Is it time to rescucitate the Belgian Open?

The 2021 EBSA Championships, played in Portugal, concluded yesterday.

I’m Belgian, as most of you already know, and as such I followed the fate of my fellow citizens in those competitions. It ain’t too bad …

The under-18 championship had an all Begian final, with Ben Mertens (16) beating Julien Leclercq (18) in the final.

EBSA U-18 2021 - Finalist Ben Mertens and Julien Leclercq

Both lads played in the World qualifiers before and both did beat their professional opponent in the first round. Ben became, and remains, the youngest player to win a match in that competition.

Julien Leclercq

 

Julien Leclercq managed to reach the final of the under-21 competition as well. He lost to the more experienced Dylan Emery, narrowly missing out on a tour card.

 

Wendy Jans won the women competition. She beat Jamie Hunter by 4-1 in the final to win the European Women’s Snooker Championship for a record 13th time!

Dean Young, Wendy Jans, Challenge Tour at the Max Belgium

Wendy presenting Dean Young with the trophy after he won a challenge tour event at her club

And finally … Julien got his hands on a trophy when, with his partner Kevin Hanssens, he won the Men’s Team event. They beat the experienced Wales 1 team – Darren Morgan and Elfed Evans – by 5-2 in the final.

Yes, there is good snooker played outside the UK, even in tiny Belgium. Looking at the results above, maybe now is the time to rescucitate the Belgian Open? I think there is a case for it. And not in the form of an event where local wildcards / invited players need to go to the UK to win two qualifying matches in an uninspiring venue for a chance to play in front of their home fans. NO! Such event should be played from round 1, at the final venue, as the Home Nations used to be, and should “return” to be. 

 

More snooker news – 09.10.2021

A bit “en vrac” this… whilst they finish the rigging in Belfast (hopefully it’s almost  finished by now)

On Yee Ng is finally on her way to the UK … safe trip On Yee!

OnYeeTravel

World Snooker Federation Championships have been announced and scheduled for February 2022:

Sheffield to Host 2022 World Snooker Federation Championships

The World Snooker Federation (WSF) is today delighted to announce the staging of the 2022 WSF Championships next February with two prestigious international tournaments set to offer direct access to the World Snooker Tour (WST).

Hugill won the WSF Open in 2020

The WSF working in partnership with the WPBSA, snooker’s world governing body, is now set to deliver the most significant amateur competitions held globally in our sport. This season’s event will again include the WSF Junior Championship (Under-18) previously won by China’s Gao Yang and the return of the WSF Championship, last won by England’s Ashley Hugill in 2020.

For the first time, the WSF Championships will be held in Sheffield, considered the spiritual home of snooker globally from 15-28 February 2022. The host venue for the tournament will be the state-of-the-art Ding Junhui Snooker Academy, with additional support provided by Victoria Snooker Academy as the host practice venue.

Both tournaments will once again be open to players of all nationalities and genders, with the winner of each to earn a two-year professional Tour card from the start of the 2022/23 season. Additional opportunities will be earned during the events where places will become available at the World Professional Snooker Championships.

Jason Ferguson, WSF President said: “We are today thrilled to be able to announce the return of the WSF Championships for 2022 as we look to build upon our successful 2020 event in Malta.

“The city of Sheffield is a location synonymous with the rich history of our sport and there can be no greater inspiration for the players who will be competing from all over the world than the sight of the iconic Crucible Theatre nearby.

“In particular, we are delighted to be able to work with two world class snooker facilities, which are both regularly used by some of the world’s leading players on the World Snooker Tour. Together with our city partners with whom we have worked with for many years, we are extremely excited to be able to deliver a fantastic snooker event for all amateur players.

“Our aim at the WSF is to provide more opportunity for players with the ambition to achieve their dreams.”

Entry for both tournaments will be made through WPBSA SnookerScores with further information to be released in due course.

The good news of course is that it’s happening. It’s good to have more amateur snooker back, Sheffield is a great place and those two academies are top class facilities. But … it’s in England, and once again it will be easier, less costsly, less travel hassle, and no administrative paper work for the British players.  I do hope that this is only because of the ongoing crisis, because organising events in the UK is easier at the moment for those in charge, and that the trend will not continue in coming year, but this choice of location is only reinforcing the already existing “UK bias”. Remember guys … W in your acronym stands for “World”.

WST has already announced Jamie O’Neill withdrawal from the 2021 Northern Ireland Open. Their livescores pages show that Tom Ford has withdrawn as well. Mark Williams, on the other hand, is still scheduled to play.

Finally … I’m not expecting anything from this tournament. The top 16 seeds will all be “rusty” as they haven’t played competitively for a long time. It’s hard to predict anything.

Judd Trump seems to have the easiest “quarter”, with the notoriously volatile Maguire and Mark Allen who has a terrible record in his “home” tournament.

In the second quarter, there is a real opportunity for either Shaun Murphy or Stuart Bingham as Neil Robertson hasn’t played at all competitively since the World Championship and had other things on his mind… including the small matter of getting married.

Ronnie hasn’t an easy draw: both Stuart Carrington and Andy Hicks are the kind that could cause him problems in the early rounds. Yan Bingtao, Ali Carter and Kyren Wilson are in that quarter as well.

The last quarter is probably the hardest of all, featuring Mark Selby and John Higgins as well as the two men who have won the first two events of the season, David Gilbert and Mark Williams (if he’s able to walk …).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dylan Emery is the 2021 EBSA Champion

Here is the report, written by Michael Day and shared by WPBSA:

EMERY IS EUROPEAN UNDER-21 SNOOKER CHAMPION

7th October 2021

Wales’ Dylan Emery is set to appear on the World Snooker Tour for the first time next year having defeated Julien Leclercq 5-2 in the final of the 2021 EBSA European Under-21 Snooker Championship.

Held at the Vidamar Hotel Resort in Albufeira, Portugal, a total of 78 players from 26 different countries took part in the latest annual edition of this prestigious championship that has roots dating back to 1997 and has been won by future stars such as Mark Allen, Michael White and Luca Brecel.

Emery had no issues qualifying top of his round robin group – winning four matches and dropping only a frame in the process.

As the third seed for the knockout phase, the 20-year-old survived a scare in the last 32 when he was pegged back by Germany’s Daniel Sciborski from 3-0 to 3-3 before coming through in a deciding frame.

The Caerphilly cueist then eliminated Connor Benzey (England) 4-0 in the last 16, ousted fellow countryman Liam Davies 4-3 in the quarter-finals with breaks of 103 and 99, and then reached the final following a 4-0 success over Poland’s Antoni Kowalski.

Emery’s opponent in the title match was the in-form Belgian Leclercq who was appearing in his second final this week having lost to compatriot Ben Mertens on the final pink in the Under-18 final on Monday.

Leclercq entered the knockouts as the top seed and dispatched Robbie McGuigan (Northern Ireland) 4-1, Sybren Sokolowski (Belgium) 4-2, Aidan Murphy (England) 4-2 and then Anton Kazakov (Ukraine) 4-2 in the semi-finals. Kazakov halted Mertens’ double title bid the round before by defeating him on the final black ball in a seventh and deciding frame.

However, Leclercq was to experience more final heartache as Emery took an early 2-0 lead in the final and went on to convert for a 5-2 victory, finishing off with a break of 75 in frame seven.

One of the most consistent players on the international amateur circuit in recent years – including runs to the final of the 2019 European Under-18 Championship and the semi-finals of the 2020 World Snooker Federation Open – Emery is the sixth different Welsh player to win this particular trophy. Following in the recent footsteps of Jackson Page who was triumphant in 2019, Emery wins a guaranteed two-year professional card for the 2022/23 and 2023/24 campaigns.

Attention in the Algarve now turns to the EBSA European Amateur Championship that runs from Friday 8th to Tuesday 12th October.

Article by Michael Day.

First of all, congratulations Dylan Emery and best of luck on the main tour.

As a Belgian, and mainland Europe, citizen, I’d like to share what Tommy Mortier, the Belgian Billiards and Snooker Federation leader for this tournament shared on Facebook:

Beste spelers en snookerliefhebbers,

De Europese Kampioenschappen voor U18 en U21 zijn afgerond.
Balans voor onze Belgische jeugddelegatie.
Balans voor onze land:
Ben Mertens is Europees Kampioen U18.
Julien Leclercq is vice-Europees Kampioen U18 & U21.
Ben had bij de U21 de hoogste break met 133.
Julien had bij de U18 de hoogste break 135.

Dit zijn enorme sterke resultaten waar wij allemaal bijzonder trots op zijn. Maar niet alleen op deze 2 kanjers maar ook alle andere Belgische jeugdspelers (Thijs Pauwels, Thor Van de Voorde, Sybren Sokolowski, Nick Jansen, Matthijs Verherstraeten, Yorrit Hoes) wens ik van harte te feliciteren met hun prestaties op dit Europees Kampioenschap.

Ben Mertens, Julien Leclercq en Sybren Sokolowski zullen ook actief zijn op het Europees Kampioenschap Men dat morgen start. Ook Peter Bullen, Wesley Pelgrims en Kevin Hanssens zijn van de partij.

Ik wens jullie allemaal bijzonder veel succes.
Het Europees Kampioenschap 6-reds is ook op gang geschoten met Peter Bullen en Kevin Hanssens als deelnemers. Jammer genoeg zijn beide spelers uitgeschakeld.
Werk allemaal op deze manier verder.

Bedankt voor jullie inzet.
Groeten
Tommy Mortier
Nationale Tornooileider BBSA

This is how it reads in French:

Chers joueurs et fans de snooker,

Les Championnats d’Europe U18 et U21 sont terminés.
Bilan pour notre délégation belge de jeunes.
Bilan pour notre pays :

Ben Mertens est Champion d’Europe U18.
Julien Leclercq est vice-Champion d’Europe U18 & U21.
Ben a eu le meilleur break chez les moins de 21 ans avec 133.
Julien a eu le meilleur break 135 chez les U18.

Ce sont de très bons résultats dont nous sommes tous très fiers. Mais je voudrais féliciter tous les autres jeunes joueurs belges (Thijs Pauwels, Thor Van de Voorde, Sybren Sokolowski, Nick Jansen, Matthijs Verherstraeten, Yorrit Hoes) pour leurs performances lors de ce Championnat d’Europe.

Ben Mertens, Julien Leclercq et Sybren Sokolowski seront également actifs dans le Championnat d’Europe masculin à partir de demain. Peter Bullen, Wesley Pelgrims et Kevin Hanssens sont également présents.

Je vous souhaite à tous beaucoup de succès.

Le Championnat d’Europe 6-rouges a également débuté avec Peter Bullen et Kevin Hanssens comme participants. Malheureusement, les deux joueurs sont absents.
Tout continue ainsi.

Merci pour vos efforts.
Cordialement
Tommy Mortier
Leader national du tournoi BBSA

and in English:

Dear players and snooker fans,

The European Championships for U18 and U21 have been completed.
Balance sheet for our Belgian youth delegation.
Balance for our country:

Ben Mertens is European Champion U18.
Julien Leclercq is vice-European Champion U18 & U21.
Ben had the highest break at the U21 with 133.
Julien had the highest break 135 at the U18.

These are very strong results that we are all very proud of. But I would like to congratulate all other Belgian youth players (Thijs Pauwels, Thor Van de Voorde, Sybren Sokolowski, Nick Jansen, Matthijs Verherstraeten, Yorrit Hoes) with their performances at this European Championship.

Ben Mertens, Julien Leclercq and Sybren Sokolowski will also be active in the European Men’s Championship starting tomorrow. Peter Bullen, Wesley Pelgrims and Kevin Hanssens are also present.

I wish you all great success.
The European Championship 6-reds has also started with Peter Bullen and Kevin Hanssens as participants. Unfortunately, both players are out.
All continue in this way.

Thank you for your efforts.
regards
Tommy Mortier

Why do I share this? Not out of national pride, no. I share it because what I see looking at the Belgian team is a surge of young talents, and a gap in the age groups. We have strong seniors and strong juniors. This seniors group was probably drawn to our sport by Eurosport when they started broadcasting snooker in the early 90th. The young talents, I’m certain, were inspired by Luca Brecel’s presence and successes on the pro tour.

If WST has real ambitions to make snooker a global sport, they need to break the strong “UK bias” that currently exists in snooker. I have written about it countless times, and I won’t repeat it all, but, yes, it’s time to make it more of an equal playing field, to promote more tournaments outside the UK, and to have the qualifiers – if any – to be played at the main event location, right before the event itself, so that young talents can be watched by their “local” supporters from round one. It’s time to make it easier for them to maybe continue to live in their country of origin, rather being forced to live in the UK as expats. This is particularly important for the younger ones and at this time when “Brexit Britain” isn’t excatly welcoming to foreigners. There will always be a lot of traveling of course, but at least it won’t be all “one way” traffic.

The appetite is there. The talent is there.

On a diffrent topic, yesterday triggered more reactions to Joe Perry’s views and Barry Hearn’s comments on them. The vast majority were supporting Perry and finally … finally … acknowledging that BH recurrent golf’s comparison doesn’t hold.

Ben Mertens is our 2021 under-18 European Champion

The 2021 Snooker European Championship are underway in Portugal.

You can follow the various competions here. Some matches are streamed.

Yesterday, the first competition, the under-18 Championship concluded. The Final was competed between two young Belgians: Ben Mertens (16) and Julien Leclercq (18). Both of them have beaten professionals at the World Championship qualifiers.

Congratulations Ben!

Here is the report bu WPBSA:

Mertens Wins Epic to Become European Under-18 Snooker Champion

Belgium’s Ben Mertens pipped fellow countryman and close friend Julien Leclercq 4-3 on the final pink in the final to win the 2021 EBSA European Under-18 Snooker Championship in Albufeira, Portugal.

Youngsters from 23 different nations across the continent took part in the sixth edition of this annual event that has previously been claimed by Welshmen Tyler Rees and Jackson Page (twice), and the Republic of Ireland’s Aaron Hill (twice).

Mertens and Leclercq were the star performers throughout, not dropping a frame during the round robin phase and qualifying for the knockouts as the top two seeds.

During the knockout portion, 16-year-old Mertens defeated Oliver Briffett-Payne (Wales) 3-0, Kledio KaÇi (Albania) 3-1 and then Alex Currid (Republic of Ireland) 4-0 to reach the semi-finals where he fell behind early on to opponent Liam Graham (Scotland) – who made a 122 – before coming through 4-2.

Left-hander Leclercq’s only moment of panic in the tournament came at the quarter-finals stage when he went 2-0 down to Poland’s Antoni Kowalski before racking up four consecutive frames which included an effort of 135 – the highest of the tournament. In the last four he dispatched Hungarian 14-year-old Bulcsú Révész 4-0.

The final was understandably a nervy and close affair with never more than frame in it and several decided on the colours. Both had half chances in the seventh and deciding frame, but when 18-year-old Leclercq agonisingly jawed a long green, Mertens stepped up to coolly pot green, brown, blue and then a fiendish pink along the baulk cushion to secure the biggest title of his career to date.

Mertens – the youngest player ever to win a qualifying match in the world professional championship – will immediately turn his attention to the EBSA European Under-21 Snooker Championship which also takes place at the Vidamar Hotel Resort in the Algarve. The winner will receive a lucrative two-year World Snooker Tour card.

The under-21 Championship started yesterday.

Images shared on social media by a proud father, Koen Mertens.

Ronnie’s Academy in Singapore

Ronnie has opened an Academy in Singapore and today is their launch day.

ROSSALaunch

I have known about the project for some time as Ronnie himself put me in contact with the guys over there … who wanted a few pictures. But, of course, I kept it quiet until the launch day. That’s today although I’m not sure if they are fully oen yet.

They have a website: https://www.rossa147.com/

They have a Twitter account: https://twitter.com/rossa147_

They have an Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/rossa147_/

They have a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/rossa147

 

 

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

 

 

Farewell Alan Chamberlain

Yesterday WST shared this sad news:

Alan Chamberlain

Alan Chamberlain, one of snooker’s leading referees who took charge of a wide range of the sport’s biggest finals, has sadly passed away at the age of 78.

Chamberlain was widely respected among snooker’s top players, directors and fellow referees and will be much missed by everyone in the sport.

He first refereed on the pro tour in 1983 and enjoyed a career lasting nearly 30 years. His high point was officiating the 1997  World Championship final at the Crucible when Ken Doherty beat Stephen Hendry. He also donned the white gloves for no fewer than eight Masters finals in London, including the 1998 epic when Mark Williams beat Stephen Hendry on a respotted black in the deciding frame.

Chamberlain was also the man in the middle for seven maximum 147 breaks, and he holds the unique honour of being the only man to have refereed a break over 147 in professional competition: Jamie Burnett’s 148 during the 2004 UK Championship qualifiers.

In 2010, he became a director of snooker’s global governing body the WPBSA, and spent six years in that role. He also served as Chairman of the WPBSA Rules Committee and Chairman of World Billiards Limited (WBL).

Chamberlain retired in 2016 in order to spend more time with his wife and family.

Jason Ferguson, WPBSA Chairman, said: “We are deeply saddened to hear the news today about Alan. He was a lovely man, a fantastic servant to our sport for well over 30 years and made a great contribution.

“As a referee, he was one of the very best we have ever seen. His ability to take control of the biggest matches with a calm demeanour set a perfect example for the younger generation of referees who followed in his footsteps.

“Once he put away his gloves for good, he became a much-admired director, and put his vast experience and knowledge to excellent use both in snooker and billiards.

“Our sincere condolences go to Alan’s family and friends.”

I had the privilege to meet Alan during the years I was taking pictures on the main tour. On the table he was an exceptionally good referee. He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but he was what a referee should be: strict, meticulous and precise. His knowledge of the rules was immense. He also expected the players to know the rules. This should be obvious, but it’s not always the case … as this famous incident proves:

The players were nonplussed but Alan was rigth there of course. The ball didn’t leave the bed of the table, and Dott “interfered” with it. So it was a foul, but not an in-off. Mark Selby thought that this was an in-off – as it would have been had Dott not blocked the white. So he picked the ball … prompting Alan to call another foul, against him this time, again for interfeering with a ball in play. Mark Selby hadn’t spotted the clue: Alan had not picked that white and had not put it close to the bottom rail, as referees always do after an in-off. You can her Alan explaining all this to the players…

Off the table, he was a soft-spoken affable man and always a pleasure to talk to.

Farewell Alan, sleep tight. We are already missing you.