Barry Hearn reacts to Ronnie’s ideas about alternate events

As expected Barry Hearn has reacted to Ronnie’s ideas about organising alternate events, and, as expected he’s giving him no chance to succeesd. He’s been talking to Phil Haigh:

Barry Hearn gives Ronnie O’Sullivan’s new tour plan ‘absolutely zero chance’ of happening

Hearn and Ronnie
Barry Hearn and Ronnie OSullivan have had their ups and downs over the years (Picture: Getty Images)
Barry Hearn and Ronnie O’Sullivan have a long history of disagreements (Picture: Getty Images)

Barry Hearn has labelled Ronnie O’Sullivan’s plan for a separate tour for ageing players as a ‘crazy idea’ and gives it ‘absolutely zero chance’ of coming to fruition.

Hearn has heard of plans for breakaway tours from O’Sullivan before and does not harbour serious concerns over this new idea coming to pass.

The WST chairman can see why the plan would suit the 45-year-old, but does not envisage any other players wanting to get on board with it.

‘That’s okay because there’s only him,’ Hearn told Metro.co.uk of O’Sullivan’s ambitious plot. ‘What you’ve got to realise is that Ronnie O’Sullivan is a genius on the snooker table, but geniuses are flawed personalities and sometimes they have crazy ideas.

‘Ronnie is great on the table and has crazy ideas off the table.

‘99% of the playing membership are delighted with the way snooker is going and delighted to play every week because they are professional players. There just aren’t any players like Ronnie.

‘When players can’t win on the tour then they may be interested in what else is out there. But whilst there is a dream of winning on the tour, and all the top players still have that, of course some are getting older, the Class of 92, John Higgins, Mark Williams, but these guys are still earning a great deal of money and they love to play snooker.

‘There will come a time where they don’t want to, of course, and Ronnie may well have two or three players that would rather just do exhibition snooker than tournament snooker.

‘But at the moment, as the tour gets bigger, we’ve had a Covid setback obviously with no China events this year, but we will bounce back stronger when this situation clears, and frankly Ronnie’s ideas about alternatives are only for Ronnie O’Sullivan, they’re not for anybody else.

‘Don’t be confused. Ronnie’s ideas are only ideas that appeal to Ronnie.

‘The other players are very much aware of that, which is why he has zero support anywhere else.’

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Ronnie O’Sullivan is looking for an alternative from the rigours of the main tour (Picture: Getty Images)

Hearn expects O’Sullivan and his contemporaries, such as Higgins and Williams, to remain on the main tour for years to come because they are good enough to compete at the business end of tournaments for some time.

He recognises that older players will not enjoy the rigours of the full-time tour as much as their younger rivals, but that is the nature of any sport and rules cannot be bent for the veterans.

‘The experience these players have got over the years makes them so difficult to beat, even with their B game,’ said Hearn of the veterans of the baize.

‘Ronnie O’Sullivan definitely falls into that category. Ronnie O’Sullivan could probably be top 16 for another 10 years, if he wanted to.

‘But ideally he’d like things different to suit him better, but unfortunately that doesn’t suit the sport better.

‘So he has no absolutely zero chance of doing anything like that, it’s just words.’

Well, I agree with Hearn that Ronnie is very unlikely to get his project to become reality, unless he has someone like Jason Francis in his corner, someone who has experience with setting up events, negotiating with venue managers, sponsors, and possibly broadcasters. And I wrote like Jason, because Jason himself has more than enough on his hands with the WSS tour and won’t be available for this, even if he wanted to.

Ronnie has neither the experience, nor the mental resilience to do such a thing successfully. Pat Mooney tried something like that with John Higgins, in 2007-2009. It was called the World Series of Snooker. There was a trial event in Warsaw in 2007, then it ran for the whole 2008/09 season, but the 2009/10 season was never completed.  They even had Eurosport support. They had some really good and popular players on board as well: John Higgins, Dott, Murphy, Selby, Ding, Jimmy White, Doherty… But, even so, it wasn’t sustainable economically. They ended up in debts.

So I agree with Hearn, but not necessarily for the reasons he puts forward. I’m pretty sure that there are quite a number of players, and not nessarily only the “older” ones who would be happier with a lighter schedule. Hearn will tell you that they don’t have to enter everything, which is true, but the way the rankings work, they are in fact  forced to enter everything or about, which is exactly what Hearn wants because it’s what the sponsors and the bookies want.

Looking back at 2020

2020 has been a strange and extremely difficult year for everyone. The covid-19 crisis has disrupted our lives, we have been locked down for long periods, most of us still are. We have been separated from loved ones, some of us have got the disease, some of us have lost someone dear to them to the disease. Most of us have struggled – still struggle – economically and mentally. And, we are not out of it just yet, unfortunately.

In the middle of this disaster, Barry Hearn and WST have managed to get our sport going. Yes, it’s been mainly behind closed doors, yes, many are tired of Milton Keynes and events outside UK have been either moved or canceled BUT most players have been playing and have been offered earning opportunities, and fans have been able to watch a lot of great snooker. Also, great efforts have been put into making the setup attractive and different for each competition.

Thanks you Barry Hearn, thank you WST!

Big thanks also, to all the players, the WPBSA, the officials, the fitters, the pundits, the commentators, the sports journalists, the television crews and everyone behind the scenes who have made it possible.

Thank you!

And the news broke off yesterday evening that Barry Hearn has been awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours for his services to sport. 

So, to keep the tradition alive, here are my awards … and the golden turkey.

The Awards

Player of the Year: Judd Trump

Judd Trump is well ahead of everyone in terms of ranking points, he has more than 800000 points more than Neil Robertson, who is ranked second. He has won six ranking titles during the year: the 2020 German Masters, the 2020 Players Championship, the 2020 Gibraltar Open, the 2020 English Open , the 2020 Northern Ireland Open and the 2020 World Grand prix. He reached two more finals: the 2020 Championship League (October 2020 edition) and the 2020 UK Championship. He has played 103 matches over the year, won 84 of them. He played 721 frames, won 456, made 97 centuries. The only disappointment for him is probably that he started the year as World and Masters Champion and finishes without holding any of the “Triple Crown” titles.

Achievement of the Year: Ronnie’s sixth World Title

Ronnie hadn’t reached the one table setup at the Crucible since his defeat to Mark Selby in the 2014 Final. His last appearance at the Theatre of Dreams had been a nightmare as be went out in the first round to James Cahill, an amateur at the time. His season has been an indifferent one by his standards. For once the bookies weren’t making him a favourite. Very few, if any, expected him the to win the 2020 World Championship,  but he did. He went on to beat Thepchaiya Un-nooh, Ding Junhui, Mark Williams, Mark Selby and Kyren Wison to become World Champion for a sixth time, at the age of 44, the oldest winner at the Crucible since Ray Raerdon in 1978. He made 12 centuries during the Championship. He admitted that the reduced media duties, and the absence of crowd had helped him in that there were less distractions, and less pressure as well. It was all about playing… and play, he did, fully focussed from start to finish.

Match of the year: Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Selby Semi-final

I have chosen this match because of its signifiance in the context of the rivalry between Ronnie and Mark Selby. Speaking to Stephen Hendy over Instagram during the lockdown, last June, Ronnie had admitted that, if there was one match he would like to be able to “take back” and play again, it would be the 2014 World Final, a match where he lead by 10-5 and ended up up losing by 18-14.

Here is the piece Eurosport did about this conversation:

‘I LOST ALL RHYTHM’ – THE MATCH RONNIE O’SULLIVAN WOULD LOVE TO PLAY AGAIN

Five-times world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan has named the one match he would like to replay – naming the 2014 World Championship final as his major regret. 
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O’Sullivan looked set to win the world title for a third straight year when he led Mark Selby 8-3 and 10-5 six years ago only to see the Leicester player mount a rousing recovery to complete an 18-14 win with a comeback boosted by a watertight tactical game.

It denied O’Sullivan the chance to join Steve Davis and Ray Reardon on six titles in the modern era and continue to leave him two adrift on Stephen Hendry’s record haul of seven.

The Essex player has not been beyond the quarter-finals since 2014 as he prepares for his latest bid to recapture the sport’s biggest title at the Crucible next month.

O’Sullivan insists he won’t be drawn into long tactical exchanges with Selby – who added two mores victories in 2016 and 2017 – if he comes across him this year.

“The match I’d like to play again would be Selby in the 2014 final because I’d have played it differently,” said O’Sullivan during his latest chat with Hendry on Instagram.

“I would have done everything I could to not get bogged down and keep the game open.

WHEN I LOOKED BACK I THOUGHT I’D GOT SUCKED INTO HIS GAME. IT WASN’T UNTIL AFTER THAT GAME THAT I THOUGHT, ‘YEAH I MIGHT LOSE TO YOU AND I PROBABLY WILL LOSE TO YOU AGAIN, BUT IT’S GOING TO BE ON MY TERMS.

“I’m just going to blast them open, I’m not getting sucked into eight or nine frames of 50-minute frames, because it destroys you.

“I tried to compete with him and play that sort of game, but then I sat back and thought, ‘I’ve lost my own rhythm.’

“I’d rather lose three frames on the spin but keep my own rhythm, because given the chance I could go bang, bang, bang and win three frames back.

“It got to the point that even if he left me amongst the balls I
weren’t even going to make 20 because I just had no rhythm. I learned a lot.”

O’Sullivan certainly seemed to dictate terms in their previous meeting, running out a 5-1 winner in the Welsh Open last eight in February boosted by breaks of 85, 95 and 142.

“Certain players have your number and I think Selby kind of had my number for a bit, I struggled against him, even though I had victories against him,” said O’Sullivan.

“I thought, I might lose to you, but it’ll be on my terms. Ever since I’ve played like that I’ve enjoyed every game I’ve had against him, even if I’ve lost to him.”

Well, given the opportunity to play Mark Selby over four sessions, Ronnie did exactly what he had told Hendry he would do. He refused to get sucked in his opponent game, he refused to enter into safety battles. He went for “hit and hope” shots when in  snookers and it  worked. Ronnie could easily have lost that match, he was behind for most it. IIn the end, He was 16-14 down and produced an extraordinary salvo of three frames to snatch victory.

Guess what? Mark Selby didn’t like it. He though that it was “disrespectful” from Ronnie to play this way. When he won in 2014, he was praised for “finding a way” to beat Ronnie, and rightly so. This time it was Ronnie who “found a way” to beat him by refusing to let him dictate the pace and the style of the match. He too should be praised for it.

Frame of the year: Kyren Wilson v Anthony McGill World Semi-final decider

This is certainly the most extraordinary frame I have ever watched.

Here is how WST descibed it in a recent article:

One of the most extraordinary deciding frames in snooker’s rich history. As it progressed, wizened Crucible veterans gawped at the screens backstage, wondering what could possibly happened next. At one stage the two players seemed to have invented a new game within a game, taking turns to bounce the cue ball off the baulk cushion to try to flick the last red into a centre pocket. That was after Wilson gained 43 points in fouls to leave his opponent needing snookers, then somehow contrived to go in-off twice. Eventually it was settled by another freakish moment as Wilson fluked the green during a safety exchange. He was on the verge of tears as he potted the last pink, completing the unique frame score of 103-83. “I have known Anthony since we were kids, and in the last frame we were just two young lads out there feeling the pressure,” said Wilson. “We fought so hard for three days, toe to toe, we both gave it everything. It was just the maddest match.” A gracious McGill smiled: “I feel as if the match was stolen from me – not by Kyren but by the snooker Gods. I really enjoyed the fight, it was played in the right spirit.”

But words can’t really convey the drama ir produced… so here it is for you to watch (again)

Most dramatic day of snooker of the season: Saturday 14th of August, 2020

Yes, actually, the third day of the 2020 World Championship semi-finals, was, in my opinion, the most exciting and dramatic day of snooker, if not ever, certainly since I started following the sport some 15 years ago. Both semi-finals were remarkable, tense, dramatic and  went to a deciding frame.

Shot of the year: Stephen Maguire incredible “trick shot” at the 2020 Masters

It has to be this …

I love Maguire’s celebration …

Luckiest man of the year: Stephen Maguire

Stephen Maguire didn’t qualify for the Tour Championship, but got the opportunity to play in it when Ding – who had opted to return to China as the pandemic unfolded in the UK – withdrew. Stepen made the most of this unexpected chance as he went on to win the event, earning himself £150000. Stephen had also previously earned £30000 for reaching the quarter-finals of the 2020 Players Championship. That was enough for him to also win the “Coral Cup” and the £100000 bonus coming with it. Basically he got £250000 by playing in an event when he should’nt even have been in the draw. It had to be won though, so, well done Stephen Maguire!

The Golden Turkey

Golden Turkey

Barry Hearn’s insensitive treatment of Anthony Hamilton

Anthony Hamilton had qualified for the television stages of the World Championship: he had beaten Sam Craigie by 6-3 and Scott Donaldson by 10-5. He was due to return to the Crucible for the first time since 2008. Anthony had turned 49 in June. Over the last decade he had suffered countless back injuries. He was really looking forward to it, knowing that this may well be his last opportunity to play on the biggest scene of all. People like David Hendon and Hector Nunns, who were on-site, were clear about it on social media: Anyhony was absolutely dlighted to have qualified and definitely wanted to play.

The qualifiers had been well under way when the news came that fans would be allowed into the arena, and they would not be tested, and there would be no temperature checks. Anthony Hamilton only learned about it after he qualified. He had been shielding, as he suffers from asthma. He felt that it was undsafe for him to play. He withdrew.

Barry Hearn’s reaction was particularly insensitive and unfair.

You can read here what I wrote about it at the time.

It’s worth reading the comments as well.

The reigning World Champion at the time, Judd Trump, did himself no favour as he jumped on Hearn’s bandwagon

Judd Trump has hit out at Anthony Hamilton for withdrawing from the World Snooker Championship on the eve of the tournament, calling the world No 48 “selfish” and suggesting he should have pulled out prior to securing his place at the event instead of taking an opportunity from another player.

Ronnie however wasn’t impressed by the decision to have fans back, stating that players were treated like lab rats.

Ronnie O’Sullivan says allowing spectators into the Crucible Theatre for the World Championship is treating snooker players like “lab rats”.

The tournament, which begins on Friday, will be the first indoor sporting event with crowds, allowing around 300 supporters to attend each session.

Qualifier Anthony Hamilton, who suffers from severe asthma, says it is “ridiculous” and “too early” for fans.

Five-time world champion O’Sullivan said players “all run a bit of a risk”.

….

Those that have booked tickets to attend the Sheffield venue will be placed in ‘bubbles’ of up to four people – limited to a maximum of two households – and will be socially distanced from others in the arena.

Temperature checks will not be in place and although face masks must be worn around the venue they can be removed once spectators are seated inside.

World number 48 Hamilton pulled out of the Championship League – the first event that was played on the sport’s return – because of health concerns and called the decision to allow people to take off their masks in the auditorium “a mad thing”.

He added: “Let’s say one person gets ill and dies from the Crucible, that is one person who has died for no reason, just for entertainment.

“I won’t be comfortable in there personally. I don’t know why anybody would be comfortable – we all know it is airborne.”

However, O’Sullivan said: “I defy anybody if they have been keeping their distance from people for four months to say, oh right, now you’ve got to go into a room full of people – unless you have got a death wish, and some people have in many ways and they just don’t care.

“But if you are one of these people that happens to care about your health and are taking it seriously, I totally get how [Hamilton] feels.

“I would feel a bit strange walking in a room with 10 people I don’t know, and I have done. I didn’t feel comfortable.

“So I totally respect where Anthony is coming from, and where other people are coming from – they want crowds in there, they want things back to normal. We have a choice – we don’t have to go and play. We all run a bit of a risk.

“I have the option not to play but I’ve decided to play. Maybe with 5,000 fans I could see it’s a bit of an income you’re going to lose, but 200 fans, is it really?

“Maybe they have to start doing a test on crowds at some point and I’ve heard people say they’re treating the snooker event a little bit like lab rats – you’ve got to start somewhere, start with snooker players.

“Less insurance to pay out for Anthony Hamilton than there is for Lewis Hamilton.”

O’Sullivan says he has had friends die from Covid-19 and has not been within 20 feet of his mother, who is in the ‘high risk’ category because she had pneumonia last year.

“It’s not until you’ve had people close to you that have gone through it, and know someone who has died,” he said.

“I don’t think it has been taken seriously enough.”

The worst aspect of it, is that Anthony’s fears, and Ronnie’s views were vindicated as the “experiment” came to an end after just one day. It was deemed too risky by the UK government

If that premature, reckless decision to allow a crowd in hadn’t been made, Anthony Hamilton would have been playing at the Crucible. He was the one ‘robbed” of a golden opportunity. 

But Barry Hearn never apologised of course…

Statistics source: cuetracker.net

Ronnie’s plans for the future

Once again Phil Haigh has conducted a great interview, this time with Ronnie about how he sees his future in snooker.

Thank you Phil!

Ronnie O’Sullivan plans to drop off tour in three years and create new events for ageing players

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Ronnie O’Sullivan may play in major events for just three more years (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan has given himself ‘three or four years maximum’ competing on the main snooker tour, before he plans to create different events for players who are slightly past their peak.

The Rocket is the reigning world champion and remains the sport’s biggest star, but feels his time at the top is coming to an end.

The 45-year-old can clearly still compete at the elite level, as he proved at the Crucible this summer, but he is feeling the strain of the relentless snooker calendar and does not expect to keep up a packed schedule for much longer.

From 16 November to 20 December this year, four tournaments were played without a day between each of them, highlighting just how busy players’ diaries have become.

O’Sullivan says he can’t and won’t keep up with this schedule into his 50s, despite wanting to keep playing the game that he loves, so he has come up with a plan.

The six-time world champion wants to assemble a few players at similar stages of their careers and put together a set of events away from the main tour for ageing greats of the game in a bid to keep the competitive juices flowing.

‘I’ve accepted I’ve got another three or four years maximum of playing top level snooker,’ O’Sullivan told Metro.co.uk.

‘I don’t want to play much longer than that, so the next three years I just want to enjoy with an eye on playing on a tour that is maybe a bit more suited to how much I want to play. So I can compete but I’m not going to be a slave to playing tournament after tournament.

‘I can’t play and compete the way it is at the moment, they’re literally playing every day. It is every day. It doesn’t seem like there’s a separation from one tournament to the next.

I would still like to play into my mid-50s, I still think I could make maximums and play to a very high standard, I don’t think I’m going to be able to compete week-in-week-out, physically you just don’t recover.

‘I’ve noticed if I go deep into a tournament now, then for two or three days I’m knackered. I can’t keep up with the younger people, it’s not so much of a physical thing, it’s more of a mental and just an age thing.

‘I suppose at some point there’s going to be a few players in my age bracket feeling the same way. I think Marco Fu has decided to jack it in, staying in Hong Kong. James Wattana too. All very, very good players but it’s an age thing, you just get to an age where the mind says “yeah I can do it” but the body can’t keep up.’

The Seniors Tour is available to players over 40 who are no longer competing at the top end of the main tour, but the Rocket wants to plug a gap between the two.

He recognises it would be for a small group of players, but has plans to make it work for those not willing to go through the rigours of the main tour, but are still too good for the Seniors.

‘Obviously there’s the exhibition circuit that I can always do, but it’s nice to have a platform to play,’ Ronnie explained. ‘A little bit like the Seniors Tour, but I don’t think I’m ready for the Seniors, I’d like to do something a bit in between, where players are still capable of making 147s and playing to a very high standard, but we’re all on a level playing field.

Ronnie 6th WC
O’Sullivan won a sixth world title in August (Picture: PA)

‘So it might be eight or 10 tournaments, something on those lines. It’s for when I’ve finished on the main tour but I still want to play but I’m probably not good enough or young enough to compete on a level playing field with the rest of them.

I think it would be unfair to go on the Seniors Tour, but I think there’s a gap in the middle for an 8-man event, 12-man event. Playing against people who are a little bit older but not past their sell-by date and can still play well enough.

‘They just can’t travel, aren’t fit enough or haven’t got the energy or motivation to go from one tournament to the next. It is a young man’s game now, whether you like it or not.

‘I’m not saying the younger players are better, because they’re probably not, you’ve still got a lot of 40-45 year olds playing the best snooker. But it doesn’t become about who’s the best, it becomes about who can outlast each other, who can recover quicker. Obviously a 25-year-old can recover quicker than a 45-year-old.

‘That’s why I say there’s somewhere in the middle with the right amount of playing so you can prepare right and perform to a very, very high level.’

If this plan doesn’t come together, O’Sullivan says retirement is looking likely in three years, despite still wanting to play the game.

That would be something I’d look at at some point to hopefully carry on playing snooker and if that’s not possible then I would definitely retire after three years because it’s just impossible for me to do it from a stamina point of view,’ he said.

O’Sullivan would have to recruit some fellow players to remove themselves from the main tour and join his events, something that he recognises will be a difficult process.

He wants to create a competitive structure for a specific set of players, but these players can still earn huge amounts of money on the main tour.

While Ronnie says he is not financially driven, it is not going to be easy to attract professionals away from their home at World Snooker to back his new venture.

‘I can’t speak for the likes of [Mark] Williams and [John] Higgins and I’m not talking about breakaway tours because I’ve already said I’d play for nothing, it’s not like a money thing,’ the world champ said.

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John Higgins turned professional in the same year as Ronnie O’Sullivan (Picture: Getty Images)

‘Obviously if other people were to come on it they wouldn’t play for nothing, but for me it’s not about money, it’s just that I enjoy what I do.

I’ve got a hardcore of fans that enjoy watching me play and I feel that I’ve got a duty to them, in a way, to only retire when I feel that it’s the right time to retire.

It wouldn’t be a rival tour, because you’ve got the elite 128 players that are competing every day, but for me to prolong my career I’d definitely have to hand in my card, but I’m happy to play for nothing.

‘I know that it wouldn’t be for nothing, I’m sure sponsors and TV and the right management in place, they’d provide all that sort of stuff, all I want to do is play snooker. But I want to enjoy what I do and that’s the key.

I definitely think I can possibly get two or three more years as it is, but then after that…I could still compete, I know that, but it would become too much hard work and I probably wouldn’t enjoy it that much. I think the key is to find a happy medium.

O’Sullivan is playing as much tournament snooker as he has for a number of years, entering nearly every event so far this season, so his drive to play is unquestionably intact.

He has spoken in the past of fear driving him on to compete, the fear of failure and not living up to his own exacting standards, but that is no longer a motivation for him.

The Rocket plays without that pressure on himself anymore, or at least without feeling it as much as he did, and while that allows him to enjoy the game more and be more care-free, he does admit it has taken away some of his killer instinct and a sharpness in his game.

‘I obviously have a lot less to prove, I don’t have anything to prove,’ he said. ‘But I think with that loss of fear…I’ve always said that fear drove me on to want to play well and to put the extra hours in, to devote myself to snooker.

When you do that you get such tunnel vision and for the last five years I haven’t had that approach. It’s worked for me, in a way, I’ve been much more relaxed, but I think you get to the point where maybe that intensity isn’t there enough of the time.

I don’t know if it’s lack of crowds but I just feel like I’m missing the odd ball I wasn’t missing before. Against 95% of the tour I might get away with it, but against Neil Robertson, Judd Trump and Mark Selby I’m just not going to get away with it against them.

‘Against all the other guys I will and have got away with it but If I’m to compete with them three then I’ve got to erase them errors.’

The “bold” highligths are my doing, as usual.

Ronnie’s statement that it would be unfair to play in the Seniors Tour is neither arrogant, nor contemptuous.

It is certain that, if he did compete in the Seniors tour, it would attract a lot of fans, but on the other hand it might drive a lot of seniors players away from that tour, the amateurs in particular. As it is, the Seniors Tour can’t afford to scrap entry fees. Would they still enter events if they feel they have no chance?

The Seniors Tour has produced, great moments and great stories for the over-40 amateurs: Aaron Canavan, an amateur from Jersey, someone who had only rarely played outside the Channel Islands, became a World Champion, Rodney Goggins from Ireland, played a Final in Goffs, in front of a full house, Michael Judge became UK Champion, beating Jimmy White in the final. The Tour’s motto is “Dare to Dream”. If players like Ronnie, John Higgins or Mark William were to compete in it, in a close future, it would probably kill the dream for many, and they wouldn’t enter as they wouldn’t probably believe that they stand any chance.

It has also offered Greats from the past who are really past it, fantastic opportunities to shine again. Jimmy White struggles to win any match on the Main Tour nowadays, but he is the reigning Seniors Champion, having finally lifted a World trophy at the Crucible last year. Cliff Thorburn won the Seniors Masters at the Crucible, aged 70, and it was an incredibly emotional moment. It mattered so much to Cliff. Their ability may decline, but the competitive spirtit never goes.

Those thing could be destroyed if players like Ronnie, John Higgins or Mark Williams started racking all the trophies. They may no more be at their best, or willing to compete day-in day-out, but they are still far too good for the Seniors Tour in its current form. So, yes, maybe, something in-between would be a good idea and one that could work for everyone.

Main Tour news …

Yesterday WST published two posts on their website:

The results of the AGM:

The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) has today (Wednesday 23 December 2020) held its Annual General Meeting online.

The AGM saw the election of a further two current members to join the first Board of WPBSA Players, a new body which received formal approval as part of a governance review and wider constitutional changes passed at an Extraordinary General Meeting held on 25 November.

Eight members stood for election: Nigel Bond, Ding Junhui, Joe Perry, Mark Davis, Rod Lawler, Barry Pinches, Lee Walker and Tian Pengfei.

The result was that Nigel Bond and Ding Junhui were successfully elected by the membership and will join existing directors Ken Doherty, Mike Dunn and Peter Lines on the new WPBSA Players Board.

The AGM also saw the presentation of the Accounts and Directors Report, including the latest independently audited accounts, which were unanimously accepted by the meeting.

WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “I am today pleased to welcome both Ding Junhui and Nigel Bond to the Board of WPBSA Players following their successful election.

“For over 15 years Ding has been a trailblazer for our sport in Asia following his landmark victory at the 2005 China Open and at last year’s UK Championship he reminded everybody of his class by claiming the title for a third time.

“Away from the baize he has also continues to play a significant role in our sport, having become almost a father figure to many of the young Chinese players competing on the World Snooker Tour. Already he has represented players in China on behalf of our colleagues at the China Billiards & Snooker Association. In this new formalised role, I am sure he will not only be a fantastic representative for Asian players, but for all players who travel great distances living away from home within our sport. Part of our vision to create WPBSA Players was to increase global representation within key roles and I am delighted to this is now becoming a reality.

“Like Ding, Nigel Bond is a former World Championship finalist who brings to the board a wealth of experience at all levels having maintained an unbroken spell on our tour dating back to 1989. A former World Seniors champion, he remains capable of competing at the highest level as he showed with his stunning victory against world number one Judd Trump last year in York.

“Alongside his playing career, he has also become a successful coach around the world and has become an integral part of the WPBSA Coaching Programme, sharing his experience to help train the next generation of qualified snooker coaches.

“I am confident that both will bring significant value to WPBSA Players and that the recently announced constitutional changes will achieve our goal of better serving our member players, as well as furthering the world class governance and development of our great sport.”

First of all congratulations to Ding Junhui and Nigel Bond!

I was surprised when I read that Ding was running for a seat on the board. He’s only 33 and it’s hard to combine a playing career at the top and the duties of a member of the board. Shaun Murphy found it difficult and eventually stepped down from the board to concentrate on his career. On the other hand, China has been investing a lot of money into the game in recent years. About one in six main tour player is from China, including 15 of the 27 players aged under 25. It’s obvious that they need a voice on the board, they need to be represented, and who would be better equipped than Ding for the role? He has the required status, both in the sport and in his country, his command of English is now excellent.

An announcement about the (possible) 2021 World Cup:

Plans to stage the Snooker World Cup in the city of Wuxi in China in 2021 are taking shape, with 24 national teams to battle for the coveted trophy.

WST is currently in discussion with partners in China, with the ambition to hold the event early in the 2021/22 season.

Scotland are the defending champions as the pair of John Higgins and Stephen Maguire beat China in the 2019 final. That ended a run of three consecutive World Cup victories for China.

Higgins names the moment of lifting the trophy as one of the proudest moments of his glittering career. He said: “The pressure is tenfold compared to playing for yourself. When I first played with Stephen (Maguire), I played a deciding frame against Mark Allen and lost. I’d never felt pressure like it in all of my life. World Championship finals, you name it.

“To win it was a brilliant feeling – the proudest feeling in the world. Scotland haven’t got many World Champions so we were delighted to win it for our country. I always feel that if I am lucky enough to get into the team, I’ll be with a very good partner and we’ll have a chance to win it again.”

The Snooker World Cup has a tremendous history having first been staged in 1979. Wuxi, in China’s Jiangsu Province, hosted the event in 2015, 2017 and 2019.

Further details on the 2021 World Cup, including the teams and format, will be announced in due course.

 

The World Cup has been hosted in Wuxi before, including the last edition, so it’s maybe just coincidence that this announcement comes at the same time as Ding’s election as member of the board. However, Ding was born in Yixing, in Jiangsu province, and Wuxi is a major city in Jiangsu, only about 90 km from Yixing, Ding’s presence on the board can only help opening doors in his country, and in particular in his “home” region.

Tour news ahead of a new year…

So… yesterday was the last day of snooker in 2020. I will cover Judd Trump’s World Grand Prix win in the next post. Meanwhile here are some news about SPOTY and what is coming next year. By the looks of it, we are not out of the woods any time soon unfortunately.

No SPOTY for Ronnie 

Ronnie O’Sullivan missed out on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award as Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton was voted the winner.

Six-time World Champion O’Sullivan was the first snooker player to be shortlisted for the prestigious award since Stephen Hendry in 1990.

Earlier this year, O’Sullivan conquered the Crucible for the first time since 2013. In all he has won a record 37 ranking titles and 20 Triple Crown events, while helping snooker’s popularity to grow around the world with his charisma and flamboyant style of play.

He was on the shortlist alongside Hamilton, Hollie Doyle, Jordan Henderson, Stuart Broad and Tyson Fury.

Jordan Henderson (football) and Hollie Doyle (horse racing) came second and third. Is it a coincidence that those are all big-money sports?

Apparently there was some kind of silver-lining to this cloud: snooker got about ten minutes “antenna time” instead of  its usual 30 seconds. Ah well, all good then.

The Masters will  be played behind closed doors as reported by Hector Nunns

Barry Hearn concedes next month’s snooker Masters will be behind closed doors at Alexandra Palace after London was placed in tier four of coronavirus restrictions amid mounting cases in the capital

Barry Hearn has conceded the new ‘Tier Four’ restrictions will force snooker to play next month’s Masters behind closed doors.

The game has been confirmed by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden as one of the elite sports that can continue to stage tournaments without a crowd.

But though London’s status could change before the prestigious invitation tournament decisions must be made today regarding organisation of the event.

Barry Hearn has delivered a withering response to learning that fans can't attend the Masters

Barry Hearn has delivered a withering response to learning that fans can’t attend the Masters

Until last week tickets were being sold with a capacity of 1,000 per session at Alexandra Palace but those fans now look set to be disappointed.

And an angry Hearn says the late decisions and continually changing landscape are ‘a mess’ having already been ‘burned’ at snooker’s World Championship in August and the PDC darts this month.

He said: ‘It is a mess. If you had asked me about the Masters two days ago I would have said, “All systems go”. Suddenly now, realistically, we have a problem.

‘It is because of all the things we have to organise.

‘It is like this whole thing is taking great pleasure in kicking me in the nuts. Every time I spend a load of money, there is no payback.

The likes of Stuart Bingham, who won last year's tournament, will not perform in front of fans

The likes of Stuart Bingham, who won last year’s tournament, will not perform in front of fans

‘We had the snooker at the Crucible, half a day before they changed their minds on crowds. The darts, all of a sudden after one day with live crowds – gone.

‘These things cost a lot of money just to get the venues ready for the admission of people.

‘We have a final meeting on Monday but this is not a two-minute thing and my recommendation will be to stage the Masters behind closed doors.

‘Even if we come out of whatever tier we are in now – which they are making up as they go along – I can’t see them welcoming crowds back to sport until early January at least.

‘But I have to make decisions on Monday about things like tiered seating at Ally Pally, structure, entrance of fans, Covid rules for them…it is actually more efficient to do it behind closed doors.

Hearn has described the setback to his plans at Alexandra Palace as 'kicking me in the nuts'

Hearn has described the setback to his plans at Alexandra Palace as ‘kicking me in the nuts’

‘I can’t leave those decisions until early January, I have to make them now as it’s a three-week order and build.

‘We as an organisation have been burned twice already at the Crucible and now the darts World Championships.

‘We don’t get any payment from the government, even as a pilot scheme – I’m not moaning about that, just stating a fact.

‘If it’s going to be a choice between a maybe and a definite, I’m better off opting for the safe option so I’m pretty sure there won’t be crowds.

‘We had sold a number of tickets, and this thing runs into a lot of money overall. We lost £2.5million at the Crucible, maybe £4m at the darts, and the Masters £750,000.

‘The only overriding thing that is good still is that although we come behind that great sport of break-dancing in the Olympics, we are recognised as an elite sport here.

‘That has just been confirmed by Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State, and we can continue to put on professional tournaments behind closed doors.

How quickly we return to any kind of normality with the crowds I don’t know, but I am thinking the Crucible for the World Championships next April.’

Barry isn’t happy and he’s absolutely right. The UK government constantly changes the goalposts and it costs a lot of money the entrepreneurs, and the UK economy in general. In times of crisis, clear and consistent policies and information are of essence. The mixed messages fuel distrust and misunderstanding in the general public, not mentioning conspiracy theories. How can people abide by rules that are constantly changing?

I have put the last sentence in bold. That’s the prospect for now. Hopefully the spring, and the vaccines, will bring the infection rates down.

The Championship League Snooker will return to its traditional format. It will start on January, 4, 2021.

BETVICTOR CHAMPIONSHIP LEAGUE SNOOKER RETURNS IN 2021

BETVICTOR CHAMPIONSHIP LEAGUE SNOOKER RETURNS IN 2021

BetVictor Championship League Snooker will return in January 2021 in its original invitational format at Stadium MK, Milton Keynes as 25 of the world’s best players battle over seven groups for the right to compete in April’s big-money Winners’ Group.

BetVictor Championship League Snooker, promoted by Matchroom Multi Sport, will begin with Group 1 on January 4-5, with Group 2 (Jan 6-7) and Group 3 (Jan 8-9) to follow the same week.

Groups 4-6 will be played over the week of February 8-13 and BetVictor Championship League Snooker will return with Group 7 from March 29-30. The seven Group Champions will then return for Winners’ Group from March 31-April 1.

BetVictor Championship League Snooker will be shown live on betting websites around the world, as well as on global OTT platforms and Matchroom.Live. Winners’ Group will additionally be broadcast on TV networks, with full details to be confirmed in the new year.

Emily Frazer, Managing Director of Matchroom Multi Sport, said: “We are excited to open 2021 with the return of BetVictor Championship League Snooker’s invitational event.

“The unique format has always been a hit with the players, who are competing for a share of the £205,000 prize fund and a place in the Champion of Champions.

“With the introduction of live streaming at Matchroom.Live throughout, and TV broadcasters for Winners’ Group, this year we’ll be making sure BetVictor Championship League Snooker is available for all snooker fans to watch and enjoy.

“We’re pleased to be working alongside BetVictor once again and we’re working hard to ensure fans will see increased production and staging levels compared to previous invitational Championship League events.

“Championship League has evolved dramatically over 2020 with many event formats pioneering the return of professional sport after the Covid-19 shutdown. We are keen to consistently push the CLS brand with both this Invitational Event and we hope that the Ranking Event edition will return later in 2021, offering all 128 WST Tour card holders the chance to participate.”

The BetVictor Championship League Snooker is a venture between Matchroom Multi Sport and Perform which began in 2008, where 25 of the game’s elite players compete with matches being broadcasted on the biggest sports streaming platforms.

Each group features seven players and is played across two days with two tables in operation. All matches are a best-of-five and each group is played to a round-robin format. The top four in each group contest the play-offs, with the eventual winner advancing to Winners’ Group. The three play-off players who don’t advance will move into the next group, where they are joined by the player who finished fifth in the table and three new players. Those finishing sixth and seventh in each group are eliminated from the competition.

A total of up to £205,000 prize money is available with players earning £100 per frame won, with significant bonuses for their final group position and increased prize money in the Winners’ Group. In its 12-year history, the BetVictor Championship League Snooker has paid out over £2,000,000 in prize money.

 

 

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

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

This is the latest piece, by David Hendon:

O’Sullivan A ‘Figurehead For Snooker’

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

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

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

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

David Hendon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VOTE for SNOOKER

Ronnie nominated for SPOTY

Ok, unless you are living on Jupiter, you probably know this already: after 30 years of being ignored, snooker has a spot in SPOTY! Indeed Ronnie has made it into the shortlist.

Here is the report by WST:

Ronnie O’Sullivan is on the shortlist of nominees for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award for the first time in his career.

The shortlist is announced today and O’Sullivan has been named as one of six nominees, alongside Lewis Hamilton, Stuart Broad, Jordan Henderson, Hollie Doyle and Tyson Fury.

O’Sullivan won the World Championship for the sixth time earlier this year, beating Kyren Wilson 18-8 in the Crucible final. That reinforced his status as snooker’s greatest ever player, having won a record 37 ranking titles and 20 Triple Crown events. He also holds the records for the most century breaks, with 1,070, and most 147s with 15.

O’Sullivan won his first ranking title at the age of just 17 at the 1993 UK Championship, and 27 years later he is still a regular winner of tournaments and ranked second in the world. At 44, he is the oldest World Champion since Ray Reardon in 1978.

BBC Sports Personality of the Year will be televised on BBC One on the evening of Sunday December 20th and the winner will be named on the night after a public vote.

It’s the first time a snooker player has been in the mix for the main award since Stephen Hendry in 1990. The only snooker player to win it was Steve Davis in 1988.

WST Chairman Barry Hearn said: “This is fully deserved for snooker’s greatest ever player and one of the most talented British sportsmen of all time. His nomination is well overdue so I am delighted that he is finally on the shortlist. Ronnie’s popularity among fans has helped us to grow snooker around the world. I hope he wins the award and that anyone who loves sport will vote for him based on his incredible achievements over the years.”

BBC’s Director of Sport Barbara Slater said of this year’s awards: “As we know, it has been a strange and unprecedented year, but we have still been fortunate enough to see plenty of sporting highlights which we look forward to honouring on the night.

“The 67th BBC Sports Personality of the Year award promises to be another exciting and tough choice for audiences.”

Votes can be cast by phone or online on the evening of Sunday 20 December and the number to call for each contender will be revealed during the programme. For further information and full Terms and Conditions, go to bbc.co.uk/sportspersonality.

The prestigious award has been running since 1954. Here are the former winners:

1954 Sir Chris Chataway

1955 Gordon Pirie

1956 Jim Laker

1957 Dai Rees

1958 Ian Black

1959 John Surtees

1960 David Broome

1961 Sir Stirling Moss

1962 Anita Lonsbrough

1963 Dorothy Hyman

1964 Mary Rand

1965 Tommy Simpson

1966 Bobby Moore

1967 Sir Henry Cooper

1968 David Hemery

1969 Ann Jones

1970 Sir Henry Cooper

1971 HRH Princess Anne

1972 Dame Mary Peters

1973 Sir Jackie Stewart

1974 Brendan Foster

1975 David Steele

1976 John Curry

1977 Virginia Wade

1978 Steve Ovett

1979 Lord Sebastian Coe

1980 Robin Cousins

1981 Sir Ian Botham

1982 Daley Thompson

1983 Steve Cram

1984 Torvill and Dean

1985 Barry McGuigan

1986 Nigel Mansell

1987 Fatima Whitbread

1988 Steve Davis

1989 Sir Nick Faldo

1990 Paul Gascoigne

1991 Liz McColgan

1992 Nigel Mansell

1993 Linford Christie

1994 Damon Hill

1995 Jonathan Edwards

1996 Damon Hill

1997 Greg Rusedski

1998 Michael Owen

1999 Lennox Lewis

2000 Sir Steve Redgrave

2001 David Beckham

2002 Paula Radcliffe

2003 Jonny Wilkinson

2004 Dame Kelly Holmes

2005 Andrew Flintoff

2006 Zara Phillips

2007 Joe Calzaghe

2008 Sir Chris Hoy

2009 Ryan Giggs

2010 AP McCoy

2011 Mark Cavendish

2012 Sir Bradley Wiggins

2013 Andy Murray

2014 Lewis Hamilton

2015 Andy Murray

2016 Andy Murray

2017 Mo Farah

2018 Geraint Thomas

2019 Ben Stokes

I must confess that I had never heard about three of the six nominees, but then I’m not one bit interested in football, I never understood cricket, and all I know about horse racing comes from reading Dick Francis crime novels …

There were plenty of reactions on social media and here are some of them:

And, of course, the Eurosport gang is delighted about the nomination of their very own Ronnie …

Here are the links and some excerpts.

About Ronnie being nominated for SPOTY for the first time

“I think it’s more a reflection on snooker rather than me. Snooker is where it is in comparison to other sports,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport before the announcement was made.

“I think a lot of snooker players get overlooked because of the sport, not because of their achievements.”

And he was quick to point out that he thought someone else was more deserving of a nomination.

“If it was on their achievements, you’d probably have to say Judd Trump was deserving of getting in the top three because he’s broken records: winning six ranking tournaments last season was a great achievement,” he added.

 

 

Eurosport pundit Neal Foulds says the nomination is well deserved for O’Sullivan.

“Ronnie’s career has spanned a long time. There was a period when he was seen as a bit of an under-achiever. When it got past 2000 you thought he’s won a few things but he’s this wonderful talent who hasn’t won that much – now he’s won it all and he’s won it again and again.

“He’s the current world champion and all those years must amount to something. It’s never boring when he is playing, there is always something going on, and he deserves to be on that list.”

Jimmy White added: “It’s about time he got recognised for his amazing achievements in snooker. I hope everybody votes for him.”

Ad Desmond Kane on why Ronnie would be a worthy winner

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN EARNS SPOTY NOMINATION: WHY SNOOKER GOAT WOULD BE WORTHY WINNER

Ronnie O’Sullivan is the greatest snooker player of all time and one of the most naturally gifted sportsmen in the world. His first nomination for the Sports Personality of the Year Award is not only right, it should also be used to celebrate a body of work that continues to brim with intimitable brilliance after lifting his sixth world title with an 18-8 win over Kyren Wilson in August.

ROSSPOTYReaction-4

He has been blackballed more times than he’s potted them, but Ronnie O’Sullivan has finally reached the palace of wisdom as a SPOTY nominee. Finally, the British public gets to decide how much they appreciate his effervescent and rapidly moving repertoire of timeless snooker supremacy.

After three decades of refusal, the Sports Personality of the Year Award’s judgemental judging panel has deemed snooker’s greatest player worthy of a place on the public ballot paper. For that, we should all rejoice.

Such has been the eccentricity of the SPOTY decision-making in the past, one would not have been surprised if Wicks’ lockdown workouts were chosen ahead of O’Sullivan by a panel who have previously deemed Dressage as a form of sporting excellence, achievement and personality worthier of their attention.

It is a rather tragic and farcical state of affairs that it has taken this long for an appointed “expert independent panel” to reach the conclusion that the ongoing Essex man is lively enough to make the shortlist. It appears to be a curious piece of nonsense riddled in class bias and snobbery against the working class roots of snooker and a refusal to recognise the incomparable levels of commitment that it takes to master the most imposing of all cue sports.

Since the inception of SPOTY in 1954, snooker has gradually been potted off the table. This is a prize last won by a snooker player when six-times world champion Steve Davis triumphed in 1988, a time when Nelson Mandela was still inside, the Berlin Wall had yet to topple and David Hasselhoff had yet to sing about it.

As for Ronnie himself, he was interviewed both by Rachel and in the studio

I think that Ronnie spoke very well there. He sees it as being more about snooker resurgence and image than about himself. He also says that he would watch the show from home…

Is the the 20th of December the day of the Players Championship Final? Why not celebrate the occasion with  another trophy?

Anyway…

Good Luck Ronnie!