The new website I mentioned yesterday is www.inside-snooker.com. This is a joint venture between myself and fellow snooker journalist Hector Hunns.

This blog will remain here as an archive.



After almost eight years, this blog is coming to an end.

The reason is not that I am sick of writing it: quite the opposite. Tomorrow, all being well, I will be launching a much expanded website with additional content. Rather than just blog posts it will include snooker news, interviews and features.

Therefore, the material I have traditionally posted here will move there. I will post full details tomorrow when the site launches.

In the meantime I want to thank everyone who has read and contributed to Snooker Scene Blog since 2006.

Snooker was not in a great state of health back then. There were such long gaps between events, and it was before I was commentating, that I decided to set up the blog to give news and opinions and some analysis of the snooker world from my position as a journalist.

Graeme Dott had just won the World Championship. Neil Robertson was yet to win a ranking title, neither had Mark Selby, Judd Trump, Ali Carter and a few others.

John Higgins had won one world title and Ronnie O’Sullivan two. Stephen Hendry was back at world no.1.

The internet was also a different a place. The blog launched a few months after Youtube, a month before Twitter and three months before Facebook became open to all. Snooker’s presence on the web was down to a small band of enthusiasts, in particular Hermund Ardalen (snooker.org) and Janie Watkins (Global Snooker Centre).

In the last eight years we’ve lost some wonderful, iconic characters from the snooker world including Alex Higgins, John Spencer, Len Ganley, Ted Lowe, David Vine and, most sadly of all, Paul Hunter.

We’ve also seen the rise of new champions, the advent of new tournaments and the ever shifting sands of snooker’s political landscape.

The blog was never intended to be political but it was impossible to ignore what was happening off table. I was deeply sceptical of the structure of the old WPBSA and was delighted when Barry Hearn made his bid to take control of World Snooker. Hearn and his team have transformed the circuit, mainly for the better.

Snooker’s calendar is now packed with tournaments and the sport has become far more global, reaching more television viewers than ever.

The number of websites catering to snooker fans has also increased, which is a good thing. But I feel there is room for a site offering primarily original news content.

So after 2,338 posts, this blog is no more, although it will remain in cyberspace if anyone wishes to read old posts.

All good things must come to an end but hopefully the new site will enhance snooker fans’ enjoyment of this game we all love and to which I remain committed.



There is no more snooker this year so it’s time to take stock, preferably with as much food and alcohol as possible.

It’s traditional to review the season rather than the calendar year but the whole concept of seasons has become somewhat irrelevant in this era when snooker rolls on and on. No sooner does the World Championship end as the new ‘season’ is about to start.

So as we have this chance to pause, we can reflect on 2013, a year in which there were many events, many winners, many terrific matches, controversy, drama and much more besides.

To simplify, there were hits and misses. Here are mine:


O’Sullivan predicted his return at the Crucible would be a ‘car crash.’ In fact, he motored to a sensational victory, proving once again that he produces his best when the odds are apparently against him.

This was one of snooker’s most notable achievements, but just as notable was the fact nobody had stepped up and taken him on. This has changed now that O’Sullivan is playing more snooker…but the Crucible is a different prospect and he goes there clearly capable of making it six world titles.

In winning three successive ranking titles, Ding proved that it is possible to dominate: you just have to be exceptional. Steve Davis was. Stephen Hendry was. Ding at his best is sublime and his patience and discipline got him through the various dodgy times in matches he may have lost a couple of years back.

It’s still five months until the world final. If Ding is in it then the viewing audience in China will be colossal. And if he’s in it playing the snooker he’s already produced this season then he will take some stopping.

This was a welcome new event for several reasons. First, it was for the elite. There was one table, not ten, and the game’s best were rewarded for their achievements.

ITV4 also provided excellent coverage, the crowds were good and it gave snooker in the UK a shot in the arm. One thing though: Matchroom should announce now what the criteria is for places next season. Anthony McGill came up with a good idea: invite the last 16 major tournament winners and thus avoid any arguments.

Robertson’s century tally for the season now stands at 60, just one off Judd Trump’s seasonal record set during 2012/13. The Australian completed the triple crown at the UK Championship and ends 2013 as world no.1.

More than that, he is an eloquent speaker and his positive attitude is refreshing in a sport where so many enjoy a moan.

Hearn is Britain’s leading sports promoter. I know because he told me. But behind his boastful demeanour, Hearn is a shrewd operator with a genuine sense of what the public wants and the business savvy to make it happen.

Many top players disagreed with the flat draw system but in the early stages of this format they have been the main winners: literally – at the recent World Open qualifiers every member of the top 16 made it through.

Fans can now interact with players and others in the snooker world in a way impossible and unimaginable years ago thanks to Twitter.

Not every tweet is helpful or edifying but they each represent the truth of the moment for players and are a world away from shiny and false PR. Players are human beings, not robots. For good and bad, Twitter has provided a window on the range of human emotions which come with life as a sportsman.

This has been another successful year for a successful exhibition series which showcases some of the players who did so much to put the game on the map in the first place.

The Legends nights have the right mix of fun and competition and the televised event in Bedworth last May was a good way to wind down after the World Championship.


There’s nothing wrong with this as a tournament but the complete lack of atmosphere due to low crowds was a disappointment. Participation levels in China are remarkable but ticket prices remain a problem. Quite simply, many ordinary Chinese snooker fans are priced out of attending live matches.

It was a particular shame in Haikou because it marked ITV’s return to broadcasting snooker. They are not understood to be particularly keen to show the World Open again.

2013 was a disappointing year for Trump’s fans as he did not win a professional title this calendar year, having won at least one each year since 2008. He had a good run in the World Championship but lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the semi-finals. This season, results have been hard to come by.

I think one of his problems is that the fear factor he had a couple of years ago when he was the exciting new kid on the baize has gone. There is also the pressure of raised expectations: before he was winning titles, 2013 would have been judged a successful year, now he’s there to be shot at. But there’s another year on the way and Trump remains both young and talented. All great players have endured slumps and found their way out.

Nothing whatsoever was heard about this in 2013 beyond a vague announcement of an event last March which never happened.

The truth is, there was never anything wrong with snooker as a game, just how it was being run. Now that has been addressed the traditional game is flourishing and gimmicks will recede into history.

Lee’s appeal against his 12-year ban for match and frame fixing will be heard on January 30. If he is unsuccessful his snooker career is over.

Snooker is no more susceptible to cheating as any other sport but neither is it immune. It has embraced the betting industry but needs to remain constantly alive to ensuring players are not led astray by those looking to make a fast buck, which appears to be what happened to Lee.

World Snooker launched a ‘Ladies Day’ at the Crucible where warm words were spoken about helping the women’s game but when Reanne Evans qualified for the Wuxi Classic she had to play a wildcard and, had she won, would have played Neil Robertson in a session not televised in Europe.

The good news for the World Ladies Billiards and Snooker Association is that Mandy Fisher, who has probably done more than anyone to champion the women’s game, has returned to the helm, which should hopefully help their circuit to grow again.

This service has taken a few backward steps this year. They dispensed with commentary to cut costs and also reduced the number of cameras used.

Always the problem on the Internet is how to make money out of something when people can get it for free. Those who have watched on dodgy streams rather than subscribing certainly haven’t helped but by and large people do pay if they feel a service is worth it.

The professional circuit is still comprised of 75% British players, largely because the entire qualifying set-up has been based in Britain for decades. But all six major ranking events this season have been won by non-British players, with only two British finalists.

This does not represent the end of snooker in the UK but does point to the game becoming more global, which is the key to its ultimate survival as a big money sport.

And with all that, and plenty of snooker to look forward to in 2014, I wish a very merry Christmas and happy New Year to all readers of this blog.



It was no great surprise to me that Ronnie O’Sullivan was not named on the shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

This is no fault of O’Sullivan but a reflection of the way snooker is still viewed by many sections of the media.

SPOTY used to be the concluding moment of the BBC Sports Review of the Year, which did what it said on the tin: reviewed the sporting year, in the company of those British sportsmen and women who had made it so memorable.

When the name of the programme changed, so did its focus. It is now an awards show in which personalities dominate over sport.

For over 40 years the voting system for SPOTY was very simple: you voted for whoever you liked. Whoever got the most votes won.

In more recent years it was changed to a pre-chosen shortlist of ten, from which the public could choose.

For there to be a shortlist, there has to be people choosing the shortlist, and this is where things went bad for snooker.

Because years ago, when it was a free vote, snooker fared really well. Steve Davis appeared in the top three more than anyone else. In 1988, after becoming he first player to complete the triple crown of world, UK and Masters titles he won the main award, although he was playing in a tournament in Belgium so could not accept his prize in the studio.

Stephen Hendry would also appear in the top three but no snooker player since has got close.

O’Sullivan, in the year he returned from a long sabbatical to win a fifth world title, deserved proper consideration. He didn’t get it. His name was put forward to the selection panel but they quickly dismissed it.

Hendry, a member of the BBC snooker team but very much his own man, told the Daily Star: “There’s a snobbery towards snooker that has always been there. Ronnie’s a personality. When you take the whole title ‘Sports Personality’, you couldn’t really get much more of a personality than Ronnie. And in terms of sporting achievement I would like to see someone else take a year off and then come back and win the major title in their chosen sport.”

One of the problems is that, since National Lottery funding transformed British sport, we are actually very good at a number of sports. So it’s a lot harder than it once was to get on the list.

But a glance at the people who chose this shortlist was a clue as to the sort of sports they would consider. There was an overwhelming middle class bias and also representatives of sports whose competitors then found themselves among the final ten.

O’Sullivan is one of the biggest personalities in any sport. He’s divisive, certainly, but his personality combined with his achievement in becoming world champion again deserved some recognition.

Unlike most of the other contenders, he actually won his major title on the BBC.

Of course some will say, who cares? It’s only a TV show. Yes, and it was a chance for snooker to gain some coverage outside its own bubble on a programme watched by general sports fans and some people who don’t much follow sport.

If snooker can’t get a player on the final list in a year like this then it surely never will.



Neil Robertson’s recovery from 5-1 down to beat Mark Selby 10-7 and win the UK Championship in York last night was final confirmation, as if it were needed, of his status as a modern great.

World champion in 2010 and Masters winner in 2012, Robertson’s capture of the UK title makes him the eighth player to have won the game’s ‘triple crown’ of major events.

It’s a good list to be on: Steve Davis, Terry Griffiths, Alex Higgins, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan.

The triumph looked unlikely early on. Robertson appeared inhibited and unable to produce his best as Selby took control of the first session.

However, Robertson must have left the arena feeling confident after ending the afternoon with a century and made two more in levelling at 6-6. His tally of centuries for the season now stands at 58, just three away from the record Judd Trump set during 2012/13.

The pressure had by now transferred to Selby, who having led 6-3 found himself 8-6 down. At one point Robertson had amassed 410 points without reply.

Selby rallied to 8-7 but missed the final black for 8-8, after which victory, even for a player as determined as the Leicester man, seemed unlikely.

For Selby, the UK Championship turned into a tale of two black balls, which between them emphasised the conflicting emotions sport can produce: joy as the black went in for the maximum, despair at missing it to level the final.

Robertson too was emotional, seemingly wiping away a tear at the end. His mother, Alison, who he is able to see only rarely, is in the UK for Christmas. She has a 100% record in finals, having previously seen Neil win the World Championship.

He is a worthy world no.1 and a player whose attitude and demeanour should serve as inspiration to all those who have ambition to rise up the ranks. A fine player, he also speaks well and conducts himself professionally.

This was a terrific final of high quality with an absorbing closing session befitting the status of the tournament.

The Barbican Centre and its audience certainly played its part. It would be a great shame if York was snubbed next year. There were complaints about space and the format but does anyone really think they will vanish if the UK Championship is held somewhere else next year? I doubt it.

There are qualifiers this week for the German Masters and World Open but the UK Championship was the last tournament of 2013. It was a great way to end the year.



A tournament which began with a chorus of complaints will end in a grandstand finish when world no.1 Neil Robertson meets world no.2 Mark Selby for the UK Championship title in York today.

These two tough, dedicated match players have made it through the melee of six rounds of snooker at the Barbican Centre to set up what seems likely to be a close, high quality final.

If Selby wins he will replace Robertson at the head of the rankings and become only the third player and the first since Stephen Hendry in 1996 to successfully defend the UK crown.

If Robertson wins it will be the sixth successive ranking title won by a non-Brit and he will become the eighth player after Steve Davis, Terry Griffiths, Alex Higgins, Hendry, John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan to have won the world, UK and Masters titles – snooker’s triple crown.

Robertson and Selby somehow avoided each other in draws for years but have played a fair amount over the last couple of seasons, including a right old grind in York last year when Selby recovered from 4-0 down to win 6-4 in the quarter-finals.

Despite a late night semi-final, Selby also beat Robertson 10-6 in the Masters final, a scoreline reversed by the Australian in the China Open final earlier this year.

They are evenly matched in temperament and style, though despite Selby’s maximum yesterday, Robertson has scored more heavily.

Most bookmakers have made him slight favourite but it would be a surprise if either player won be a large margin.

There’s £150,000 for the winner. It’s been a long tournament – probably too long – but we are left with what could be a classic final featuring two players imbued with the qualities needed to win the game’s biggest titles.

Robertson and Selby are two of snooker’s real fighters and this will be a fight to the finish.



From Oldham Civic Centre to the Barbican in York with many stops in between it has taken just under 32 years since Steve Davis made the first official 147 break for Mark Selby to compile the 100th.

Fittingly, it was dramatic. Selby played a great shot to go round the table from brown to blue but was left needing the rest for the pink. He potted it but was left with a tough black, which he dropped in dead weight to the left middle.

It was a moment of magic and a moment of history, a milestone that was thankfully achieved in a televised match.

Selby had missed the final black on 140 in last season’s China Open but, with the pressure on and £59,000 available for the maximum, was cool and deadly accurate in sinking the final ball.

When Davis made his 147 at the 1982 Lada Classic in Oldham it was a significant first. The maximum has enlivened many an event since.

Of the 100, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan have each made 11. John Higgins has made seven.

A total of 52 players from 13 different nations are on the list of 100 maximums. Selby’s was the 50th on television.

Maximums became more common as the professional game expanded with more players, became more attacking and playing conditions more conducive to heavy scoring.

There were eight compiled in the 1980s, 26 in the 1990s, 35 in the 2000s and 31 so far in this decade.

But when you consider the thousands and thousands of frames that have been played – from World Championship finals down to the lowliest qualifier – 100 isn’t that many.

There were 11 in 2012 but for all the snooker played this year there have been four in 2013.

It is still an achievement worth celebrating, as Selby and the Barbican crowd did with sheer joy.

The maximum break, made under the pressure of tournament play, is that rare thing – perfection in a very exacting sport.