Snooker – A Sport in a Crisis

The 2023 Shoot Out gets underway this afternoon. The event is supposed to be fast, furious, crazy and fun. Many players though are not exactly feeling much optimism at this moment in time. The truth is that Snooker is in a crisis and the malaise many feel for a long time has been exposed when it was announced that the 2023 Turkish Masters is canceled.

Anthony Hamilton has been talking about it with Phil Haigh:

Anthony Hamilton: ‘Snooker’s not flying, it’s a thin veneer between success and disaster’

Phil Haigh Tuesday 24 Jan 2023 9:59 pm

2022 Scottish Open - Day 1
Anthony Hamilton has seen it all in snooker since turning pro in 1991 (Picture: Getty Images)

After this week’s news that the Turkish Masters will no longer be happening in March, many professionals face a quiet few weeks ahead and Anthony Hamilton feels it is symptomatic of ongoing problems on the World Snooker Tour.

The 51-year-old has been on tour since 1991, so has seen plenty of ups and downs in the sport and he reckons we are witnessing something of a decline right now.

The loss of the string of big tournaments in China due to the pandemic is an ongoing problem for the sport, and with events not cropping up to replace them, it is a tough time for those outside of the sport’s elite.

While those riding high in the rankings are more than busy enough with limited-field events, many on the tour are short of playing opportunities and the cancellation of the Turkish Masters is a real blow.

Hamilton, ranked #40 in the world, plays at the one-frame Snooker Shoot Out this week, but after that faces a break of over two months before playing in World Championship qualifying, as he has not qualified for the Welsh Open or German Masters.

World Snooker Tour are looking into a replacement event to take the Turkish Masters’ place in the calendar, but things look bleak for some professionals if they are unsuccessful.

We’re playing in a tournament so we’ve got to be happy haven’t we?’ Hamilton told Metro.co.uk of his trip to Leicester for the Shoot Out.

Unless they fill the gap with some poxy Championship League or whatever, as it stands, certain players like myself won’t be playing for 10 weeks now till the World Championships. 

A lot of us will put the cue down for a month and pick it back up again for the Worlds. It’s not great is it? I’ve not won a match for quite a while now [UK Championship qualifying in November], when I play in the Worlds it might be close to six months since I’ve won a match

That’s something that I don’t think I’ve experienced before. It is what it is, I guess, I’ll get enough practice in for the World Championships. The only good thing is that no one will be particularly sharp.

I’m getting my cue out for the Shoot Out, but I can’t really be bothered because it’s going to go away for a month. Unless they get something on, whatever it is, anything would be better than nothing. It’s hard to muster up any real enthusiasm unless you’re in other tournaments like the top players are. The rest of the tour are in a bit of a malaise.

The calendar doesn’t appear empty between now and the World Championship starting in April, but the upcoming Players Championship just features the top 16 on the one-year ranking list, followed by the Tour Championship which is just for the top eight.

2022 Scottish Open - Day 1
Hamilton started this season with some solid wins, but has struggled for results since November (Picture: Getty Images)

Players down the rankings are short of earning opportunities and Hamilton expects some will be turning to part-time jobs, which, in turn, will harm their snooker.

If this was like five years back and I had no money in the bank…that’s a position a lot of pros will be in now, you would seriously have to think about going to work behind a bar just to pay the bills,’ said Hamilton. 

It’s hard to do both, when you’re young it’s possible because you’ve got the energy to practice and work, but when you’re getting on it’ll be detrimental to your snooker because who’s got the energy to do both? 

‘It’s not going to kill you, don’t get me wrong, but it might be five per cent off your snooker and that’s enough to not earn anything from snooker.

I’m playing alright, but I haven’t been paid since the UK in November. That could be five months in between cheques. I’ve lost matches, of course, but you’ve got to make sure you’ve got enough money in the bank. You need a float, because this could happen every year. If you’ve not got a float you’re f***ed.

2022 Scottish Open - Day 1
Hamilton has been to the World Championship quarter-finals four times (Picture: Getty Images)

My hat goes off to players, I know them personally, who’ve got young kids. When I was their age and I could play, I still didn’t have the balls to think that I could start a family off the back of this job

It never materialised anyway, but I used to think to myself, “If I had two kids, I don’t think I could guarantee getting them through from snooker.” I probably could have done, but that’s the thought process you have, even as a good player. It’s an easy life in some ways, because you’re not told by The Man what to do but you’ve got no guarantees, that’s the tough part.

But that’s what sport is, really. Other than football and a few others, it’s working class and you’re basically gambling whether you get paid or not. That’s the decision you make when you get good, whether you want to deal with it or not. We might moan about it, but it’s our decisions ultimately.’

The Sheriff of Pottingham has no intention of turning his back on the sport he has dedicated his life to and he hopes there are brighter times ahead, but he certainly sees a dip at the moment, which he traces back to the retirement of Barry Hearn, who was the sport’s driving force until 2021.

The tour is going downhill a bit now,’ he said. ‘It was always going to when Barry retired, or semi-retired. He’s not pushing forward with the job of finding money, there’s no one better at it. As always, the most annoying people on the planet get s**t done. He’s certainly got his merits.

Snooker’s not flying. You listen to some people and it sounds like it is, but it’s all smoke and mirrors. It’s a thin veneer between success and disaster at the moment, if you ask me.

It’s not all bad. Snooker is in a better state than it was before Barry arrived because it was on its knees then. But it’s not all roses like some people would have you believe

I understand where they’re coming from, because they have to get sponsors interested, but every now and then they need a dose of reality, and the reality is a lot of players are on their arse. That’s the reality.’

Anthony is not the only one feeling that way. As it happens, there was a discussion going on on twitter yesterday, after someone pointed out that currently only 54 players, out of 131, have earned over£20000, the amount guaranteed by WPBSA/WST. It goes to show how very much needed that move by the governing body was and is. But £20000 is only £1666.67 per month and that’s not much at all especially if you have a family to support. Let’s not forget that from these £1666.67, we need to subtract their professional expenses (travels, hotels, practice fees).

There were calls to bring back the PTCs. Of course a return of the PTCs would get the players playing. The truth however about those events is that to break even the players had basically to reach the last day. The vast majority of players were out of pocket playing in them. Ronnie at the time spoke about “buying ranking points”, there was a lot of truth in that. Also those short events were not cheap to organise: they required a lot of tables and fitters to take care of them, a big venue, many referees. I know first hand that the events in Belgium, despite huge crowds, and massive support from amateur players, were a financial loss for the organisers. Bringing them back is not sustainable, at least not in their original form.

The return of the Chinese events would be a big help. For now, only the Shanghai Masters, with its 16 players field, is on the cards. It’s some light at the end of the tunnel but it isn’t enough. Also it remains to be seen how the current match fixing affair, involving ten Chinese players, will impact the collaboration between WPBSA and CBSA, if at all. For now it seems that CBSA is very keen to get the sport clean and to bring ranking events running again in China.

But WST needs to work hard on bringing more events to mainland Europe. It’s a matter of credibility if you call yourself “WORLD” tour but it’s not that easy. Brexit certainly doesn’t help and finding good sponsors – away from the betting/gambling business – isn’t either.

Our sport for sure has some serious challenges to face…

For some reason all those thoughts brought back this song by Bob Dylan into my head …

Yes, it’s old, it’s been first published in 1962 and, yes, I’m old enough to remember the first time I heard it on the radio back then. It’s still relevant… even in snooker.

Snooker News – 24th of January, 2023

I could/should have published this yesterday but as we had two day without live snooker, I kept a few things for today.

Congratulations to Mink, 2023 WWS Belgian Open Winner

Here is the report by WST:

Mink Rules In Bruges

Mink Nutcharut defeated Wendy Jans 4-1 to win the Belgian Women’s Open for the first time at The Trickshot, Bruges.

A repeat of the 2022 World Championship final, the match would have the same outcome as Mink recovered from the loss of the opening frame to prevail following an exciting three days of snooker in Belgium.

The victory sealed back-to-back titles on the World Women’s Snooker Tour for the 23-year-old for the second time (2022 British Open-World Championship), and her fifth career ranking event title in all.

Her performance in Belgium also sees the Thai star climb to a new career-high ranking of number two following the tournament, ending the nine-year duopoly of Reanne Evans and Ng On Yee, with Ng dropping to third.

Mink impressed throughout the tournament as she whitewashed Nikolya Broyak, Emma Parker and most notably 12-time world champion Reanne Evans in the semi-finals to progress to the title match.

Awaiting her would be Belgian number one Wendy Jans who having progressed from the group stages without the loss of a frame, emerged from a tricky last 16 tie against England’s Tessa Davidson, before adding the scalps of Mary Talbot-Deegan and most notably Rebecca Kenna, following a tense deciding frame, to reach the final. Kenna herself had already come through a dramatic quarter-final against Ng On Yee, defeating the three-time world champion for the first time in 13 attempts on Tour.

It was Jans who dominated the opener as she restricted her opponent to just five points, but from there it was Mink who imposed herself upon the match, ultimately sealing a 4-1 victory with a break of 53 in what would prove to be the final frame.

The highest break of the tournament was also constructed by Mink as she compiled a run of 94 during her last 16 match, having missed the pink for what would have been a century break.

SIDE-TOURNAMENTS

England’s Tessa Davidson defeated compatriot Mary Talbot-Deegan 2-0 to win the Seniors competition in Belgium and further consolidate her position as the number one ranked player in the over-40s category.

Davidson defeated Belinda Focquaert of Belgium, before avenging her defeat to Diana Schuler at last year’s Scottish Open to reach the title match. Talbot-Deegan had herself seen off Michelle Cohen and Sarah Dunn on her way to the final, but it was Davidson who would claim her seventh Seniors crown from eight tournaments contested during the past 12 months.

The Challenge Cup tournament for players who did not reach the quarter-finals of the main tournament, was won by Belgium’s Emilie Demeester, who was competing in her first WWS event. She defeated Emma Powers-Richardson, Sarah Dunn, Jasmine Bolsover and in the final Nikola Broyak to take home the title on her debut.

As always, World Women’s Snooker would like to thank everyone who has supported the tournament, including our host venue The Trickshot, owned by Olivier Vandebohede, who was presented with a commemorative plaque by WWS President Mandy Fisher after the tournament.

The WWS Tour returns in just over a week’s time with the Asia-Pacific Women’s Snooker Championship, to be held at the Mounties Club from 31 January – 3 February 2023.

A few words about Wendy Jans… she’s 39 years old now. She lives in Neerpelt, in Belgium, where she runs an excellent snooker club, “De Maxx”.

Between 2003 and 2022, she has competed in 13 IBSF Women World Championship Finals, winning 8 of them. She did beat Mink for the title in 2022.

Between 1999 and 2021, she has competed in no less than 20 EBSA Women Championship finals, winning 13 of them.

Wendy has also competed in 19 Belgium National Finals, winning the title a staggering 17 times.

That’s quite the CV and it could have been even bigger if Wendy had got more support/sponsors. There have been international titles that she was unable to defend because she didn’t have the financial means to attend the tournaments.

Wendy is a very, very good player and, if she was based in the UK, she would probably be on the main tour currently.

It was another Belgian , Emilie Demeester, who won the Challenge cup. Belgium, a small country, has three players on the main tour, all young: Luca Brecel, Ben Mertens and Julien Leclercq. There IS a huge potential for snooker in mainland Europe but the strong UK centric nature of the main tour, as well as the fact that all European Q-Schools and most of the Q-Tour events are played in the UK are not helping to develop it.

Stephen Hendry fined … for being Rubbish

No, no, no… it’s not about his poor performances on the baize. Here is the explanation thanks to BBC

Stephen Hendry fined for pulling out of tournaments to appear on ‘The Masked Singer’

Stephen Hendry

Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry says he was fined for pulling out of snooker tournaments in order to appear on ‘The Masked Singer’.

Hendry, 54, was unveiled as ‘Rubbish’ on the ITV celebrity singing show on Saturday night.

The Scotsman was fined by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) for pulling out of events that clashed with filming.

You’re dying to tell people what you’re doing but you can’t,” he said.

WPBSA rules state if a player pulls out of a tournament after the draw has been made there is a standard fine.

I do have wildcards to play in some events and I actually pulled out of a couple and got fined by the WPBSA,” said Hendry.

And I couldn’t tell them why because this recording was going on and I couldn’t obviously say why I pulled out. I just said ‘Look, I can’t play the tournament’. So, yeah, it was, very, very, very strange.”

‘The Masked Singer’ sees celebrities wear elaborate costumes and face masks to hide their identities. They then anonymously perform a selection of songs live in front of a studio audience and panel of celebrity judges, who vote on which celebrity to unmask.

I have been asked to do the other reality shows, but the thing that appealed to me about this one obviously was the fact that you are in a costume. Nobody can see you,” added Hendry.

And obviously (there is no) stress – this is not a singing competition, it’s just a show that you just go in this costume and have fun.

My son texted me and said ‘I’ve watched the show every week. I love it. I can’t believe you’ve done that‘.

He didn’t even have a clue so the feedback and the reaction was incredible.”

Frankly WST, this is rubbish! Be good sports … put that money (back) in the bin!

Ronnie’s new book

This came up in the news yesterday and was shared on social media by David Hendon

Seven Dials pots snooker legend O’Sullivan’s uncompromising memoir

Seven Dials has landed Unbreakable, the “raw, fascinating, and uncompromising” memoir from snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Vicky Eribo, executive publisher, acquired world all-language rights from Jonny Geller of the Curtis Brown Group. It will be published in hardback, export trade paperback, audiobook and e-book on 11th May.

In a career spanning more than three decades, O’Sullivan’s journey to becoming the greatest snooker player of all time has been filled with extremes, the publisher’s synopsis begins. A teenage snooker prodigy, he turned professional with the highest of expectations.

“Together with a challenging personal life, [this pressure] catapulted him into a life of excess and addiction,” it continues. He was winning titles—his first within a year of turning professional—but losing himself and his game as he tried to block out mental pain and misery. While O’Sullivan appeared to be at the top of his game to spectators, these were the moments when he felt at his lowest. In the year 2000 he started rehab and began the journey to get his life back.

The publisher said that Unbreakable takes the reader inside the mind of one of Britain’s most-loved sporting icons, with the book framed around the lessons he has learned from his extraordinary career.

“With this book he takes us beyond the success and record-breaking achievements to share the reality—and brutality—of what it takes to rise to the very top. With these stories and techniques, he hopes to help readers navigate their own personal challenges and obstacles and in turn reach their maximum potential.

“This is Ronnie O’Sullivan as you’ve never seen him before: unflinchingly honest, often vulnerable and always inspiring,” the synopsis concludes.

Eribo said: “If you think you know Ronnie O’Sullivan’s story, read this book and think again. Providing an extraordinary insight into the mind of one of the most fascinating sporting greats of all time, Unbreakable is a sports memoir unlike anything you’ve ever read before. It’s an intoxicating, compelling and incredibly immersive read and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be welcoming Ronnie back to Orion for what we are confident will be one of the biggest autobiographies of 2023.”

O’Sullivan said: “A lot has happened in the 10 years since I last told my story. Unbreakable is both an account of this journey and an honest insight into what it has taught me. I hope that reading stories of the lessons and techniques I’ve learned on and off the table will help readers find their own path to being the best versions of themselves.” 

O’Sullivan’s first memoir Ronnie sold 72,762 copies via Nielsen BookScan TCM across all editions, and his second 2013 memoir Running has sold 55,017 copies.

And this…

Snooker News – 19 January 2023

This is a kind of “low key” post as I must confess that what was revealed yesterday regarding the match fixing enquiry has been affecting me.

In relation to that, WST has announced changes in the draw of upcoming events. Nothing unexpected here of course.

Updated German And Shoot Out Draws

The draws for the BetVictor Shoot Out and BetVictor German Masters have been updated.

Zhao Xintong has been withdrawn from the BetVictor German Masters in Berlin, and his opponent Tom Ford will receive a bye into the next round.

Click here for the updated draw
Click here for the updated format

Zhao Xintong and Zhang Jiankang have been withdrawn from the BetVictor Shoot Out, and replaced with a straight swap in the draw with the next available players on the Q School 2022 Order of Merit. Zhao Xintong is replaced by Haydon Pinhey and Zhang Jiankang is replaced by Michael Georgiou.

Click here for the updated draw

There was actually one good news coming out today

Jessie May Donation Boosted To £15,000

WST has decided to increase its donation to official charity Jessie May Children’s Hospice at Home to £15,000, based on the number of century breaks made at the Cazoo Masters.

Before the tournament at Alexandra Palace started, WST pledged £500 for every century up to a maximum of £10,000. But the final century tally was 30 and WST will now donate the full total based on £500 per century, which is £15,000.

Bristol-based charity Jessie May provides nursing care at home for children and young people with life limiting conditions who are not expected to live beyond the age of 19.

WST Chairman Steve Dawson said: “After such a fantastic Cazoo Masters tournament and a barrage of centuries, we have decided to boost the donation to Jessie May up to £15,000. We know what amazing work they do for vulnerable children and their families. The pandemic has really affected their funding and we urge everyone to have a look at what they do and dig deep to support them because private donations are vital to their future.”

Kim James-Coggins from Jessie May said: “All of the team at Jessie May are truly grateful for the support from WST. The impact your support has on our nurses and families is incredible.”

To find out more about Jessie May, visit jessiemay.org.uk

I’m glad that WST took that decision considering that many families, especially the most “vulnerable” ones, continue to suffer from the combined effects of the pandemic and the Brexit induced economic crisis in the UK. There is nothing worse for a parent than to lose a child, or to raise a child knowing that their life expectancy is limited and every day is a struggle. Well done WST, well done the players who scored as many as they could.

As for the match fixing issue, I can only urge everyone to wait for the results of the hearing and the full facts before asking for “life bans” … What annoys me is that some of those taking the harsh stand are the same who regularly pleaded leniency for Stephen Lee, asking for him to be allowed back “because he has such a Rolls-Royce cue action”. There should be consistency, no matter the nationality of the players.

IF it is proven that some of the older players in that group lured/coerced their young compatriots into a match fixing scheme, yes, they should get a life ban and should be sent back to China with no possibility to return to the UK or anywhere in Europe. Not just because of the match fixing, but more importantly because the vile betrayal of confidence. I’m sure that many parents of Chinese teenagers sent to the UK to play professionally were glad to know that their kids weren’t alone and that older, more experienced fellow citizens would be there for them. It’s only normal. It would be the same for UK parents if their teenagers were sent to live as ex-pats in Asia. That betrayal, above all, IF true, is unforgivable.

Snooker will survive. Cycling survived the countless doping scandals. The Tour the France is still watched by millions. Formula One survived despite the terrible decisions that deprived Lewis Hamilton. A couple of heads fell and the circus goes on. Snooker is much cleaner than most sports, especially those that attract the BIG money.

The Year 2022 – The Ugly

This one is of course about the match fixing inquiry that lead to the suspension of eight Chinese players.

Before I start … I’m very aware that the way my mind functions and the way I see things is not always in line with the opinions and beliefs of most people and I expect some of you, maybe many of you to disagree with some of the ideas I will express hereafter. I’m not trying to convince anyone, I’m not expecting you to change your mind about this affair. What I’m asking you though is to read this piece with an open mind, think about it before replying, and if you chose to comment to do it without aggression.

It all started with Liang Wenbo

On the 4th of June 2022 WPBSA decided to suspend Liang Wenbo for a duration of 4 months. The motive of the suspension was that he had brought the sport in disrepute, which he accepted. Liang had been convicted by Sheffield Magistrates Court for domestic-related assault by beating where he pleaded guilty. He was fined a total of £1,380 and given a 12-month community order. He had been caught on CCTV, in the streets of Sheffield, beating up a woman and dragging her on the ground.

WPBSA was criticised for not handing him a harsher punishment. Jason Ferguson explained that the only motive they could use against Liang was that he had brought the game in disrepute, because the assault itself had previously been dealt with by a different authority, namely the Sheffield Magistrates Court. It is a general principle in law that you can’t be judged twice for the same offence. That said, Liang’s “punishment” ordered by the Magistrates seems very “light” considering the nature of the offence. But, we can’t really judge on that because we don’t know the full facts. We don’t know anything about the situation in the family, if, for instance, there were tensions or conflicts. Violence in a family can take many forms and is not necessarily physical. One of my sisters worked as nurse for many years in one of the biggest hospitals in Brussels, at the A&E, and told me that as much as 40% of the cases of domestic violence they had to deal with involved a male victim, and in the majority of those cases the nature of the violence was not “physical”, it was primarily psychological. She also told me that males were often embarrassed about being abuse victims and only asked for help in last resort. I’m not saying that this was the case in Liang’s family, all I’m saying is that the rather lenient punishment may have been motivated by a situation that we are not aware of and that we have no particular right to know about.

That said, Liang has always been rather “volatile”, but in recent times he had appeared increasingly unstable. I know for fact that I’m not the only one to have noticed the signs.

Now … a personal and, likely, highly unpopular opinion. Many of those snooker fans who asked for Liang to be “hanged and quartered” are big fans of Alex Higgins. I know how Alex changed the game, I admire the way he played when at his best, but I also read his bios, read Jimmy White’s bio and Jason Francis’ book about the origin and development of the “Snooker Legends”. In the latter Jason explains why he had to sack Alex after just one show. The truth is that he was a charismatic snooker player but a terrible human being, He could be nice and generous when he wanted to but, more often than not, he was manipulative, obnoxious, dishonest, violent and… he was a women beater as well. The fact the he was a drunk and a gambler is no excuse for his “problems”, that was part of the Problem (with capital P), and Alex never really tried to change either. I don’t do double standards … I’m not getting this, guys.

But back to Liang … as he came back to play but not for long. Indeed on 27 of October 2022 WPBSA issued a new statement, suspending Liang again, this time for “allegations of misconduct”. The suspension duration was not specified but it would last at least until the end of the investigation regarding those allegations.

The nature of the “misconduct” was not specified either but it became rapidly clear that this had something to do with “manipulating the result of matches”, in other words match fixing.

Then in December, as the investigation progressed, WPBSA issued no less than three more statements: on 9th of December, on 12th of December and on 23d of December . Other than Liang Wenbo, seven other Chinese players are now implicated: Li Hang, Lu Ning, Zhao Jianbo, Bai Langning, Chang Bingyu, Yan Bingtao and Chen Zifan.

We don’t know much details about the allegations, but here is what we do know:

  • Of the first five listed above, three are implicated about only one match. One of them denies the allegations.
  • Chang Bingyu is one of the three who are investigated for just one match. He doesn’t deny the facts, he will accept his punishment, but he explained that he was threatened by Liang Wenbo into doing it. Liang denies these allegations.
  • From what transpired on weibo, the facts incriminating Yan Bingtao are not very recent, they happened before he won the 2021 Masters, nearly two years ago.

All those players have now been suspended by CBSA as well.

One (ex) blogger on twitter reacted to Chang Bingyu’s “defence” by saying it’s all nonsense and an attempt at “damage limitation”. That person claims that had Chang just said no, nothing would have happened, Maybe, but I wouldn’t be so sure as Liang’s family is very wealthy and likely has “connections”. I’m not thinking “mafia” but I’m thinking influential people who could help or destroy a career.

It’s easy for a mature man, established in his own country to see it that way. But things look very different for a young lad – Chang is just 20 – away from his family in a foreign country. His command of English is probably rather basic. Like all citizens of countries living under an authoritarian regime, he wouldn’t trust the police, especially if the “other party” is a wealthy man with “connections”. And some stories in the news about how the police, in the UK, sometimes treats persons belonging to “minorities” will do nothing to help his confidence. Unless Liang is indeed proven innocent regarding these threats allegations, I believe Chang when he said he was scared and it’s a very uncomfortable feeling.

Shaun Murphy is never afraid to voice strong opinions and here he what he told the media:

Specifically for players who are found guilty of match fixing, they should never compete on the professional tour ever again. A complete life ban – from professional and amateur snooker. 

Their existence in the snooker world should be terminated. So strong is my feeling on it, it’s part of the reason, a multi-faceted reason, it’s part of why I resigned from WPBSA board many, many years ago. 

You know, I knew too much about what was going on with certain players who were under disciplinary inquiries. As a board director I was privy to information that the media and the public aren’t. 

For me it will be completely black and white. I know the world has gone greyer over the years, we have gone from an old fashioned black and white view of the world to quite an opaque one, often for the better. 

But I think cheating is one area where we should be a bit more black and white

If you are found guilty through the correct processes, if you are given the chance to defend yourself, and found guilty of match fixing, then in my opinion that should be your involvement in the snooker family finished. 

I am someone who tries with every fibre of my snooker being to help try to make this game better.

I have joined the board and sat on the players’ commission and everything I have tried to do in my professional career is to leave snooker in a better condition when I walk away from it compared to 1998 when I turned pro

You know things like what have happened in the past week with all the announcements of the players again – and we understand due process, they are innocent until proven guilty – it’s just heart-breaking.  

The people who matter the most, the fans, it just leaves that shadow of a doubt when they are watching what is arguably the hardest single player sport on the planet, such a skilful game

There is that little doubt when a player misses a pot that they think they should get – things like this sows that seed of doubt among the public

Did they really miss that? Was that on purpose? It’s heartbreaking for a player whose first love is snooker

It’s reputation around the world, we trade off that gentlemanly image, if these players are found guilty, then in my opinion they have no business being part of the snooker community anymore.” 

In principle, I agree with Shaun but would I feel uncomfortable if this was applied here, especially when it comes to the younger ones and in particular if it is proven that some of those players have been threatened. I also feel uncomfortable with the fact that such radical call has never been made when UK players have been under suspicion in the past. Some of them got away very lightly IMO, and before anyone digs that out again, it’s NOT John Higgins I’m about here.

When it comes to the Chinese players, UK fans appear to be far less forgiving or forgetful. Dishonesty is an individual trait, not a racial or national feature. Being away from their family, in a foreign country and culture, with a poor command of the local language makes non UK players more vulnerable to approaches by unscrupulous individuals, especially if they are fellow citizens.

I would be happy if there was a statement by WPBSA stating that, from January 1, 2023 every proven attempt to manipulate the outcome of a match will be punished with a life ban. For past occurrences though, the approach should be what it has been so far and punishments proportionate to the offence.

For the record…

The longer suspension ever imposed in the past was Stephen Lee’s in 2013.

Stephen Lee has been banned for 12 years after being found guilty of seven charges of match-fixing. The 38-year-old was found guilty of seven match-fixing charges by an independent tribunal last week. The tribunal chairman, Adam Lewis QC, also ordered that Lee pay costs of £40,000. The player plans to lodge an appeal against Wednesday morning’s decision.

Lee, the former world No5, was found guilty of match-fixing charges relating to seven matches in 2008 and 2009. The matches in question were three in the Malta Cup in 2008, two in the UK Championship in the same year, one in the 2009 China Open and one in the 2009 world championship.

A statement from the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) said: “The suspension is to be calculated from 12 October 2012, when the interim suspension was imposed. Therefore Stephen Lee will not be able to participate in snooker before 12 October 2024.”

The WPBSA had been seeking a lifetime ban but the organisation’s head of disciplinary Nigel Mawer insisted the 12-year suspension was effectively the same thing.

We did say we were seeking a life ban because if it was seven matches that had been fixed including during the world championships. But in effect it is a life ban because I think it is highly unlikely that Stephen Lee will be able to come back to the sport at this level.

We don’t take great pleasure out of that – this is a case of a fantastic snooker player who has thrown it all away through making the wrong decisions. It is only human to have a degree of sympathy for him and it is going to be very difficult for him but we have to send a very strong message that match-fixing is not going to be tolerated. To my knowledge this is the longest ban ever handed down and there are £40,000 costs to pay too if he ever wants to come back.

It’s worth noting that there had been strong suspicions about the outcome of other matches played by Lee, notably at the Premier League Snooker but that were not taken into account when the 2013 decision was made. Lee was making a good living from the game as well.

Also, Lee has got himself in trouble again after that. He got two more criminal convictions:

Indeed, On 9 June 2014 Lee pleaded guilty to fraud at Swindon Magistrates’ Court and was fined £110. Lee had sold his personal snooker cue to a Facebook fan for £1,600 but when he failed to deliver the cue the fan reported the matter to the police. Lee was also ordered to repay the £1,600 cost of the cue.

Also on 12 April 2018 Lee was arrested in Hong Kong following an immigration raid at a billiards hall. Lee was charged with teaching snooker without a work permit and appeared in court on 14 April where he pleaded not guilty to breaching the conditions of his tourist visa. Lee was forced to surrender his passport and was bailed until June. Lee changed his plea to a guilty plea on the first day of his trial, and the case was dismissed after he agreed to a 12-month good behaviour bond of HK$1,000 (£95).

So, given the current “jurisprudence” in the sport, giving a frightened young lad a life ban for fixing one match in a relatively minor event would definitely be over the top and when the same person who dismissed Chang’s fears, said on twitter that Lee was a “small time fixer”, I’m seriously nonplussed.

Also, Nigel Mawer said they wanted a life ban, but eventually that’s not what Lee got and I’m not sure why. At the time, it looked indeed very unlikely that he would come back to the sport at 50 … BUT … we now have three players aged 47 in the top 8 of our sport, and Jimmy White still playing at 60. Things may be get “interesting” in 2024/25, especially if life bans are actually handed to the Chinese players. WPBSA might have a bit of a headache if Lee decides to enter the Q-School.

And about the Q-School … we also had the “Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon” affair.

Thanawat had qualified for this season and the next via the Asia-Oceania Q-School. He wasn’t given a tour card though … instead he was sent to face the disciplinary committee.

Here is WPBSA statement

WPBSA Statement – Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon

 WPBSA Statement 18th November 2022

 The WPBSA and Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon

 At a hearing that took place before the independent WPBSA Disciplinary Committee on 25th October 2022, Tirapongpaiboon admitted serious breaches of the WPBSA Conduct Regulations. This followed investigations, working closely with Sportradar in 2013, 2015 and 2022. 

 As a result of the decision of the WPBSA Board to refuse Tirapongpaiboon membership of the WPBSA in June 2022, he fully cooperated with the new WPBSA investigation into match fixing. He admitted to fixing the outcome of six matches between 2013 and 2015.

 The finding of the Tribunal was that the starting point for Tirapongpaiboon was a suspension of nine years. He was given credit for his plea of guilty which reduced the suspension to six years. Of that period, he will serve a suspension of two years nine months unconditionally. The remaining three years and three months will be suspended, provided there is compliance with the terms agreed between Tirapongpaiboon and the WPBSA to provide significant assistance to the WPBSA in its anti-corruption work.

Provided he complies with his agreement with the WPBSA, his suspension will run from 15th June 2022 until 14th March 2025. He was ordered to pay £1,925 towards the WPBSA costs.

Jason Ferguson Chairman of the WPBSA said “This case shows that if a player chooses to fix a match they will be caught, no matter how long after the event. Thanawat has shown true remorse and wants to help ensure that other players do not make the mistakes that he did as a young player by assisting the WPBSA in its player education program. This has been reflected in the sanction. This case shows how seriously the WPBSA treats match fixing.”

The full findings of the Independent Tribunal can be found HERE.

Tirapongpaiboon has until 1st December 2022 to appeal the decision of the Tribunal.

 Tirapongpaiboon charges admitted:

  1. That you fixed the outcome of your match with Noppon Saengkham at the Australian Open Qualifier in Gloucester on 1st June 2013 in breach of Rule 2.1.2.1.
  2. That you fixed the outcome of your match with Ross Muir at the Shanghai Masters Qualifiers in Doncaster on 7th August 2013 in breach of Rule 2.1.2.1.
  3. That you fixed the outcome of your match with Ding Junhui at the China Open Qualifiers in Gloucester on 16TH February 2014 in breach of Rule 2.1.2.1.
  4. That you fixed the outcome of your match with Martin Gould at the Welsh Open in Wales on 19th February 2014 in breach of Rule 2.1.2.1.
  5. That you fixed the outcome of your match with Stuart Bingham at the UK Championship in York on 25th November 2014 in breach of Rule 2.1.2.1.
  6. That you fixed the outcome of your match with Martin O’Donnell at the PTC European Tour 2 in Furth, Germany on 28th August 2015 in breach of Rule 2.1.2.1.

For the avoidance of doubt, Tirapongpaiboon’s opponents in the matches in question were not involved in any way in these rule breaches.

WPBSA Conduct Regulations extract:

  1. Betting misconduct

2.1   It shall be a breach of these Rules for a Member to do any of the following:

  • Corruption:

2.1.2.1  to fix or contrive, or to be a party to any effort to fix or contrive, the result, score, progress, conduct or any other aspect of the Tour and/or any Tournament or Match;

The full WPBSA Conduct Regulations can be viewed here.

And of course, this very recent decision makes a life ban very hard to justify for the eight currently implicated – should they be found guilty – unless something extremely serious came to light.

As a conclusion …

WPBSA has a duty to protect the integrity of the game, but they also have a duty to care for their members. If the ongoing investigation uncovers individuals or groups of individuals who approach(ed) young vulnerable players and coerce(d) them into manipulating the outcome of matches, WPBSA has a duty to try and sue them. If Liang is found to have threatened some of his young fellow citizens, he definitely should get a life ban from the sport. His victims (if any) though should get ONE second chance. Any (proven) recurrence should lead automatically to a life ban barring proven truly exceptional circumstances.

The Year 2022 – The Good

In this piece I want to look at the good things that happened in snooker in 2022

The guaranteed £20000 income

That announcement by WPBSA/WST was probably the best news of the year in my views, and a massive step in the right direction for the sport and the players. It’s particularly important for the young players and those from outside the UK who, because of the UK centric organisation of the sport, have either to move to the UK and live as ex-pats or to travel back and forth every odd week. Both “solutions” come at a high cost financially and emotionally. At least, this will help with the financial side of the situation. And it’s only right. They earned their professional status – well most of them did – and it takes two to play a match. No matter how well both may play, one will lose. Both though will have contributed to the tournament, both have brought value for the fans, the venue, the broadcaster. It’s only right that they get something for it, if only to cover their basic expenses. It’s NOT “rewarding mediocrity”, it’s recognising their efforts and contribution to the sport.

The tiered qualifiers for the UK Championship

Since the format of the event had been shortened to best of 11, the UK Championship had clearly lost in prestige and many fans were struggling at still seeing it as a “Major. Also the strict seeding system, imposed by the BBC who didn’t want to cover the first round, but still wanted all top players at their television stages had produced more than a reasonable share of boring complete “mismatches”. The decision to adopt the same tiered qualifying system as used for the World Championship has worked a treat. It’s been years since we sensed such a buzz around the UK Championship early stages. Part of that buzz came from the excellent coverage of the qualifiers on Eurosport and on Facebook, supported by the never fading enthusiasm of Rob Walker. I hope this format becomes the “permanent” one for this event as it’s so much better on all accounts.

The Asia-Oceania Q-School

It had been promised years ago and it was long overdue. Thanks to the efforts of the Thai hosts of the event, a lot of matches were available to watch on Facebook in a very reasonable quality. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality on show, certainly in the latter stages of the event, and the four laureates are certainly at least as good as your average UK Q-School qualifier. Mohammad Asif is a quality player who regularly reached the latter stages in IBSF events for years, and, of course, we got Dechawat Poomjaeng back! 👏

The first Turkish Masters

Going to new places is always a good thing for any sport and the 2022 Turkish Masters in Antalya was certainly a success. Antalya is a lovely place and the event was well supported by the local fans. UK fans may not be aware of it but Turkey has an old and rich tradition in billiards, more specifically in carom and three-cushions. Turkey had and has some of the very best exponents in the latter discipline, most notably the extraordinary Semih Sayginer, Mister Magic. So, it’s not surprising that snooker was appreciated. Judd Trump offering the fans a 147 in the final, en route to victory was the icing on the cake.

The return of the Hong Kong Masters

The 2022 Hong Kong Masters saw the return of professional snooker on Chinese territory for the first time since the covid crisis began. It was far from easy to organise but it ended up being a fantastic success story. The final, where Ronnie beat the local favourite, Marco Fu was played in front of the biggest crowd ever recorded for a snooker match with nearly 9000 persons attending in the venue. The atmosphere was incredible. It was a dream final. Earlier Marco had delighted his fellow citizens by making a 147 during his match against John Higgins.

WBBSA/WST efforts to improve “hospitality” at events.

This has been ongoing for some years, but it was really apparent at the last UK Championship. There is a real effort by the snooker bodies to improve the fans experience. In York, the setup in the arena had been completely rethought and the fan zone “extended”. Top coaches and top players made themselves available to meet the fans, discuss with them, demonstrate their skills and give “hands-on” advice. The fan zone is not a new feature, and the coaches “on duty” have always been dedicated, but in York it grew to a new dimension and it was hugely appreciated. Judd Trump is not everyone’s cup of tea, but he’s always ready for those things and his desire to grow the sport is genuine. One area where improvement is still needed though is the quality of the food on offer for the “ordinary” fan. It’s quite baffling that in so many venues that are primarily sports halls or leisure centres, the food on offer, if any, is very mediocre, basically “fast food” stuff. Yes, there are practical reasons for that, but surely it can be improved.

The 900

The latest but certainly not the last of Jason Francis’s brain-children, the 900, has been a blast. You have to admire Jason’s energy, creativity, love for snooker and communicative enthusiasm. He found sponsors, he found away to stream the event, he got Rachel and Fouldsy on board in the studio, Lee “the Shirt” Richardson everywhere, Billy Castle in the com box… All the players involved loved it. And we as spectators loved it too. There was good snooker, there was drama, there was a shared passion all around. It was diversity at its best: young prospects, seasoned players, veterans, women and men, able-bodied and disabled … all first and foremost snooker lovers and players. The only “downside” for me was the schedule. It was midnight here when the streaming started. It does take something special to get me staying awake up to 3 in the morning… well, this did. 😂

The growing “Podcasts Scene”

Yes… growing! It’s not just that quality podcasts have multiplied, they get longer and bigger by the week. A special mention here for Phil Haigh, Nick Metcalfe and David Hendon. All year long we enjoyed quality interviews, informed opinions and well thought-out analysis.

Rescuing Snooker Scene

When it was announced that, because of Clive Everton’s poor health, Snooker Scene would be discontinued, for many snooker fans it felt like the loss of a dear friend, for many even the loss of a “childhood friend’. This should have been expected – Clive turned 85 last September – but it still came as shock. But thanks to Nick Metcalfe, and the team he gathered around him, the magazine will live on and Dave Hendon still contributes. The first “post-Clive” issue is already in the hands of the grateful fans. Thank you.

Tomorrow I will look at the “bad” or at least “not so good” things that happened in snooker in 2022. I will leave the current match fixing inquiry out of that post though, as I reserve it for the final piece of this mini series. It will be branded as the “ugly”.

SPOTY Snub and other Snooker News

As I expected, Ronnie didn’t win SPOTY, he was not even voted into the top 3. Ronnie didn’t attend the show – he’s in Dubai – but he made himself available for a chat over the Internet. For once, snooker got more than a meagre 30 seconds of TV time… they got just above 6 minutes. Yeah! Not that it changed anything fundamentally….

Here is what Ronnie had to say as reported by Eurosport

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN TO ‘WAIT AND SEE’ ON EIGHTH WORLD TITLE TILT – ‘I DON’T KNOW IF AGE IS CATCHING UP WITH ME’

Ronnie O’Sullivan will be chasing history – a record eighth world championship title – if he plays at the Crucible next year, but the 47-year-old said that winning it will be far from a formality. O’Sullivan was speaking at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, where he was nominated for the overall individual award.

Ronnie O’Sullivan says he will have to “wait and see” about a tilt at an eighth World Championship title, saying that it will depend upon “timing and form”.

O’Sullivan landed his seventh world title earlier this year, equalling Stephen Hendry’s record in snooker’s blue-riband event.

But talking at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award – where he was one of the nominees for the overall individual award – O’Sullivan said going for an eighth is not a formality, especially given his age of 47.

When I first turned pro I was happy with one [world title],” O’Sullivan told host Gary Lineker. 

That was my dream, to win one World Championship. I always remember that and I never try to get greedy. Anything after one, two, three or even four you just kind of go ‘well each one is a bonus‘. 

If I was to get an eighth that would be fantastic but it’s really tough these days. There are a lot of good young players coming through, there’s a lot of good talent and I don’t know if age is catching up with me.

We have to wait and see. I think a lot of it is a bit of luck, timing

I don’t know if I’m going to go for an eighth but I’ll have a good idea come a week before [worlds venue] the Crucible whether I’m in good enough shape to do it. If I am then it’s on, but it’s just all about timing and my form has to be good

If it’s good then I’ve got a chance.

O’Sullivan was asked about his memorable, lengthy embrace with finalist Judd Trump after his latest Crucible win, and admitted it was to do with the effort required to have won the tournament.

The Rocket said: “In many ways at my age I was just more tired the last two world championships I won – 2020 and 2022 – I just felt so much more tired getting over the line when just physically I didn’t feel like I had it in me.

You’ve got nothing left to give whereas when I won it in 2012, 2013 I felt like I could go again for another 17 days.

The enormity hits you a bit more when you think physically I just don’t know how I did it. Before I felt quite comfortable. All of those feelings hit me at once.

O’Sullivan, though not there in person, was among sporting royalty at the BBC event, and opened up on how he has been able to perform for so long at the top level, especially in the worlds.

I feel it’s a combination,” he said. “The top players rise to the biggest occasion and the ones who feel the pressure a bit more don’t perform as well at the Crucible

The Crucible is a venue like no other. The pressure that it provides can make you or break you and that’s why you get a lot of the same type of winners: Me, Hendry, [Steve] Davis, [Mark] Selby, [John] Higgins, [Mark] Williams, because we perform a lot better under the pressure than the other guys, so I think it’s a mixture of both really.

Here is Ronnie’s bit in the show …

It doesn’t come to surprise to me at all, alas. Even before the show, twitter was full of “scorn”… guys arguing that snooker isn’t even a sport, but just a pub game. In many ways, snooker’s poor record in SPOTY in the last two decades is a reflection of that perception. Becoming an olympic sport would probably help. Also snooker is not perceived as being physically demanding. Ok, it’s not requiring a lot of physical “brute force”, but it requires huge eye/hand coordination, tactical nous, control over the emotions, sustained concentration. Last time I checked, my brain, eyes, hands and nervous system where still part of my physical person.

I believe that there are two main factors “working” against snooker: unless you actually understand the game, it’s not spectacular and it’s not, in essence, a team sport. The first factor means that the casual viewer rarely gets “hooked” on it and the second factor means that it doesn’t particularly appeal to the “tribal” side of the human nature. The latter was the key factor contributing to Beth Mead’s win this year IMO. There is a third element that probably plays a role too. SPOTY is a BBC thing, and BBC only shows three snooker events nowadays. OK, they are three big ones, most notably the World championship, but there are also very long periods of time during which they barely show a thing or speak about any of it, unless there is some scandal affecting the sport.

Never mind… life and snooker go on.

WST has published the draw and format for the 2023 World Grand Prix

World Grand Prix Match Schedule

The format for next month’s World Grand Prix in Cheltenham is now confirmed, with star names including Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Mark Allen, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby in the line up.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

The top 32 players on the one-year ranking list qualify for the first event in the 2023 Players Series, to run from January 16 to 22 at the Centaur Arena at Cheltenham Racecourse.

Defending champion O’Sullivan meets Barry Hawkins in the first round on Tuesday January 17th at 7pm. In the same evening session, Judd Trump is up against Shoot out champion Hossein Vafaei.

Mark Allen, leader of the one-year list, is up against David Gilbert on the opening night, Monday January 16th at 7pm.

The first round draw and schedule is below, see the format link above for the schedule for the second round onwards.

Mark Allen (1) v David Gilbert (32): Monday January 16th at 7pm
Lyu Haotian (17) v Joe O’Connor (16) Tuesday January 17th 7pm
Zhou Yuelong (9) v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (24) Monday January 16th at 7pm
Robert Milkins (25) v Jack Lisowski (8) Monday January 16th evening session
—————————————-
Noppon Saengkham (28) v Mark Selby (5) Tuesday January 17th afternoon session
Ronnie O’Sullivan (21) v Barry Hawkins (12) Tuesday January 17th 7pm
Mark Williams (13) v Jamie Jones (20) Monday January 16th evening session
Ding Junhui (4) v Stuart Bingham (29) Tuesday January 17th afternoon session
—————————————-
Kyren Wilson (3) v Robbie Williams (30) Tuesday January 17th evening session
Shaun Murphy (14) v Ali Carter (19) Wednesday January 18th 1pm
Sam Craigie (22) v Tom Ford (11) Wednesday January 18th 1pm
Gary Wilson (6) v Anthony McGill (27) Wednesday January 18th afternoon session
—————————————-
Luca Brecel (7) v Joe Perry (26) Wednesday January 18th afternoon session
Hossein Vafaei (23) v Judd Trump (10) Tuesday January 17th evening session
Xiao Guodong (18) v Neil Robertson (15) Tuesday January 17th at 1pm
Ricky Walden (31) v Ryan Day (2) Tuesday January 17th at 1pm

The tournament will be televised by ITV and a range of other broadcasters worldwide. It’s the first event in the 2023 Players Series, to be followed by the Players Championship in Wolverhampton and the Tour Championship in Hull.

and for the 2023 Welsh Open

BetVictor Welsh Open Draw

Joe Perry will begin the defence of his BetVictor Welsh Open title against Mark King in February when snooker’s greatest stars head to Llandudno.

The draw for the tournament has been made, with the qualifying rounds to run from January 11 to 13 in Barnsley, followed by the main event from February 13 to 19 at Venue Cymru in Llandudno, North Wales.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the qualifiers match schedule

Perry won a ranking title on British soil for the first time when he beat Judd Trump in the final in Newport last season, and he’ll be up against King in round one in Llandudno. World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan will meet Oliver Lines, while three-time Crucible king Mark Williams will face Michael White in an all-Welsh clash.

Other great names in the field include Trump, Mark Selby, John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy, Mark Allen and Kyren Wilson. Matches involving the top 16 seeds have all been held over to the venue in Llandudno, as well as two matches involving the national wild cards. They are:

Liam Davies, age 16 from Newport, will face Noppon Saengkham in the first round. Davies has won multiple World and European titles at junior level, and last season he became the youngest player to win a match in the World Championship.

Oliver Briffett-Payne, age 17 from Risca, will face Robbie Williams in the first round. Briffett-Payne is a regular finalist in junior ranking events and captained Wales Under-21s at the Home Internationals in 2022.

In the qualifying rounds in January, notable matches include Matthew Stevens against Fan Zhengyi, David Gilbert facing Marco Fu and Ken Doherty against Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.

The Welsh Open has been ever present on the snooker calendar since 1992 – the sport’s longest running ranking event other than the World Championship and UK Championship. It has an international television audience of hundreds of millions, with live coverage from broadcasters including Eurosport, discovery+, Quest, BBC Wales and CCTV5 in China.

It is the last in the season’s  BetVictor Home Nations Series, and also the last event in the 2022/23 BetVictor Series, with the money-list leader at the end of the week to collect a huge £150,000 bonus.

Details on the match schedule for Llandudno will be announced soon.

Tour and Q-Tour news – 12.12.2022

The 2022 English Open starts today in Brentwood and this will be the last ranking event of 2022. Fans will be able to enjoy a cue zone and fan zone, with food and a Christmas Market.

Here is what happened this week-end:Of c

Congratulations to Daniel Wells who, yesterday, won the Q-Tour event 5

Here is the report shared by WST:

Wells Wins Q Tour Five

Daniel Wells defeated Sydney Wilson 5-2 in the final to win the fifth WPBSA Q Tour tournament of the season at the Landywood Snooker Club, England.

Former Scottish Open semi-finalist Wells has enjoyed three previous spells on the main tour, having most recently fallen off in 2021 and has enjoyed a strong first half of the current campaign as he bids to regain his professional status next season.

Victory for the Welshman takes him up to third place in the latest provisional Q Tour Rankings with just one final event to be played in Leeds in January. He had previously reached the quarter-finals of both events two and three, before going all the way in Landywood.

Having entered the tournament at the last 64 stage, Wells defeated Brian Ochoiski (3-1), Mark Lloyd (3-0) and George Pragnell (3-0) to qualify for the final Sunday. He recovered from losing the opening frame in the quarter-finals to defeat Haydon Pinhey 4-1, before coming through a dramatic semi-final against Michael Georgiou from which he came back from 0-3 down to come through a 4-3 winner.

Awaiting him in the title match was England’s Sydney Wilson, who was previously without a win on the Q Tour this season, having spent the past six months recovering from a serious shoulder injury sustained in a car accident in June.

Wilson survived an opening-round decider against Joe Fenton, before overcoming Alex Taubman, Josh Thomond, Peter Devlin and Liam Davies – who made the event high break of 134 against Stan Moody on Saturday – to book his place in the final.

With the title and the crucial 2,500 ranking points on the line, it was Wells who made the faster start with breaks of 105, 83 and 72 carrying the 34-year-old to a 3-1 lead, with a second frame contribution of 59 by Wilson enough to get him on the scoreboard.

The following two frames were shared as Wells moved to within one of glory and he would make no mistake as a final frame run of 98 sealed a maiden Q Tour title. Victory takes him to within just 75 points of leader Ross Muir in the race to finish top of the Q Tour Rankings and end his two-year exile from the World Snooker Tour.

For beaten finalist Wilson, he also climbs up the list to 16th position and into contention for a place at the Q Tour playoff in March, where a second professional tour card will be contested by 16 players.

The crucial final event of the regular Q Tour season will take place at the Northern Snooker Centre from 6-8 January 2023. 

Of course the snooker world this week-end was shaken by yet another match fixing story.

CBSA has now reacted and has decided to ban all 6 players from their events for the time being.

I honestly hope that the whole mess will be “resolved” quickly and that the sport can move on.