Sullivan is keen to see snooker fans return, but is concerned about throwing open the Crucible Theatre doors to spectators with the UK’s death toll passing a bleak 150,000 on Tuesday. The defending world champion is proud of how his mum Maria fought off Covid-19 on a ventilator at home, but feels the threat of excited “smotherers” pose a serious risk to players, officials and fellow fans.

By Desmond Kane

Ronnie O’Sullivan feels proud. Ahead of a 29th successive appearance at the World Championship in Sheffield, one might suggest such a sensation is hardly surprising for the sport’s greatest player of all time.
But his pride has nothing to do with ending a seven-year wait to lift his sixth world title last August, reaching five ranking finals this season, his top seeding at the Crucible this year or becoming the first man in history to compile 1100 centuries.

WC2013-ROS-Mum-SisterThese are all trivial, irrelevant and facile facts compared to the clear and present danger of Covid-19, an illness O’Sullivan has been closer to than the cue ball in recent times.
He admits he is proud of his mum Maria, her attitude and fighting spirit in battling the disease on a ventilator at home rather than going to hospital when all looked lost.

He also uses Maria’s experience as a timely reminder about the damage the illness can cause to unsuspecting victims.
As pubs, hair salons and retail re-opened in England on Monday, snooker’s biggest headline act cannot help but shudder at the notion that the UK is suddenly out of the danger zone.
He is not an expert epidemiologist, but he can speak as much from personal experience about society’s plight as working out his next positional shot.

My mum was on a ventilator at home,” said O’Sullivan. “She had to take proper medication. We were lucky and privileged that I was able to call on a doctor who was keen to keep her out of hospital.

“He said: ‘I think she is going to be okay, Ronnie, but buy this, do this and do that.’ She was able to nurse herself better. I was able to go around there to make sure she was alright.
“We were lucky. She did say to me at one stage: ‘I need to go to the hospital, ring me an ambulance’.
“But I said: ‘Let me get my doctor around first’ because I didn’t want to take her to a hospital unless she had to go.
“Once you get into the hospital situation, it could be a worse problem for you.

SO I WAS LUCKY THAT MY DOCTOR WAS ABLE TO ADVISE, KEPT AN EYE ON HER IN THE EARLY DAYS AND SAID: ‘LOOK, I THINK SHE IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT’. THAT WAS IT. SHE RESPONDED WELL AND I WAS PROUD OF HER THAT SHE WAS ABLE TO COME THROUGH IT.

Others of course have not been so lucky with the death toll in the UK reaching a tragic, bleak and shocking milestone of 150,000 on Tuesday since the first national lockdown came into effect last March.
In a candid and open interview with Eurosport, O’Sullivan remains none the wiser about how his mum contracted the virus.
But he feels it acts as a warning to everyone about how potent a threat Covid remains in the UK amid the ongoing global pandemic.

When this first happened she was talking to me around corners in the house. Like a lot of people, quite paranoid about getting it,” he explained.
“I said: ‘Mum, chill out, go for some fresh air, go for a walk and just stay away from people.’

SHE WAS REALLY CAREFUL, BUT ‘BANG’, THEN SHE GETS IT. YOU CAN JUST BE UNLUCKY WITH THIS ILLNESS. TOUCHING A SURFACE OR SOMETHING. SHE HAS BEEN THROUGH IT ALL. I’M JUST RELIEVED SHE HAS RECOVERED.

O’Sullivan played last year’s final before a crowd of around 300 at the 980-seat Crucible due to Covid restrictions on his way to an 18-8 win over Kyren Wilson in the final that saw him join Steve Davis and Ray Reardon on six world titles.
It looks like being a lot different with the sport’s diminutive hothouse brimming to full capacity for this year’s final in early May as part of a government pilot scheme to allow fans back to venues this summer.

The Crucible will be at 33% for the first round, 50% for the second round, 75% for the quarter-finals and semi-finals before reaching full capacity of just under 1,000 for the final on 2-3 May.

Testing will be in place, but only the first-round matches will witness any social distancing in a sport that has been marooned in Milton Keynes without the public since O’Sullivan’s victory in Sheffield.

He doesn’t see the benefit of winning what has been described as “a golden ticket” by being squeezed closer together than the pack of reds inside the Crucible.

If they choose they want to go and sit next to each other, that is fine,” said O’Sullivan, who opens the 45th staging of the Crucible tournament against a qualifier on Saturday morning at 10am (BST).

FOR ME PERSONALLY, I WOULDN’T BE BUYING A TICKET TO GO AND SIT NEXT TO SOMEONE ANYWHERE FOR THE NEXT TWO OR THREE YEARS. THAT IS JUST MY PERSONAL PREFERENCE. I JUST WOULDN’T FEEL COMFORTABLE DOING IT UNTIL YOU KNOW THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF THIS ILLNESS, I WOULDN’T WANT TO TAKE THE RISK.

From what I’ve heard so far, I just wouldn’t want to get it. In another few years, if you discover one in five million get it really bad then you chances are if you get it, you aren’t the one in five million.
“But nobody knows the levels or damage it can do. It’s okay getting Covid, but the long Covid is the one you want to avoid.

O’Sullivan is keen to entertain the sport’s fans, but is urging them to maintain distance from each other, officials and the players in and around the Crucible.
In an invisible war with a silent killer armed only with hand sanitizer and face masks, O’Sullivan has berated potential “smotherers” who are more interested in themselves than maintaining social distance.

Everything is fine as long as there is no smothering going on. That’s the only issue. As long as everybody keeps their distance, it is fine,” he insisted.
It’s not at the venue that’s the problem, it’s going to be coming out the stage door at the Crucible, getting to the hotel in Sheffield..just going about your normal business.

I JUST HOPE THE SMOTHERING DOESN’T HAPPEN BECAUSE PEOPLE GET TOO EXCITED AND SEE SOMEONE IF THEY ARE A (MARK) SELBY FAN, OR A JUDD TRUMP FAN OR A NEIL (ROBERTSON) FAN. THEY’LL RUN OVER THERE AND THEY START BREATHING, SNEEZING OR COUGHING OR WHATEVER. THEN SUDDENLY YOU GET THE COVID BECAUSE YOU’VE BEEN SMOTHERED.

It is how they manage the excitement of the fans and the people that surround the Crucible in Sheffield.

We all want to see the fans back at the venue, but there has got to be no smothering. If that can be done, then I don’t see any issues. But is that going to be the case? I doubt it.

O’Sullivan – who at the age of 44 years and 254 days became the second oldest world champion of all time behind 45-year-old Reardon’s 1978 win – enjoyed his sojourn to Sheffield for last year’s delayed event as he used the Covid-19 restrictions around the Yorkshire city to stay nearer the venue while enjoying daily runs.
He is hoping the sport’s organisers will think of the players’ well-being in getting in and out of the Crucible with minimal fuss this time.

It would be nice if World Snooker Tour can give the players some sort of level of protection so they’re not left to their own devices to have to deal with that situation,” he said.
If you are going to allow fans, you then have to got to think: ‘How do we get players in and out of the venue safely?’
“When they’re not playing, that’s down to the players.

THEY’VE GOT TO BE CAREFUL WHERE THEY GO AND WHAT THEY DO, BUT DURING MATCH OR PRACTICE TIME WHEN THEY’VE GOT TO GO THE CRUCIBLE, THERE SHOULD BE ACCESS THERE WITHOUT PLAYERS FEARING THEY’VE GOT TO GET THROUGH AN EXCITED CROWD AT THE ENTRANCE, IF THAT MAKES SENSE.

In a fitting denouement to a timely health message from the sport’s professor of potting, O’Sullivan is also advising the public to get vaccinated at the earliest opportunity.

I’ll hopefully get my vaccine in the next few months after Sheffield,” he added.

IF THERE WAS A DOCTOR HERE RIGHT NOW WITH SOME ASTRAZENECA, I’D BE TELLING HIM TO PUMP IT RIGHT IN THERE. I’D HAVE IT STRAIGHT AWAY.

Desmond Kane

Ronnie might be “mad as cheese” but there is nothing mad in what he says here, quite the opposite.

Ronnie’s big announcement

Ronnie was a bit mischievious as he sparked all sorts of speculations about today’s announcement … which proved to be about sponsorship.

Here is the official Press Release:

ROS ROKIT Announcement - 2ROS ROKIT Announcement - 3

And Eurosport take on it…

World Championship 2021 – Ronnie O’Sullivan scares fans with video: ‘I’m not retiring from snooker’

“Everyone can chill out and calm down.” Ronnie O’Sullivan had fans sweating over his future when he made what appeared to be a sudden announcement on social media on Tuesday. Thankfully, the six-time world champion was simply launching a new brand partnership, but he took the opportunity to reassure fans that he is not retiring.

Ronnie O’Sullivan had fans very concerned he was poised to retire on Tuesday as he made an announcement on his Facebook page.

In teeing up the live stream, the 45-year-old was pictured waving to the fans, which appeared to concern many that he may be about to make a significant decision.

However, the six-time world champion was simply confirming his brand partnership with Rokit, and taking a pretty random Q&A to help make it known.

I’m taking retirement from my name,” he explained in the live stream on his Facebook page. “So it’s not Ronnie O’Sullivan, it’s Ronnie the Rocket.

Not snooker, I’m not retiring from snooker, everyone can chill out and calm down. Take it easy. We are still here. Potting some balls.

Asked who he would choose if he was allowed to select any four guests for a dinner party, O’Sullivan was typically unpredictable.

Stephen Fry, Mike Tyson, Eminem and Usain Bolt were his picks, if you want to know, and Eurosport would be very keen to acquire the rights to it.

O’Sullivan was then asked if it was hard being him, given the level of celebrity he has within the sport and beyond.

Only because I over-think things,” he said. “It’s not like Michael Jackson or David Beckham where you can’t go anywhere.

I’m known by the snooker fans, but I don’t have a following that maybe a footballer would have, so it is not that bad. So I’m fine with the life I’ve been dealt.”

Finally, O’Sullivan revealed his biggest goal at the moment was running a sub-three-hour marathon.

It’s not crazy, it’s achievable,” he said. “I’ve just got to find the time to train and recover. It’s a lot of dedication and it is highly unlikely, but it is possible.

Only that Eurosport got it wrong… it’s not Ronnie the Rocket, it’s Ronnie The ROKIT

Ronnie'sSnooker Shop

More news ahead of the Crucible

This was in the press this morning

Covid passport trials poised to start in weeks at FA Cup Final and World Snooker

The idea of a Covid passport requiring people to show certification that they have either tested negative or been vaccinated when entering a public space has proved controversial

Prime Minister Boris Johnson elbow bumps a member of staff during a visit to the B&Q store in Middlesbrough
Prime Minister Boris Johnson elbow bumps a member of staff during a visit to the B&Q store in Middlesbrough (Image: PA)

A much-touted and controversial Covid passport scheme is poised to be trialled at large-scale sporting events within weeks.

But a backlash to the plans has seen more than 70 MPs sign a letter opposing the introduction of the “discriminatory” scheme.

Pilot schemes to safely open up large events with tighter-packed crowds are due from mid-April.

Among the events lined up for the pilot are the World Snooker Championship and FA Cup final, with the FA Cup semi-final, League Cup final and Brit Awards also said to be on the list.

This week a Tory minister suggested these trials will be combined with plans to trial “Covid certification checks” – more details of which are expected to be announced on Monday.

Certification refers to showing you’ve had either a test, a vaccine or both – but Boris Johnson yesterday put the emphasis on testing rather than vaccines.

So the trials could mean anybody going to the events is asked for a Covid test to gain entry as well as a further test after attendance.

This is so that any spread of the disease can be monitored. Government scientists are closely involved in designing pilots for the scheme.

Preston North End's Paul Huntington scores his side's second goal of the game
The idea could apply to big sporting events (Image: EMPICS Sport)

The events will run from April until May and in the early stages attendees will need a negative Covid test to gain entry, according to The Daily Telegraph.

For the later months, officials reportedly want to make use of an updated NHS app to show whether a person has been given the vaccine, tested negative or has antibodies.

But there has been a backlash to the plans.

More than 70 Tory, Labour and Lib Dem MPs have pledged to campaign against the “divisive and discriminatory use” of inoculation certificates to “deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs”.

Ronnie O'Sullivan suffers UK Snooker Championship loss
The World Snooker Championship could be among those to see a live audience again (Image: Daily Record)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Hart Biologicals at Hartlepool
But there has been opposition to the idea (Image: Teesside Live)

They include 41 Tories – potentially jeopardising the Prime Minister’s 80-seat Commons majority.

A government source told the Telegraph there was still time for changes to the pilot plan to be made before announcements from Mr Johnson are made on Monday.

The study on sports matches – an Events Research Programme – will look at holding mass events with less social distancing than expected under the current roadmap.

The roadmap says Step 3, from May 17 at the earliest, will allow mass events but only at 50% capacity, 1,000 people indoors or 4,000 people outdoors, whichever is smallest. Stadiums like Wembley are allowed up to 10,000 people.

But this month the government will begin separate pilots of mass events to see if rules can be eased further.

These will include in the Crucible theatre for the snooker championship, which starts in mid-April, and at Wembley Stadium for the FA Cup final on May 15.

If that is successful ministers will stuff “as many people as we can” into Wembley again for a pencilled-in Euros final in July, Mr Dowden told The Sun.

Mr Dowden said earlier this week: “[Some]thing that we are considering is a Covid certification, and we will be testing whether we can use Covid certification to help facilitate the return of sports.”

It comes after Boris Johnson suggested that Brits will ‘definitely’ need vaccine passports of some kind to take foreign holidays.

It’s understood the Prime Minister will outline the first stages of a “traffic light” system for foreign travel on Monday.

But it is claimed there could be as few as 12 nations on the “green” list from May 17, the earliest date foreign holidays can resume.

He is also expected to spell out a direction for domestic “certification” which could, eventually, lead to Brits being asked to show their vaccine or testing status to enter a venue like a pub.

I don’t understand the “controversial” bit here. Is it “controversial” that driving on the left is mandatory in the UK? No because it’s a matter of safety for all. Similarly, a number of vaccines are mandatory: dyphteria, tuberculosis, tetanus and more. Those vaccines are mandatory, because the risks associated with the illnesses are high. Tuberculosis was the first “killer” of young men in Western Europe less than 100 years ago. It’s almost disappeared. I read yesterday in the press that over 1 million Brits were suffering from “long covid”, which is very crippling. It seems to affect as much as 1 in 7 survivors. IMO, just as for the other illnesses cited above, covid vaccine should be mandatory, and event organisers as well as pubs and restaurants owners should be allowed to ask to see proof of it before allowing people in. Customers should be informed of the plces policy as well. Endangering others is not a “right” and nobody should have the “freedom” to do it, no more they have a freedom to drive on the right in the UK, or on the left in mainland Europe. Some people don’t believe in the risks, and there has been a lot of disinformation, but not believing in the risks doesn’t nullify the said risks. If those people were only endangering themselves, I wouldn’t care so much, but they do endanger others as well, whether they believe it or not, and those others have a right to be kept safe.

 

Players in the Sunday News: Anthony Hamilton, Yan Bingtao and Ronnie

Anthony Hamilton will play in the WST Pro Series today. He has been interviewed by Phil Haigh and has also answered fans questions on twitter via Phil Haigh’s account.

In this interview he explains how he is still struggling with the aftermath of covid-19 and how a positive attitude is helping him through the difficult times.

Anthony Hamilton talks still feeling the effects of Covid, his American alter-ego and a move into commentary

2017 Players Championship - Day 1
Anthony Hamilton is still struggling with the symptoms of Covid (Picture: Getty Images)

Two months after testing positive for Covid-19, Anthony Hamilton is still feeling the effects but is back in action this weekend as he looks to get his season back on track.

Hamilton can count himself especially unlucky to contract the virus after spending months shielding and barely leaving the house due to having asthma therefore increasing the risk of Covid.

The Sheriff of Pottingham famously qualified for the World Championship over the summer but decided competing wasn’t worth the risk and pulled out, a decision which he did not take lightly as he turned down a first visit to the Crucible since 2008.

Having returned to competition, the 49-year-old was forced to withdraw from the UK Championship in November after testing positive for Covid-19.

Two months later and he is still not back to 100 per cent, admitting that even when playing again in December, he was struggling to stand by the end of a best of seven match.

‘I still have got the lingering effects, like a lot of people have,’ Hamilton told Metro.co.uk. ‘Fatigue and breathlessness. I’m better than I was, it’s getting gradually better, but I’ve been knocked for six a bit.

‘About two months since I had it now. I played a match just before Christmas, it was only a best of seven, but I definitely flagged towards the end, I could almost not stand up.

‘I was like, “Jesus, this is more serious than I thought it was.” It’s only a short drive back from Milton Keynes but it felt like driving back from Glasgow.’

2017 Players Championship - Day 5
Hamilton is back on the table on Sunday in the WST Pro Series (Picture: Getty Images)

The match Anthony is referencing is a 4-3 loss to Eden Sharav in the Scottish Open, which proved to him how hard the virus had hit him.

‘I felt good up to 2-2, but then I was just hanging on,’ Hamilton explained.

‘Before Covid I was getting really fit, it’s weird for me, but I was feeling quite good. I was doing 80 miles a week on the exercise bike, I felt great.

‘But the contrast from then to now is night and day, it’s like I didn’t do anything for those six months, it’s been wiped out.

‘I used to feel like this in my 30s when I was in the pub all the time, I’m too old for that now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m up for the pub but I don’t want to go to work feeling s**t. It’s lose lose.

‘I still think I’ve been lucky, it’s just annoying that it gets in the way of every day life, but that’s hardly a hardship compared to some people. Yeah, I feel like crap, but you have to have a word with yourself, it could be a lot worse.’

It’s been a tough year for everyone and Hamilton is keeping a smile on his face despite everything, feeling that a 30-year professional snooker career helps you deal with disappointment.

‘I’ve definitely had enough of all this, we all have,’ Anthony said of the pandemic. ‘But I’m half used to feeling frustrated and depressed from being a snooker player for 30 years.’

The Sheriff feels that there are people to blame for the state the country is in right now, and has some strong words for the Government and how they have handled the crisis.

‘It’s unfortunate that we’re living in the country that’s dealt with it the worst in the world,’ he said. ‘Nothing makes any sense, people are dying, it’s frustrating that we’ve let fops run the country.

‘We’ve let the upper class take over politics and now we’re paying for it. Obviously America have just had the worst character in the history of politics and we’ve probably got the second worst, you’re probably looking at Pol Pot for number three!’

One positive of having caught the virus for Hamilton is not having to be quite as intensely strict about shielding as he was for much of 2020.

The Sheriff was barely leaving his home before, washing anything and everything he touched and he is now allowing himself to be slightly more relaxed after a positive test.

‘I’m not shielding like I was before, not quite so military about cleaning everything,’ he explained. ‘Obviously the positive about having it is I should be safe for a while.

‘I’ve let my brain chill out for a while and not clean every door handle I’ve touched, that’s a relief.

‘It was taking me 40 minutes or so to clean the table before I started practice, even though no one was really on it. The cloth, cushions, rails, balls, it was a ball ache. So now I’ve just been getting my cue out and playing, which is nice.’

Helping Hamilton through this trickiest of years is a positive attitude he forced himself to adopt since he turned 40-years-old.

There is nothing complicated to the plan, Anthony just chooses to look on the bright side of things when it comes to snooker, which he feels anyone can replicate.

The former German Masters champion knows that the unwavering positivity doesn’t necessarily come naturally to him, so he holds a cliched image of an ultra-cheery American in his mind for him to take on while at the table.

‘The most underused part of coaching in snooker is the mental side, everyone thinks about the cue action and stuff, but I’ve realised myself in the last eight or nine years, I’ve started skinning the cat in a different way,’ Anthony said.

‘I can’t possibly play good snooker anymore, but I can make up the deficit with better thought patterns and positivity.

‘Jesus Christ, I can’t believe how much you can get out of just doing the right things mentally. I just came up with it myself, I took things on board from years ago when I was coached by Terry Griffiths, but it’s mainly doing the hard work.

‘People don’t realise how hard it is to do the right things when things aren’t going your way, it’s not human nature to think positive when things are negative all the time, but that’s the only way to be if  you want to get out of the bad situation.

I’ve taught myself to do the right things while I’m out there in the match, there is literally no point in being disappointed during the match because that’s not going to get me a result.

‘I can be as disappointed as I want in the car on my way home, but while I’m out there, stay positive, even if I’m getting pumped, you never know. Honestly, it didn’t take long for matches to start turning my way.

‘I wish I’d done this when I was a good player. If I’d done that in my 20s and 30s, before I’d got injured, I think I’d be retired on a beach somewhere now.

‘It’s no more complicated than just deciding to be positive. I equate it to being American, everything’s great all the time, I just tell myself to be American.

‘I’ve just missed the black off the spot, don’t worry everything’s great, what’s next? It’s gone. It works and it works immediately.’

2018 D88 German Masters - Day One
Hamilton reached two ranking quarter-finals last season (Picture: Getty Images)

Hamilton has been struggling with neck problems for years, which means he cannot produce the snooker he did in the past, but his American alter-ego keeps him very competitive.

‘The more you do it the more it works,’ he said. ‘Before you know it you’ve turned four or five matches around in a year that you never would have won in a million years.

‘It makes you feel invincible. Even if you get beat you can feel happy because you know there’s nothing more you could have done. It’s when you come away and you know you’ve let your head drop in the middle of a match, then you drive home and you hate yourself because you know you could have given a bit more.

‘It’s the same as practicing the physical part of the game, you have to keep doing it all the time because it’s unnatural to be positive all the time, especially someone who’s realistic and cynical.

‘I just take on the American persona while I’m playing, everything’s great, then on the way home, go back to British and call myself a s**t c**t then. It works immediately, I love it.’

The four-time World Championship quarter-finalist has no intention of hanging his cue up any time soon and is still ranked #46 in the world, despite his troubles with Covid over the last 12 months.

However, he is eyeing up a new string to add to his bow, in the commentary box.

The Sheriff feels some snooker commentators can be too critical and not analytical enough, and he is keen to bring his own style to the gig.

‘Hopefully in the future I’m going to be commentating,’ he said. ‘I was supposed to do some commentary before Covid for Eurosport, so hopefully it will happen again.

‘Some of the commentators have lost all empathy, it’s like everyone has to play at Judd Trump’s level all the time, but no, woah, woah, woah, it’s not that easy. You know it’s not that easy!

‘I’m hopefully going to bring a bit more empathy. If someone is blatantly not putting it in then slag them off, but no one needs to be slagged off for trying their best.’

International Championship 2016 - Day 3
Hamilton has been a pro since 1991 and has reached a high of number 10 in the rankings (Picture: Getty Images)

Hamilton wants to see more analysis of technique and the technical side of the game, which he feels is missing, especially on BBC coverage of the sport.

‘I prefer Eurosport, it’s the home of snooker now, really,’ he said. ‘I watch some American sport, because I’m interested, and they don’t commentate for people like me, they commentate for people that have been watching the sport since they were kids.

‘It’s my job to catch up with the sport, not for them to dumb it down for me. That’s why I like Eurosport, they go a bit more in depth, but I still think some people are being patronised.

‘[Alan] McManus is really good, sometimes he’ll explain something and I’ll be applauding, thinking, “thank God, someone’s finally explained it.”

‘I saw a BBC pundit about three years back at the UK Championship and he said to me: “Alright Ant? I didn’t know you were still playing.”

‘I’d made it to the semi-finals of the European Masters a few weeks before, a full ranking tournament. That’s the BBC for you, it’s lazy.’

Hamilton heads to the WST Pro Series on Sunday looking for his first win of the season and, although he knows Covid and his neck could both hamper him over a long day of seven matches, he is looking forward to competing again.

‘We’ll see how I do physically because it’s a long day,’ he said. ‘It’ll be nice to play, it’s always nice to play snooker,

‘Best of three is a bit weird, we’ll see how it goes, but I’m well up for it. I’m always up for it, I’m the archetypal pro.

‘Play some snooker, nick a bit of dough, hopefully qualify, but if not, I’ll be trying my best.

‘Seven matches, win or lose, I’ve just been playing a few frames in practice, so to play a few frames is great, to play a few matches back-to-back is gold dust!’

Anthony as always not afraid to tell the truth. I can’t understand why some dislike the guy. He’s a great person.

Coming to the “answers on twitter” thing I picked this…

HamiltonOnRonnie-1HamiltonOnRonnie-2HamiltonOnRonnie-3

So much for the usual Ronnie bashing attempt.

The other player who has been in the news over the last days is if course Yan Bingtao.

I picked this article by the Shanghai Daily

Snooker prodigy motivated by filial love

YAN Bingtao has risen from a poor working-class background and playing to support his cancer-stricken mother to become China’s latest sporting prodigy.

The 20-year-old snooker star stunned four-time world champion John Higgins 10-8 to claim the prestigious Masters title last Sunday at England’s Milton Keynes, becoming the tournament’s youngest winner in 26 years. It was world number 11 Yan’s first major title and he is just a year older than Ronnie O’Sullivan was in 1995 when he won the Masters at 19, also beating Higgins.

“I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t win at least one or two world titles,” O’Sullivan, a six-time world champion, said.

Nicknamed “The Chinese Tiger,” Yan’s roaring triumph in his Masters debut is the culmination of a long struggle which at times seemed destined to end in a heart-breaking whimper.

He was born in Zibo, in China’s eastern province of Shandong, on February 16, 2000 and his first taste of holding a cue was on a rickety outdoor billiards table when he was 7 years old.

“I remember that it was uneven, there were leaves in the corners and the white ball went in a strange way,” the state-run People’s Daily quoted him as saying last year.

But Yan had talent and hoping that his boy had a future in the sport, his father Yan Dong quit his job at a pharmaceutical factory.

Against the advice of friends and family, the pair left home and Yan quit school aged 8 or 9 so they could pursue his snooker dreams in Beijing.

“To save money my father and I rented a room in the suburbs with just a bed and desk, costing 280 yuan (US$45) a month,” Yan said.

They could not afford heating and it was so cold that they wore their coats indoors, Yan once told Chinese media.

Father and son struggled to make ends meet and they admitted defeat, returning home to Zibo.

According to some accounts, the family sold most of their possessions to fund Yan’s career.

In 2013 they were plunged into crisis when Yan’s mother, the family bread-winner, was diagnosed with rectal cancer and needed an operation.

Earning the money to fund his mother’s recovery motivated him to enter more and more tournaments.

‘Never give up’

At 13, with his reputation on the rise, Yan began competing as a wildcard at professional events.

A year later, in 2014, Yan became the youngest winner of the World Amateur Snooker Championship.

He has been on a sharp upward trajectory since, turning professional in 2015, moving to England to further his career and capturing his first ranking title in Riga, Latvia in 2019.

Sheffield-based Yan collected 250,000 pounds (US$340,000) with his Masters triumph — the biggest payday of his fledgling career — and is widely praised for his dedication and hard work.

He is prime among a number of upcoming Chinese players and touted in domestic media as the successor to 33-year-old Ding Junhui, who has long been the country’s best player and an inspiration to Yan.

Many observers, including O’Sullivan, highlighted the new champion’s poise and maturity in storming back from behind to stun Higgins. At 45, the Scot is old enough to be Yan’s father.

In a touching denouement, Yan’s girlfriend translated his post-match interview into English on television.

But Yan’s thoughts inevitably soon turned to the two people who gambled everything for him.

“My mum and dad were watching on TV, they probably didn’t sleep tonight,” Yan said.

“They have always told me to never give up and to enjoy my life.”

No wonder that Yan is so mature and hard working. He deserves every success he gets. 

Tour News: Ronnie about snooker domination, Hendry about his return

Ronnie spoke to Eurosport about the current “Big Three”:

MASTERS 2021 EXCLUSIVE: WHO DOES RONNIE O’SULLIVAN THINK WILL DOMINATE SNOOKER IN 2021?

Ronnie O’Sullivan has told Eurosport he expects Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby to dominate snooker in 2021. The world champion feels there is a “massive gap” between the three leading table lights and the rest of the chasing pack due to consistency of technique, scoring power and desire to lift trophies.

RonnieAtTheTable

Snooker is entering the era of the big three with Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby set to dominate the sport in 2021, according to world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Ahead of the 47th staging of the Masters involving the game’s top 16 players in Milton Keynes between January 10-17 – the first triple crown event of the year – O’Sullivan feels the green baize triple g-force are well clear of the chasing pack and perfectly placed to continue their trophy-winning exploits.

While O’Sullivan lifted a sixth world title at the Crucible last August, the rest of the potting pie in 2020 was snaffled up by a triumvirate with a real appetite for silver service.

Trump carried off a record six ranking events finishing his year with the World Grand Prix before Christmas, Robertson claimed three including a third UK Championship and Selby has started the 2020-21 season by picking up the European Masters and defending the Scottish Open.

Looking into the crystal snooker balls does not appear to bring a sense of overriding opportunity for the rest of the field.

This is my prediction. I think the top three are playing to such a high standard, it will be one of those three that win the majority of the events,” said O’Sullivan, who begins his quest for an eighth Masters title against Ding Junhui on Wednesday 16 January.

If there are 25 tournaments, I reckon 20 of them will go to them. Judd will win six, Neil will win five and Selby will win four. I just think it is that sort of level.

“Mark Allen might win one, Ding (Junhui) might win one, I might win one, someone will win the Shoot Out.

“I just think they are playing to such a high level and the players from 17 downwards in the rankings are all a bit hit and miss in comparison.”

Stuart Bingham was Masters champion last year, Stephen Maguire carried off the Tour Championship, Mark Allen won the Champion of Champions while Kyren Wilson, Luca Brecel and Scott Donaldson were Championship League winners in 2020, but O’Sullivan feels trophy-winning chances are becoming thinner on the ground than the thinnest of snicks on the table.

The record 37-times ranking event winner edged Selby 17-16 in the World Championship semi-finals, but lost to his fierce rival 9-3 in the Scottish Open final.

He also suffered a 9-7 defeat to Trump in the Northern Ireland final before being flattened by the world number one 6-1 in the World Grand Prix last four last month.

Trump has remarkably lifted 20 ranking events in only nine years, leaving him only two behind Mark Williams in the all-time list with the Welshman’s 22 coming over a 24-year period.

Robertson and Selby are both on 19 titles with Robertson winning a trophy in the sport every year since 2006.

There’s a massive gap between those three and maybe the number 18 in the world,” explained the world number three.

“I’ve played those three now and you don’t get a lot off of them, but you seem to get away with quite a bit against the lower-ranked players.

THERE IS A MASSIVE GAP NOW BETWEEN THEM AND EVERYBODY ELSE.

“Allen slipped in and won one, Kyren Wilson won one. There will always be that chance for a player to maybe catch one of them on their off day in a final or a semi-final, but it is difficult.”

Desmond Kane  

I like the non-commital “someone will win the Shoot Out” … 😎

Nigel Slater reports about Stephen Hendry’s plans to return:

Stephen Hendry gives update on sensational comeback plans

Stephen Hendry says he will “probably” make his sensational return to professional snooker next month.

The seven-times world champion revealed he was looking at February’s Welsh Open as a possible tournament for which to mark his dramatic comeback into the sport.

The news was revealed when Hendry joined Eurosport snooker presenter Andy Goldstein in a live Instagram chat on Wednesday afternoon from his home.

The Welsh Open – one of snooker’s most established ranking events – is due to start on February 15 at a venue to be confirmed.

When asked by a fan when ‘Crucible King’ Hendry was planning to make a comeback, the snooker legend said: “Probably the Welsh Open.”

Hendry also said he was looking at playing the new Pro Series event in March, which World Snooker Tour announced at the end of 2020.

Last year Hendry took the snooker world by storm when he announced he would be coming out of retirement following an impressive semi-final run in the World Seniors Championship in August.

Stephen Hendry. Picture by Monique Limbos

Since then Hendry has been working closely with SightRight coach Stephen Feeney – a man who has coached recent world champions Stuart Bingham, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan – to get his game back to a top standard.

However despite the headline announcement, Hendry has not yet featured in the 2020/21 snooker season.

He was planning a return for the UK Championship but announced a delay to his comeback in November because he wanted to play in front of a crowd and not behind closed doors and stated at the time his game was not yet ready.

But the likelihood of fans returning to live snooker events by the time the Welsh Open starts is almost impossible with both England and Wales in lockdown until mid-February at least.

Returning in a slightly lower profile event is probably the best option for Stephen Hendry who, despite a rather poor record on the WSS tour so far, will face huge exprectations from his faithful fanbase. I’m very surprised that he is considering the Pro Series, but, on second thoughts, it’s actually a good idea. Lots of snooker in a short time span, against seven different opponents. Why not?

Snooker related news – 9 April 2020

There have been quite a few snooker related news in the last couple of days.

Barry Hearn suffered a heart attack – his second – but is now out of hospital

Barry Hearn thanks NHS after coming through his second heart attack

Phil HaighThursday 9 Apr 2020

Barry Hearn has sent his thanks to the NHS as he recovers from a heart attack he suffered on Sunday.

The chairman of the Professional Darts Corporation and World Snooker Tour suffered a ‘minor’ heart attack at the weekend and had an operation on Tuesday. The veteran promoter, 71, returned home on Wednesday and appears to be in good spirits as he makes his way back to fitness.

Hearn tweeted: ‘Humbled by the thousands of “get well” wishes so thanks to each and everyone of you. Massive shout out to Broomfield and Basildon hospitals – don’t know what we’d do without the NHS. God bless you all and stay safe.’

Hearn added on Thursday morning: ‘Memories like this keep you going. Can’t wait for more ! Patience people sport will be back soon but we have a bigger battle to win first. God bless the NHS.’

This echoed the sentiments of his son Eddie, who confirmed the news on Wednesday, tweeting: ‘As if we can’t thank the NHS enough, I want to particularly thank the staff at Broomfield & Basildon. My dad @BarryHearn was taken to hospital on Sunday after a minor heart attack and was operated on yesterday.He is up and well and returns home today in good spirits!Thank you’

Barry first suffered a heart attack in 2002 and his family have a long history of heart problems. ‘I’ve waited 30 years for it so it didn’t come as a surprise,’ Hearn told the Mirror after his 2002 attack, ‘My father had it, and his father had it before him. No male of the past four generations in our family has got past 45. So anything more is a bonus.’

The man credited with booms in darts and snooker in recent years, along with his legendary career as a boxing promoter, was inundated with messages of support on Twitter.

 

As all the readers of this blog will know by now, I don’t always agree with Barry Hearn’s views on the way snooker should be managed and promoted but there is no doubt that he has massively improved the state of the Tour over the last 10 years. There are a lot more tournaments, more exposure and more money … I just wish the latter was a bit more evenly shared so that lower ranked players wouldn’t struggle so badly to make ends meet.

All the same, I’m whishing him the very best and sincerely hope that he fully recovers.

Speaking of the past state of snooker, David Hendon has written this nice piece for the WST site.

Snooker, like all professional sport, is currently on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone involved in the game is looking forward to its return but this is not the first time snooker has been forced to take a break, as journalist and commentator David Hendon explains…

Without Joe Davis, snooker’s first World Professional Championship may have arrived much later than 1927. And yet the game’s first star shone so brightly that he unwittingly played a part in its decline thirty years later.

Unlike the leading lights of today, Davis had no established players to watch, analyse or learn from but his father was a publican at the Queens Hotel, Whittington Moor in Chesterfield and the establishment boasted a full-sized snooker table.

Snooker was still in its infancy when Davis was in his. Billiards was the prevailing cue sport of its time and Davis, and his younger brother, Fred, became proficient players. Billiards, though, often lacked dramatic tension as a spectator sport because its matches could be so one-sided. In 1926, Davis lost in the world professional final by 6,500 points to Tom Newman. Audiences could admire the skills on show, but excitement was thin on the ground.

Davis saw an opportunity with snooker, the young upstart of the cue sports family, to make a name for himself and, more widely, for the game itself. Others had tried with little success. In 1924, Tom Dennis, a player and billiard hall owner, wrote to the then governing body for billiards asking them to consider promoting an open snooker tournament. The sniffy response he received read: “It seems doubtful whether snooker as a spectacular game is sufficiently popular to warrant the successful promotion of such a competition.”

Two years later Davis, supported by the promoter and table-maker Bill Camkin, managed to persuade them to reconsider. Ten players entered the inaugural championship and a trophy was purchased using half of the entry fees. It is still presented to the world champion to this day.

The tournament’s first match began on November 29, 1926. The following May at Camkin’s billiard hall in Birmingham, Davis defeated Dennis 20-11 in the final. The Billiard Player, the leading cue sports organ of the time, gave the event four paragraphs of coverage. There was clearly still a long way to go.

And yet the championship continued, albeit with a small but determined band of players. These were very different times. Davis had never driven a car but a rail strike in 1934 meant he could not get from Nottingham to Kettering to play Tom Newman, the only other entrant. Davis duly purchased a car, was given rough instructions on how to drive it and set off for the match.

Davis kept on winning and, as he did so, his reputation and celebrity grew. There was to be two decades of Davis dominance, interrupted only by the second world war. He won his 14thworld title in 1940 and his 15th and last when the tournament returned in 1946, after which he retired. This proved to be the start of snooker’s problems.

Davis had in fact only retired from competing in the championship but still played in other events, undertook exhibitions and television appearances and was by far the best known figure in the still fledgling sport. The fact he was not playing in the World Championship therefore seriously devalued it – like Hamlet without the prince – and the interest, such as it was, dwindled to the point that by 1957 no promoter wanted to touch it.

And so professional snooker entered a dark period of extended hibernation which was to last until 1964. This was the time of JFK and the Beatles. The 60s were swinging but snooker lay dormant. Perhaps it had been a fad after all, a novelty whose time had come and gone.

These were grim times for the players, who retreated back into normal life. Fred Davis had a hotel in Llandudno; Rex Williams a family printing firm in Staffordshire. Players still undertook exhibitions but making a living was hard, with the sport enjoying very little exposure outside of a few matches on black and white television, usually involving Joe and acting as filler between horse races on the BBC’s Grandstand.

Williams, who at 17 had won the English amateur title, was now 30 and restless. This should have been the prime period of his career. He took it upon himself to revive the World Championship on a challenge basis, with the reigning champion – in this case John Pulman – taking on a single opponent.

The governing body gave their sanction and Pulman beat Fred Davis 19-16 in the first World Championship to be staged for seven years. Pulman would win six further world titles on this basis against a series of challengers, Williams included, until 1968.

Williams believed that the players needed to take greater control of their destinies and pulled together a players’ association, which would become the WPBSA. Largely through his efforts, snooker’s profile was growing again. The players came back blinking into the sunlight of a new era, still uncertain but at least with playing opportunities and a World Championship restored.

The championship proceeded on a challenge basis until 1969 when the open format was revived. It coincided with the arrival of colour television, which led to Pot Black providing a national showcase. Suddenly, the leading players of the day were household names, from the head-masterly Ray Reardon to errant tearaway Alex Higgins. The public took to them, and to the game, and it led to increased interest from sponsors and television. Now, promoters could not get enough of snooker as a professional circuit was born and a boom beckoned.

And what of the man who had started it all?

In 1978, Joe Davis took his seat in the Crucible theatre in Sheffield, the new home for the World Championship, and watched Fred, at the age of 64, compete against Perrie Mans in the semi-finals. The match was so close, so exciting, and for Davis so personally involving, that he collapsed. He died a few months later at the age of 77.

Davis would surely marvel at the sport today, at its players, administration and global reach, but he had lived long enough to see the championship to which he gave life blossom into a major sporting attraction, and for snooker itself to rise from the ashes of indifference and burn brightly in the public consciousness.


Thanks to Roger Lee for the pictures.

And the BBC will show some Classic matches from April 18 on:

CrucibleClassics.jpg

Here is what’s on the menu from April 18 to April 24:

  • Saturday:  Davis v Knowles (82)
  • Sunday: White v Hendry (92)
  • Monday: Reardon v A Higgins (82)
  • Tuesday: N Robertson v Selby (2014)
  • Wednesday: Davis v Taylor (85)
  • Thursday: Davis v Johnson (86)
  • Friday: Hendry v White (88)