Snooker, media, charity and Ronnie news

As we have an “empty day” before the Scottish Open qualifiers, here are some snooker related news that  attracted my attention over the last week…

Having recently won the Asian Championship, Pankaj Advani won the 6-reds IBSF World Championship in Doha. Here is the account by the Times of India:

Pankaj Advani wins his 24th world title in Doha

 

DOHA : Star Indian cueist Pankaj Advani on Tuesday grabbed his 24th world title when he triumphed at the IBSF 6-Red Snooker World Cup with a victory over Pakistan’s Babar Masih in the final.
Advani, who won his 11th Asian title last week, started the final with a comfortable 42-13 win in the opening frame.
Babar drew parity by winning the second 38-14.

In the third frame, Advani made a foul that only he knew he had committed. The 36-year-old won the third and fourth in quick succession to go 3-1 up.
The Pakistani cueist, in no mood to play second fiddle to his worthy opponent, crafted a wonderful 56 break to bridge the gap.
Advani shifted gears and then took the next three to be one frame away from getting his hands on his 24th world winner’s trophy.
Not going to go down without a fight, Babar brought the match to a precarious situation by winning the next three frames as a strong response.
At 6-5, it was touch and go. Babar had found his touch and Advani had more to lose at this point being within striking distance of the finish line. But a classy 32 break off the cue of the multiple world champion put paid to Babar’s hopes.
Pankaj ensured a clean slate of wins over the last fortnight in Qatar across two international championships – Asian Snooker and 6-red Snooker World Cup.
“I am living a dream. Being away from the table for so long, these two back-to-back triumphs assure me that my hunger and competitive skills haven’t diminished,” Advani said.
“Very fortunate to win both as I am aware there is still a lot of work to put into my game once I return. Happy to return home tomorrow with two gold medals for my country.”
Earlier, in the day, Pankaj got the better of the Asian Snooker finalist Amir Sarkhosh of Iran 6-3.

Congratulations Pankaj!

Phil Haigh and Nick Metcalfe had John Virgo as a special guest to their podcast.

John Virgo is always entertaining, but it was not all jokes and laugh as he revealed that the coming Word Championship at the Crucible will probably be the last for him and Dennis Taylor as BBC pundits. 

John Virgo expects next World Snooker Championship to be the last for him and Dennis Taylor

Composite image of Dennis Taylor and John Virgo
Dennis Taylor and John Virgo have been leading voices of snooker for decades (Pictures: Getty)

John Virgo believes the next World Snooker Championship will be the last for him and Dennis Taylor in the commentary box, expecting to be cut from the BBC’s coverage.

Virgo, 75, and Taylor, 72, have been voices of snooker for decades, with Virgo first commentating on the game way back in 1985 and becoming a huge television star through the ’90s thanks to gameshow Big Break.

While no decision has been confirmed by the BBC, Virgo seems sure that his next trip to the Crucible in April will be his last to work behind a microphone.

Speaking to the Talking Snooker podcast, Virgo said: ‘Listen, you never know what’s round the corner in life, but it looks like this will be my last season. Not my choice, theirs [the BBC]. Along with Dennis (Taylor) apparently.

‘Scoop or whatever it is, I don’t know, but that’s what we’re getting, that this will be our last season. I think that’s definite. The World Championship will be our last one. It’s not my decision, I love the game and everything else. But I understand, nothing lasts for ever, I understand that.’

The World Championship, played from 16 April-2 May, will likely represent the end of an era for two of the most significant commentators the sport has had, and Virgo says it will be hard to deal with when it comes around.

The former UK champion first played at the Crucible in the first year the venue hosted the World Championship in 1977 and it is a venue filled with fond memories for him.

That’s the decision they’re making, so yeah, I haven’t really felt it at the moment but I probably will do come the World Championship,’ he said.

There will be a lot of memories there, memories from when we first went there in ’77. So it will be hard, but as I say, nothing lasts forever, and I’ll give it my best shot and that will be it, yeah.

I think they’re probably looking for people who are more in touch with the modern day player. Although I think all players are the same aren’t they? They play shots, there’s not many shots that people play that I haven’t seen, you know. I’m not criticising the decision, I know nothing lasts for ever.

The BBC have been fantastic to me, in my commentary career, Big Break, if that’s the decision that’s the decision, we’ll just have to accept it and enjoy it on the telly.’

John Virgo at the World Snooker Championship
Virgo enjoyed a successful playing career in the 1970s and ’80s before moving into commentary (Picture: Getty Images)

2019 world champion Judd Trump called for broadcasters to make a change to their veteran commentary teams earlier this year, telling Metro.co.uk: ‘There’s not enough trying out new things in snooker for me at the moment, it’s all the same every season, not enough excitement, not enough different dimensions,’ he said.

Change the coverage, the commentators who have been around a long time, change the way the game is spoken about.

Asked about Trump’s comments, Virgo said: ‘I still think we’ve got something to offer.

‘I don’t think the shots have changed, I don’t think the mentality [has changed]. When somebody misses an easy shot you can put your finger on why they did it.

Day Ten at the World Snooker Championship
Judd Trump has been critical of some of the veteran voices on the BBC (Picture: Getty Images)

If someone’s in a spot of bother…Dennis is the best line-drawer in the business, if someone’s in a snooker.

Being younger, you might put an emoji on the bottom of it, but how are you going to better it?

But no, I understand. I think over the years we’ve had the experience to talk when we need to talk, to be quiet when we need to let the pictures tell the story.

‘It will change, sooner rather than later, but I won’t have any complaints because I’ve enjoyed it.’

The BBC has been approached for comment.

Well… I at least hope that the BBC will not got for the “excitement” bit. I’d absolutely hate “football style” commentary on the snooker. And indeed, their knowledge of the shots and understanding of the table situation are excellent and make for interesting commentary.

That said, I could do without the golf digressions, and discussions about “great players” from 50 years ago that most viewers never had the opportunity to watch except maybe in some blurry Youtube bit.  Also, too many times, there have been admissions that they had never seen this one or that one guy playing before. They don’t seem to watch much snooker unless it’s on the BBC. Their choice, but at least do some research.

Also, completely butchering overseas’ players names is not acceptable. I have been contacted by ITV pundits who wanted to make sure about the pronunciation of Belgian and French players’ names and I truly appreciated their efforts to get that right.

And then there is this bit about a great charity challenge initiative where Ronnie will play a very modest role:

Runners set to navigate all 315 London Underground and DLR stations on foot

Psychologist and author Dr Kevin Dutton and Great Britain rower John Collins are embarking on a brutal two-week challenge to raise crucial funds for charity

metro train at railroad station

On Sunday 19 September Dr Kevin Dutton, a psychologist and author, and Great Britain rower John Collins will embark on a unique leg-sapping challenge – navigating all 315 London Underground and DLR stations on foot, over a two-week period. But that’s not all. They’ll be sleeping rough in between legs and, on Day 15, they’ll conclude their challenge by running all 26.2 miles of the London Marathon. The pair have badged the 305-mile feat the ‘Metro Marathon Challenge’.

Combatting homelessness

So why are the pair taking on such a gruelling feat of endurance? Dutton and Collins are raising money for The Running Charity – a charity harnessing the power of running to support young people who are experiencing homelessness or managing complex needs.

The Running Charity believes that running is as good for your mind as it is for your body. Running builds resilience and self-esteem, and they use this to improve the lives of 16-25 year-olds who are homeless or at risk from homelessness.

‘The last year and a half has been tough on all of us,’ said Dutton, ‘but it’s been even tougher for those without a roof over their heads.’

Metro Marathon Challenge logistics

Dutton and Collins have called on a team of data scientists from Capgemini Engineering to help them plot the route. The data scientists have calculated the optimum start point and shortest possible route between the 315 stations, beginning in Chesham and ending in Lewisham, the station nearest to the London Marathon start line.

The pair will be sleeping rough for the entire duration of the challenge, mostly in parks along the route, but sometimes, in a friend’s garden. On Day 10, they’ll be dropping in on none other than snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan to refuel with some of his home-cooked pasta.

There will be a few other famous faces supporting Dutton and Collins on their journey, too. The pair will be started by former London Marathon winner Hugh Jones, and former SAS soldier Andy McNab will also be on hand to support them at various points along the route.

‘The Metro Marathon Challenge is eccentric, original…but genuinely bloody hard,’ said McNab. ‘It’s 50/50 in my book whether Kev and John manage to pull it off. I hope they do – it’s for a great cause. But it’s going to take a monumental effort of guts and willpower, not to mention extreme fitness.’

You can follow Dutton and Collins’ progress on Instagram here and donate to their Just Giving page here.

Ronnie left them a supporting message on his Instagram page

 

 

Is Eurosport anti Selby?

I have deliberately waited before going for this one until the rage and “word war” have come down a bit on social media. It all turned about two main issues.

Issue 1 – the studio discussion about the “snooker behind the brown”

During the 2021 World final and in the aftermath of it, there was a lot of criticism targeting the Eurosport coverage, and a perceived “anti Selby” bias.

The whole thing started when the pundits had a discussion in the ES studio about a difficult situation on the table.

Ronnie O’Sullivan has said it “ain’t right” that Mark Selby was able to benefit from a controversial re-spot in the World Snooker Championship final against Shaun Murphy.
Selby got a taste of his own medicine during the 19th frame of the World Snooker Championship as Murphy had him in a world of trouble with a very sneaky shot with the cue ball rolled in behind the brown, leaving a horrible snooker.
But after three misses on the tricky snooker from an extended ‘spider’ and ‘swan’ rests, Selby was strangely suddenly able to use a normal rest to eventually get out of the shot at the fourth time of asking.
Using freeze-frames in the Eurosport studio, experts O’Sullivan and Neal Foulds made it clear that the re-spot was not correct and the normal rest should never have been a possibility to get out of the original situation.
In O’Sullivan’s mind, it clearly was not right that Selby was suddenly able to play the shot with the different rest – and he was shocked that Murphy did not get out of his chair to flag the incorrect re-spot.
If the white was put back where it was originally, this shot is just not possible,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport. “Because you can’t hit enough of the white, and if you did, you would probably miscue and the white would go towards the yellow.
“So if this shot was playable in the first place, he would have done. But even still, even when the white has moved [from the re-spot] quite considerably, really, he still couldn’t hit enough of the white to come that side of the red.
“So that shot was just never possible. You try not to blame the players, but in that situation, if the player has got the spider out originally and then he is using the rest, surely they should be able to use the technology to see the balls are not right. Because if they were right, you [Selby] would still have the spider in your hands. So maybe they should have used the technology to get it right.”
Foulds added: “Listen, you don’t want to get too involved in blaming players, but the balls were not put back correctly, we know that because we saw how they were put back and it was not correct, so the referee, the marker and the player at the table really have the responsibility. Murphy didn’t leave his chair; he will always take it on trust from the other player, but I’m a little surprised that happened the way it did because the shot was not on that he ended up playing.”

The images above show the situation on the table, before Mark Selby’s first attempt, and before the last one. It’s obvious that the brown is sticking out more on the right side of the white in the second image.

The ES pundits were definitely right in their assesment of the situation. No player would have taken the extended spider or the extended swan-neck if they could reach with the extended rest. Originally Mark Selby needed to cue “on top” of the white because he wasn’t seeing enough of it to cue on the side.

The ES pundits have discussed controversial situations like this, at length, including when Ronnie was on the wrong side of it notably the incident with the extented rest happened during his match against Luo Honghao during the 2018 English Open. At the time nobody accused them to be “anti-Ronnie” and Ronnie was branded a cheat on social media because “surely” he must have felt it.

Well, I will say that surely in this case Selby should have seen it, or at least questioned why he was suddenly able to play a shot that wasn’t on before. Yet, I haven’t seen anyone branding him “a cheat” on twitter.

To summarise my sentiment about this incident: it was not a case of being “anti-Selby”, even less a case of being “Selby haters”, it was a relevant question, and discussion, about a controversial table situation, and it is puzzling that Mark Selby didn’t question the replacement of the balls. This is a non-issue.

Issue 2: Desmond Kane article after the final

After the final, the always prolofic and lyrical Desmond Kane wrote a long article where he basically defended the idea that Mark Selby is bad for the game.

The article is quite really a long one and it’s mainly nonsense. 

Mark Selby plays to his strength, he’s out there to try his hardest and win and it’s what he has to do. As a fan, you may or may not like to watch it, but it’s clever, skilful and within the rules, unlike what Ebdon did during the 2005 World Championship QF against Ronnie, where is was plain time wasting. Clearly Desmond doesn’t like it. I’m not a great fan either, but I disagree with the article all the same.

Desmond quotes various pundits/commentators to support his own views:

Quoting Ronnie:

O’Sullivan compared his old rival to a “boa constrictor” on Eurosport in his ability to tighten his grip on opponents with balls welded to cushions and Murphy left frozen in some sort of snooker Siberia.

Selby is keeping balls tight on the side cushion,

But he overlooks the fact that Ronnie actually admires Selby for being able to play that way, and that his advice to Murphy was just to do what himself had done last year in the World’s semi-finals to avoid being trapped in Selby’s game.

Quoting Steve Davis:

Davis – who was hardly the life and soul of the party himself back in the day – rather cruelly compared Selby to a villain from the Harry Potter canon of fiction called the Dementor, a sort of grim reaper figure. They are said to “glory in decay and despair, they drain hope and happiness out of the air around them” which pretty much summed up Selby’s mightily effective, but soul-destroying dismantling of fellow Englishman Murphy

One for the purists? Most definitely. One to win a popularity contest? Most definitely not.

Mark Selby adequately answered those criticism 

“What’s the point of going out there just to entertain the crowd if you keep losing? It doesn’t make sense to me. Look at your CV,” he said.

I DON’T WANT PEOPLE SAYING ‘HE WAS GREAT TO WATCH, BUT HE DIDN’T WIN ANYTHING’. IF YOU THINK I’M BORING, WATCH CORONATION STREET.

Quoting Stephen Hendry

The claws are in and they are in deep, Mark Selby is like a snooker vampire. He sucks all the life and adrenaline out of you,” opined Hendry, the record seven-times Crucible holder.

Stephen Hendry is probably the one who really struggles to see positives in Mark Selby’s game because himself played the exact opposite uncompromisingly.

Also, although Eurosport got all the stick, it’s worth noting that Davis and Hendry don’t work for Eurosport. they work for the BBC. Yet, I didn’t see any criticism aimed at the BBC for those comments and, to my knowledge, no one suggested that they were “anti Selby”.

Quoting Graeme Dott

I don’t think that is a good advert for snooker tonight,” said Dott. “That is just my personal opinion. I don’t like being involved in games were lots of people are actually leaving.

IT IS NOT SO MUCH PUTTING ME OFF. YOU JUST DON’T GET RHYTHM. IT IS LIKE KILLING THE GAME. IT IS THE EQUIVALENT OF A FOOTBALL TEAM PUTTING 11 MEN BEHIND THE BALL AND NOT ATTEMPTING TO COME OUT. IT IS JUST THE WAY MARK PLAYS.

Now those quotes date back to January 2013… people were leaving indeed, but surely, the fact that Ally Pally is a rather isolated place, that it was freezing cold and snowing and that the last busses were about to depart had something to do with it. I would know, I was there, duly missed the last bus and caught the mother of all colds.

Desmond also brings in Judd Trump:

All the players need to do their job and make the sport as exciting as possible

Well, for me, one of the beauties of snooker is diversity and not everyone is “excited” by the same things. At the risk of being branded an “odd ball”, I’m not excited by Judd Trump’s game, and certainly would not watch the sport anymore if we had 128 “Judd Trump” clones on the tour.

And Stuart Bingham:

It was gruelling. It’s tough to lose a close game like that,” said Bingham. “Funnily enough, it’s the same sort of player, time in, time out, who plays slow. Does he do it on purpose or what?
I want a free-flowing game. Everyone knows there was one shot which took three minutes. It’s close to gamesmanship.”

So, regarding this issue, for me the main question is: is it a “Eurosport” view, or a “Desmond Kane” view? And should Eurosport distance themselves from the article, if they think it’s going too far, and doesn’t reflect accurately their position as a brand?

Journalists should have the freedom to express their opinion, as long as they stay factually correct. They are the ones responsible for those opinions. The media for which they work should have the possibility to distance themselves if they think things are going too far. I’m not a fan of censorship. In this case, my sentiment is that this article reflects Desmond Kane’s views, and his only. It’s not a Eurosport issue

 

2021 Crucible – The Day 11 story

No match concluded on the first day of the quarter-finals, but a bizarre and rather uncomfortable story emerged.

Indeed Reanne Evans, who works as a pundit for the BBC, was briefly asked to leave the studio – where she was doing her job – at the request of her ex-partner Mark Allen.

Snooker pundit Reanne Evans kicked out of the studio after her ex complained she was distracting him

Snooker pundit Reanne Evans, 35, (pictured) was told to leave the studio at the World Championships by BBC chiefs on April 20 after her ex, who was set to play, labelled her a distraction
Snooker pundit Reanne Evans, 35, (pictured) was told to leave the studio at the World Championships by BBC chiefs on April 20 after her ex, who was set to play, labelled her a distraction

A snooker pundit was told to leave the studio by BBC chiefs after her ex, who was set to play, labelled her a distraction.

Reanne Evans, 35, was set to join a live discussion at the World Championships before being hooked on April 20.

The BBC studio was next to the practice area, where her ex, Mark Allen, had been preparing for his upcoming match against China’s Lyu Haotian.

Presenter Radzi Chinyanganya and Evans, who is the women’s world snooker champion, were preparing for the start of the show when world no 13 Allen complained that Evans was a ‘distraction’.

After a discussion between World Snooker Tour officials and her producers, Evans agreed to leave.

The BBC said: ‘For the sake of ten minutes, Reanne left the players’ practice room so Mark Allen could practise before his match without distraction upon his request.’

The broadcaster also said that Evans’ broadcast commitments had not been affected by the incident.

Record 12-times women’s world champion Evans, who is currently battling Allen for maintenance for their 14-year-old daughter, was reported to have been ’embarrassed’.

Speaking about his plea for Evans to leave, Allen said that there had been several cases of other players asking officials for people to be removed while they were practising.

Allen (pictured) said afterwards that there had been several examples of other players requesting for people to leave while they were practising
Allen (pictured) said afterwards that there had been several examples of other players requesting for people to leave while they were practising

‘I’m not sure why there is a fuss about this one,’ he added.

MailOnline has approached the World Snooker Tour (WST) for comment.

Mark Allen was knocked out of the competition on Monday after being beaten by Mark Selby.

Following his defeat, Allen said he is planning on having ‘a bit of break’ from snooker in order to address some personal issues, the BBC reports.

Speaking after his defeat, Allen said: ‘There’s numerous things going on off the table which I’d rather not talk about.

‘I will come back but I can’t see me coming back any time soon.’

He added that it is difficult to compete against the best in the world without having a clear head to focus on his game.

Later Hector Nunns came on twitter to share his own views about the incident.

ReanneEvansKickedOutStory

Hector is asking the right questions there.

Whilst I’m sure that there were cases of people removed from the practice room because their behaviour was causing distraction, I doubt that it ever happened to a pundit in the nearby studio. For all we know she was doing her job and was not bothering anyone.

It was very likely World Snooker Tour’s decision but why? For me, they should have told Mark Allen to mind his own business and get on with it instead pandering to his whim. Would they have asked Steve Davis or John Parrott to leave if it had come into Mark’s mind that they are a “distraction” for whatever reason? I strongly doubt it. This is setting a dangerous precedent.

That said, it’s obvious that Mark Allen isn’t in good place at the moment. He has several private issues to sort out, and not just with Reanne. He needs time out of the game to sort them out, and sort himself out as well. I hope he gets the help he needs but I stand by the opinion that I expressed above: Reanne should have stayed and been allowed to do her job. If Mark wasn’t happy he had the choice to leave the practice room himself.

2021 Crucible Build-up – Hector Nunns about Ronnie and his status in the game

This was shared by WST this afternoon

Can The Rocket Reach Seventh Heaven?

A seventh world title for Ronnie O’Sullivan is likely to also see him hailed as the greatest ever.

By Hector Nunns

Is this the year to hail the undisputed greatest snooker player of all time? That is the question on the minds of many snooker fans ahead of this year’s Betfred World Championship, if not so much for defending champion and reluctant hero Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Ronnie aimingThe Rocket claimed a sixth world title at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield in August beating Kyren Wilson in the final, leaving him just one short of Stephen Hendry’s record seven triumphs in the 17-day marathon of mind and body on snooker’s most iconic stage.

The current world number two, O’Sullivan has been at pains to stress that his form this season has been “mediocre”. There have been moments and flashes of brilliance, and those have helped take him to five ranking tournament finals.

Unusually for O’Sullivan, with a 70 per cent win rate in such showpieces at the beginning of the campaign, he has lost all of them. He even openly questioned whether his hunger and killer instinct were as keen given a more laid-back approach to life and the game these days.

And he has certainly been playing down any questions about equalling Hendry’s most cherished record, having already overtaken him on ranking titles (37), the major tournaments also including the Masters and UK Championship (20), 147 maximum breaks (15) and centuries (1,102).

O’Sullivan, who has had lots to say about many other issues in the build-up to this year’s World Championship, said: “I suppose winning a seventh world title is now a real possibility. But I will be happy if I don’t embarrass myself.

“I would never want to go to the Crucible and have an absolute stinker. That is my starting point. And then if I can win a couple of matches, then great. You just don’t want to make a fool of yourself.

Crucible 2020 Final HandshakeFormer world champion Ken Doherty is clear on the issue. He said: “It would befit Ronnie’s career if he did win a seventh to equal Stephen Hendry. Whenever the question is posed out there ‘who is the greatest?’, many would already say it is Ronnie O’Sullivan.

“But that world title tally is always there, Stephen has the most. Ronnie knows that, it is always raised. It would be the cherry on the cake of his other achievements, and then for me he would be the undisputed best of all time.”

Legend Hendry, now 52 and having made a comeback this season after nine years in retirement, was brutally honest about the prospect of seeing his record matched. He said: “I am not going to lie, I would be disappointed if Ronnie equalled that record.

“So I’m not going sit there and think ‘Oh no, it doesn’t matter’, because it does matter – it is a record I hold very proudly. If he equals it, fair play to him, and you could only say that’s an incredible achievement. He is a phenomenal snooker player, and sportsman. Is there anyone else as talented at their sport? But I’m certainly not going to lie and say that I would be over the moon about it!”

O’Sullivan has spoken this week about time spent relaxing with his artist friend Damien Hirst, revealing: “We get together, mix a few paints up, get the old stirring pot out, put it all on a canvas. I love painting with him, it’s very therapeutic.”

There has been a minor cue crisis in the build-up to the blue-riband event, though that looks to have been solved with emergency repairs by John Parris. And O’Sullivan will be replicating last year’s successful routine before and after matches while he remains in the draw – heading out to the west of Sheffield and running to the edge of the nearby Peak District.

O’Sullivan, back up to around 35-40 miles a week after recovering from injury, said: “There are some great routes and it’s nice to be doing some different ones. We go up to Endlcliffe Park, and keep going until we get to the Peaks and then come back again.”

ros-action-CrucbleIt looks an open tournament, and the betting reflects that. Sponsors Betfred have world number one Judd Trump as favourite at 7/2 for a second world title, and O’Sullivan at 5-1. However Neil Robertson (also 5-1), Mark Selby (13-2) and John Higgins (10-1) all have strong claims.

Some shrewdies believe Kyren Wilson will one day lift the trophy, and Yan Bingtao, who won the Masters in January, has one more chance to  take another of Hendry’s records by a single month – that of being the youngest ever world champion. Hendry was 21 when his era of dominance began in 1990.

But all eyes on opening day will be, as they usually are, on O’Sullivan – a spotlight he has had to cope with as the sport’s box office king for three decades. His half of the limited capacity arena is sold out, and they along with millions of TV viewers will be looking for the Rocket to run through a repertoire that has brought him success and adulation in equal measure.

Good luck Ronnie!

Ronnie is Eurosport’s Sports Personality of the 2020 year

Eurosport have run their own poll about sports personalities of the year 2020 and here are the results:

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN WINS EUROSPORT SPORTSPERSON OF THE YEAR

Ronnie O’Sullivan has won the Eurosport British Sportsperson of the Year. Marcus Rashford was recognised for his deeds on and off the pitch, and Formula One record-breaker Lewis Hamilton placed third. Read on for the rest of the placings for the remaining five spots voted for by you. 

ROSSPOTYReaction-5

Ronnie O’Sullivan was the overwhelming winner of Eurosport’s British Sportsperson of the Year.

The 44-year-old snooker legend received almost half (44%) of the total votes cast, shared between eight of the best of British sport.

2020 was the year when O’Sullivan finally ended his wait of seven years for another World Championship, beating Ding Junhui, Mark Williams, Mark Selby and Kyren Wilson along the way.

In second place was Marcus Rashford (15%), who earned his recognition for his activity off the pitch as much as his deeds on it. Rashford was at the heart of a campaign to secure vulnerable British children free school meals over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, in the face of sustained opposition from the British government.

Rashford also has 21 goals in the 2020 calendar year and is on course to beat his 22-goal record if he continues his current scoring rate for the 2020/21 season. He also has received an MBE for his services to children, aged just 23.

In third (12%), Lewis Hamilton won his fourth consecutive drivers’ championship – his seventh so far – and broke Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Grand Prix victories. Away from the track, he donated to help fight back against the damage done by wildfires in Australia, and spearheaded the Black Lives Matter movement amongst the Formula One paddock.

Jonathan Rea placed fourth (9%) after another dominant season in the World Superbike championship. The Northern Ireland racer was on every podium but one after the coronavirus-enforced restart, and won his sixth straight world championship.

In joint fourth (also 9%) was Judd Trump. While O’Sullivan won the Worlds, Trump pulled off victories in the Northern Ireland Open, the English Open, the Gibraltar Open, Players Championship and German Masters. At just 31 there is almost certainly much more to come.

Sixth place went to football Lucy Bronze (5%), who enjoyed another superb season. The 29-year-old England international won the Champions League and French domestic double with Lyon, and then moved back to the Women’s Super League to join Manchester City in September.

Tao Geoghegan Hart (3%) capped a fine year off with his seventh place recognition. After Geraint Thomas had to withdraw from Team Ineos’ Giro d’Italia challenge, it was the 25-year-old rider who stepped up to shock almost everyone to seize victory. In what may be a less frenetic season in 2021, there is no clear limit to his potential.

Fellow cyclist Lizzie Deignan also impressed, and earned an eight place spot (2%) after topping the UCI World Rankings, in part due to victories at La Course and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

RESULTS

  • Ronnie O’Sullivan – 44%
  • Marcus Rashford – 15%
  • Lewis Hamilton – 12%
  • Jonathan Rea – 9%
  • Judd Trump – 9%
  • Lucy Bronze – 5%
  • Tao Geoghegan Hart – 3%
  • Lizzie Deignan – 2%

Congratulations Ronnie!

I believe that Ronnie’s emphatic win as well as Judd Trump’s presence as 5th in the list shows that Eurosport, not BBC, is now the main snooker channel, even in the UK. It really has become the “House of Snooker”. Well done Eurosport!

Why you should vote for Ronnie at SPOTY today if you have the opportunity

Over the last weeks, since Ronnie has been nominated for SPOTY, the sport’s gouverning body has actively encouraged fans to vote for him. There have been other player’s interviews, articles and mentions in commentary.

This is the latest piece, by David Hendon:

O’Sullivan A ‘Figurehead For Snooker’

Journalist and commentator David Hendon believes that Ronnie O’Sullivan has had a huge impact on snooker’s global popularity and his nomination for BBC Sports Personality of the Year is well overdue.

O’Sullivan has won 37 ranking titles and 20 Triple Crown events in a remarkable career, and this year became World Champion for the sixth time. For the first time, he is on the shortlist for the BBC award, alongside Lewis Hamilton, Hollie Doyle, Stuart Broad, Jordan Henderson and Tyson Fury.

You can vote for O’Sullivan this Sunday (December 20th) by telephone or online. For details of how to vote on the night, click here.

Hendon, who commentates for broadcasters including Eurosport and ITV, said: “It is long overdue when you consider his achievements over the past 30 years. A lot of us thought that it would happen in 2013 when he won the World Championship after a year off. There is a lot happening in the world of sport every year so it is difficult to get on to that shortlist. But when you look at what he has achieved in snooker – which is so popular on television – it’s amazing it has taken this long. Thank goodness he is on it this year.

David Hendon

“For many new fans of snooker he is a gateway into it. They might be flicking through the channels late at night, might have never seen snooker before. If he is playing, there is something about him as a character which draws people in. A lot of fans say that the first player they enjoy watching is Ronnie, and then they become interested in the sport. There was a guy from Kyrgyzstan the other day tweeting about the fact that he can’t play snooker in his country, but he loves watching Ronnie play. He is a worldwide figure, and a figurehead for snooker.

“He is a bit of a veteran now and you wouldn’t expect kids aged 12 or 13 to look up to someone of that age. But he doesn’t seem like a veteran because he is still playing the same type of attractive snooker he has always done, albeit with a bit more discipline in his game which is why he has stayed at the top level.

“The fact that he won the World Championship at the age of 44 is incredible. You can’t compare him to many other sportsmen in terms of how long he has been at the top – perhaps Phil Taylor in darts. You look at the players Ronnie has competed against – when he started, Steve Davis and Jimmy White were still top players. Then there was Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Mark Williams, and now he is competing against the newer players like Judd Trump. His longevity is phenomenal.”

Even if you don’t like Ronnie, you should vote for him tonight if you can.
Why? Because it’s not about him, it’s about snooker and its status as a sport. 

When snooker was at its most popular, between 1981 and 1990, it got into the “last three” on seven occasions. Steve Davis is the only snooker player who ever won it, in 1988, but he made it to the last three on five occasions, finishing second in 1981 and 1987, third in 1984 and 1989. This is a record that he shares only with Lewis Hamilton. Other than that theere were second places for Alex Higgins (1982) and Stephen Hendry (1990). Since then? Nothing,

It’s been thirthy years. For whatever reason snooker has been snubbed, seen as some second rate sport, if a sport at all.  Countless times, BBC has “cut” live snooker matches broadcasting in favour of pre-recorded programs or re-runs of previously shown content.

If you love your snooker, this is an opportunity to bring it in the spotligths again. 

VOTE for SNOOKER

Championship League Snooker – Sponsor and how to watch

BetVictor will be the title sponsor for the event.

Matchroom Multi Sport is pleased to announce that BetVictor, a leading online gambling company, will be the title sponsor of the next two stagings of the BetVictor Championship League Snooker, which begins at Stadium MK, Milton Keynes on Sunday, September 13th.

Following the unprecedented success of this summer’s Championship League, the event has been expanded to a full WST ranking event featuring 128 players over 21 days, split into three weeks across September and October.

The popular group format employed during the summer’s Championship League returns, with players split into 32 four-man groups for Stage One and prize money standing at £328,000. World No.1 Judd Trump gets the tournament underway on September 13, while newly crowned six-time World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan enters the fray as the second seed on October 5th.

Matchroom Multi Sport Managing Director Emily Frazer said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with BetVictor once again. We have a strong, well-established relationship with BetVictor having worked with them across a number of Matchroom Multi Sport events, including last season’s Championship League Snooker.

“This new agreement builds upon their support of snooker and we’re thrilled to be able to work alongside BetVictor with a longer-term commitment for the next two Championship League Snooker events.”

BetVictor Director of Sportsbook Matt Scarrott added: “It’s a pleasure to team up with Matchroom Multi Sport again and we’re really looking forward to what should be a fantastic tournament. There’s plenty riding on it for the players with the Championship League Snooker now a full WST ranking event and we’re expecting three weeks of exciting, high-quality, quick-fire action.”

And how/where to watch has been announced.

BetVictor Championship League Snooker will be broadcast live around the world, with two tables of action to be enjoyed every day.

The first two weeks will be broadcast globaly on the below platforms, with FREE UK coverage at  Matchroom.Live

Table One
Viaplay – Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland
Zhibo.TV – China (including Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan)
SportKlub – Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Luxembourg
Silknet – Georgia
TV Poland
NTV – Russia
Rest of the World – Matchroom.Live

Table Two
Zhibo.TV – China (including Hong Kong, Macau & Taiwan)
Rest of the World – Matchroom.Live

So, unfortunately, nothing changes. The sponsor is again a betting/gaming company, and because it is specifically specified that the coverage will be free in the UK, I can only suppose that the rest of the World will have to pay.

This, once again, shows that, although snooker has the ambition to be a global sport, it remains in so many ways strongly UK centered. OK, this is a matchroom event, but it counts as a WST – WORLD Snooker Tour – ranking event. Because of the history of the sport, and because England still accounts for about half of the main tour, and China is the second best represented nation, you would expect that the majority of viewers would be in the UK and China. So this decision is hard to explain by the “costs” aspect, as it’s free for them. New viewers and new fans are more likely to come from the “Rest of the World”, those for whom it’s not free. That doesn’t make sense to me in terms of promoting the sport globally.

.Any chance to reconsider Matchroom?