Stephen Hendry chats with Willo … and my perceived negativity.

Here is the Instagram chat between Stephen Hendry and Mark Williams. Quite interesting and enjoyable.

Willo is bored out of his skull, has been a bit unwell, and isn’t looking forward to the prospect of playing the World Championship behind closed doors.

Here is Phil Haig reporting on that part of their conversation:

Mark Williams would prefer no World Snooker Championship than an empty Crucible

The World Snooker Championship is likely to go ahead this summer, but with the very real possibility of no fans being in attendance at the Crucible, Mark Williams would rather it didn’t.

The main event of the WST calendar has been rescheduled to start on 31 July and chairman Barry Hearn is confident it will go ahead, although it seems unlikely there will be anyone there to see it.

The Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy states that sport will be returning to broadcast from 1 June, but behind closed doors, making the July start date likely, but spectators unlikely.

There is to be another review on 4 July, which could see limited crowds let into the Crucible, but nothing is confirmed yet.

While some players will be keen to play the World Championships in any form, three-time world champ Williams would rather skip the event for a year than play in an empty auditorium, having played behind closed doors at the Gibraltar Open in March.

‘I’ve just come back from playing in Gibraltar when there was no one there and what’s the point?’ Williams told Stephen Hendry on Instagram.

‘There’s more atmosphere in the club, at least there’s someone at the bar or playing next to you. There was no one there, it was like “what are we doing here?”

‘It’s just going to be strange. Imagine paying in the Crucible, 9-9 in the first round, the visor goes up in the middle and there’s no one there, not one person.

‘If it does go ahead they’ll probably have the most viewing figures they’ve ever had because there’s not many sports going on

‘Would I prefer it to go on? Probably not if I’m totally honest, I’d rather not play if there’s no crowd, it’ll be so strange.’

WST have promised that the full prize money will be paid to players even if no crowds are present at the Crucible, and the financial issue will be bigger for some players than just overcoming an unusual atmosphere.

Speaking to Metro.co.uk when the coronavirus crisis first struck, world number 11 Dave Gilbert said: If the Worlds gets postponed then that’s a real shame, but if it gets cancelled it’s a disaster, we’re going to lose out on a fortune.

‘I’ve had a couple of good years, but I feel bad for everyone, there aren’t many players in our game who can not get paid for six-months plus.

There are a few, I don’t know the bank accounts of anyone, but if Judd and Ronnie and Selby start struggling for money then we all will be. There will be players down the rankings who might be really struggling.’

Hearn is expecting the event to go ahead and is pushing so, partly for this reason, as it is the biggest payday of the season for players involved, all of whom have seen their earning powers destroyed by the global pandemic.

‘I think we have every chance of at least staging it,’ Hearn told Metro.co.uk in April.

‘It will be with the normal prize money, it could cost us £2.5m in gate money, but that’s life, every battle comes with losses and it’s not an issue.

‘The prize money will stay the same, the players will be able to earn their money, because don’t forget most of my sportsmen are self employed.

‘They’re not contracted players like footballers, cricketers or rugby players where they’re negotiating how much to wave or defer, my guys aren’t getting anything.’

Hearn knows that losing the fans is a significant loss, but it would not be as big a loss as the whole event being cancelled.

‘It’s important for me that my players have the chance to earn money because this is the biggest one of the lot,’ he said.

‘It would be a tragedy to stage it with no one there, but if that’s the only thing we can do, that’s what we’ll do. We are talking about mitigating the size of tragedies.’

Answers to some questions:

Best win was his last World Championship win in 2018, with his family there, and proving everybody wrong.

The best decision was to give it another go when his wife convinced him not to retire and go to Steve Feeney to improve his game.

Toughest opponent? Ronnie or John Higgins

Favourite venue? Preston Guildhall. Names a few others but the Crucible isn’t one of them.

The infamous “Bangkok incident”

Williams doubts that Ding will not win the World Championship now. Too much expectations, and pressure. Ding is probably the best never have won it. He’s only 32 but Hendry thinks he’s past his best.

Rules change? Three misses and then ball in hand for the opponent instead of frame forfeited.

Turning to commentary when retired? Not really.

Remembering Alex Higgins and the little silver piggy charm he gave him. They got along well. He still has it.

The lockdown has got Willo so bored and frustrated about staying home all the time, that he now wants to play as long as possible, even badly. And when he drops off the tour … there is the Seniors tour.

Now back to the article above, yesterday’s post and my perceived negativity…

Let me first say that I certainly don’t want “to cancel everything”. I would love to see snooker return as soon as it can return safely. Barry Hearn brands the possible canceling of the World Championship a “tragedy”. The real tragedy would be if someone – a fan, a player, a referee, an official, a member of the BBC crew or the media … anyone – would get the disease because they attended the event, and dies, or survives but their health is gravely/permanently damaged, or they pass it to someone, maybe an elderly parent who dies… THAT would be a tragedy, not the cancellation of a sporting event no matter how prestigious. The canceled event can be staged another time, the dead person(s) can’t be revived. I don’t want that to happen, and I feel that nobody has right to take ANY risk about it if it can be avoided. That’s my view and nothing will change it.

Now specifically about the World Championship.

There is a possibility that it can be held safely, under closed doors, come the 31th of July. Anything else would not be safe. I read posts saying “The Crucible is less than 1000 people”. Yes indeed, but it’s a very intimate venue, people sit extremely close to each other, and some are close enough to the players to be able to touch them. The proportion of elderly persons in the snooker audience is usually quite high. Unless the crisis is totally under control NOBODY has the right to take such a risk, no matter how much money is at stake.

However, the qualifiers yield an even bigger challenge, as they involve a much higher number of persons and they need to start mid-July the latest. The qualifiers is the part of the World Championship that is ultra-important for the lower-ranked players, the ones who are currently suffering the most from the lack of earnings. They are also ultra-important because for many players, it’s where their career could be revived … or ended.

Here are excerpts of the conversation I had this morning on Twitter with Phil Haig, the author of the above article, and Gary Moss a snooker blogger and journalist.

Screenshot 2020-05-13 at 10.12.41Screenshot 2020-05-13 at 10.13.07Screenshot 2020-05-13 at 13.16.49

Those were my points

Here are the reactions.

Screenshot 2020-05-13 at 10.08.10Screenshot 2020-05-13 at 10.06.37

Many of you may never have been backstage at the Crucible or at the EIS. I have, Gary has and Phil Haig may have. The logistic is extremely important in the current situation to keep  everyone safe.

The Crucible is a great venue for the fans – especially when we get to the one table setup – but it’s actually too small for its purpose when it comes to snooker nowadays. There isn’t much room for anything, be it players/referees room, dressing rooms, media room, practice area, tournament’s office, or hospitality. Everything is small and cramped. And even if there are no spectators some very basic things may prove difficult. Ideally, the players dressing rooms should be cleaned/disinfected each time it’s reallocated. Well during the first two rounds it’s reallocated at every session… and if one session runs late, there might not be enough time for player one to undress, and pack their things, cleaners to do their job and player two get ready for their match. Unless the schedule is completely reconsidered, with an earlier start and bigger “gaps” between sessions. It would be possible – maybe – but probably not with an audience. I can’t see the theatre opening at 7:30 so that the snooker can start at 8.

The real issues are with the qualifiers really, and it’s not just logistics. It’s also about the travel restrictions, their possible consequences, and the fair treatment of all players whose livelihood is at stakes. That’s where the last of the above screenshots comes into the conversation, and you see Phil’s last answer. There is a lot to think about, and surely WPBSA is thinking about those issues. I trust Jason Ferguson about that: he’s a former pro, he will have gone through all the uncertainties associated with being a self-employed sportsperson and he loves his sport to bits.  But he isn’t the boss, and he isn’t a businessman first and foremost. Barry Hearn is a businessman, and I’m not sure I trust him 100% here.

 

 

 

 

WPBSA takes action to help their players

WPBSA just publised this 

WPBSA Support Packages Announced for Main Tour Players

  • 20th March 2020

The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) has today stepped in to provide player support for its members affected by the ongoing COVIV-19 outbreak and the subsequent effect that this has had on the World Snooker Tour.

To include both immediate financial, travel and practical help, all current main tour players have today been emailed with full information as to what this entails and how they can access this support. Further measures will be taken over the coming weeks.

If any tour player has not seen this email, please contact us as soon as possible through this website, or by emailing Player Relations Manager Neil Tomkins directly.

Jason Ferguson, WPBSA Chairman said: “All of us at the WPBSA care about our players and will do everything in our power to help everybody through at this difficult time. If any player has any questions or we can provide any assistance I would encourage them to contact a member of our team at any time.”

This is an excellent move by WPBSA and one that is really appreciated by the players. Several of them have already expressed their gratitude on social media. 

This is all the more welcome – and necessary – because the doubts myself and many others have about the actual feasibility of Barry Hearn plans to have the World Championship played in July/August and resume the season from there have been confirmed by the UK Scientists advising the UK Prime Minister (even if he doesn’t seem too keen to listen).

Here what they say:

UK scientists say social distancing needs to last ‘most of a year’

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) who provides scientific and technical advice to the British government have said social distancing must be in place for “at least most of a year.”

SAGE who are advising the government on what the UK’s response must be have on Friday published their worrying report.

On Thursday Boris Johnson gave advice to Britons in a live televised briefing that the UK could “turn the tide” against coronavirus and “we must stop the disease spreading.”

He added, “This is a disease that is so dangerous and so infectious that without drastic measures to check its progress it would overwhelm any health system in the world.”

Almost the whole of the world is now in lockdown and have applied drastic measures to protect people’s lives and health, but London remains open as does most of the UK.

The SAGE report written on Monday and published on Friday, suggests that for every one death across London there could be thousands of infected Londoners.

This latest scientific report has evidence that allegedly dismisses the governments advice.

SAGE provides scientific and technical advice to the British government, ministers, England’s chief scientific advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance and to other medical chiefs.

But, evidence from SAGE is most different to what the British Prime Minister has said.

The SAGE scientists said in the report, “It was agreed that a policy of alternating between periods of more and less strict social distancing measures could plausibly be effective at keeping the number of critical care cases within capacity.

“These would need to be in place for at least most of a year.

“Under such a policy, at least half of the year would be spent under the stricter social distancing measures.”

A report by the scientific pandemic influenza group on modelling says, “It was agreed that the addition of both general social distancing and school closures to case isolation, household isolation and social distancing of vulnerable groups would be likely to control the epidemic when kept in place for a long period.

“It was agreed that a policy of alternating between periods of more and less strict social distancing measures could plausibly be effective at keeping the number of critical care cases within capacity.

“These would need to be in place for at least most of a year.

“Under such as policy, at least half of the year would be spent under the stricter social distancing measures.”

Sadiq Khan the Mayor of London has warned all Londoners to stop using “public transport now” to halt the rapid spread of coronavirus across the capital.

A well-known Italian doctor and politician has warned why London will be hardest hit area in the UK.

In an interview with Express.co.uk, Maurizio Brucchi, a renowned Italian doctor who also served as Mayor of Teramo, gave a stark warning to Londoners, the worst is yet to come.

Brucchi said, “In a press conference yesterday, the doctors who have arrived from Wuhan [China] to help us out have told us that our measures are not enough – that we need to be more restrictive.

“The numbers are growing, but what is concerning is that there have been more than 475 deaths in a day.

Adding, “Boris Johnson has to stop with these half-measures. They simply do not work. The Chinese have told us.”

Top Dr warns UK is “weeks behind Italy” which has over “41,000 cases in a month”

Italy has now reported more than 41,000 cases of coronavirus as of Friday, the first patient was recorded on 21 February in the country.

The death toll in Italy currently stands at 3,405 or 8% and has now exceeded that of China which stands at 3,253 despite having just under half the number of confirmed cases.

Italy has 41,035 compared to China’s 81,250 confirmed cases of coronavirus.