almost eight years, this blog is coming to an end.
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
the material I have traditionally posted here will move there. I will post full
details tomorrow when the site launches.
the meantime I want to thank everyone who has read and contributed to Snooker
Scene Blog since 2006.
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.
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.
Higgins had won one world title and Ronnie O’Sullivan two. Stephen Hendry was
back at world no.1.
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
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.
also seen the rise of new champions, the advent of new tournaments and the ever
shifting sands of snooker’s political landscape.
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
calendar is now packed with tournaments and the sport has become far more
global, reaching more television viewers than ever.
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
after 2,338 posts, this blog is no more, although it will remain in cyberspace
if anyone wishes to read old posts.
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.
is no more snooker this year so it’s time to take stock, preferably with as
much food and alcohol as possible.
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.
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.
simplify, there were hits and misses. Here are mine:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
than that, he is an eloquent speaker and his positive attitude is refreshing in
a sport where so many enjoy a moan.
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.
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.
can now interact with players and others in the snooker world in a way
impossible and unimaginable years ago thanks to Twitter.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
whatsoever was heard about this in 2013 beyond a vague announcement of an event
last March which never happened.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
service has taken a few backward steps this year. They dispensed with
commentary to cut costs and also reduced the number of cameras used.
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
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.
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
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.
was no great surprise to me that Ronnie O’Sullivan was not named on the
shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
is no fault of O’Sullivan but a reflection of the way snooker is still viewed
by many sections of the media.
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.
the name of the programme changed, so did its focus. It is now an awards show
in which personalities dominate over sport.
over 40 years the voting system for SPOTY was very simple: you voted for
whoever you liked. Whoever got the most votes won.
more recent years it was changed to a pre-chosen shortlist of ten, from which
the public could choose.
there to be a shortlist, there has to be people choosing the shortlist, and
this is where things went bad for snooker.
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.
Hendry would also appear in the top three but no snooker player since has got
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.
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
snooker can’t get a player on the final list in a year like this then it surely
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.
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
a good list to be on: Steve Davis, Terry Griffiths, Alex Higgins, Stephen Hendry,
John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
triumph looked unlikely early on. Robertson appeared inhibited and unable to
produce his best as Selby took control of the first session.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
was a terrific final of high quality with an absorbing closing session
befitting the status of the tournament.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
are evenly matched in temperament and style, though despite Selby’s maximum
yesterday, Robertson has scored more heavily.
bookmakers have made him slight favourite but it would be a surprise if either
player won be a large margin.
£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.
and Selby are two of snooker’s real fighters and this will be a fight to the
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.
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.
was a moment of magic and a moment of history, a milestone that was thankfully
achieved in a televised match.
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.
Davis made his 147 at the 1982 Lada Classic in Oldham it was a significant
first. The maximum has enlivened many an event since.
the 100, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan have each made 11. John Higgins
has made seven.
total of 52 players from 13 different nations are on the list of 100 maximums.
Selby’s was the 50th on television.
became more common as the professional game expanded with more players, became more attacking and playing conditions
more conducive to heavy scoring.
were eight compiled in the 1980s, 26 in the 1990s, 35 in the 2000s and 31 so
far in this decade.
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
were 11 in 2012 but for all the snooker played this year there have been four
is still an achievement worth celebrating, as Selby and the Barbican crowd did
with sheer joy.
maximum break, made under the pressure of tournament play, is that rare thing –
perfection in a very exacting sport.