I was pleased to read on worldsnooker.com that two new referees will be used at the UK Championship in York next month and that they are non-British.
Refereeing, like any aspect of the circuit, needs constant renewal and it’s a positive sign that the WPBSA have looked beyond British shores for this.
Thus, Oliver Martel of Belgium and Jean-Pierre van Vlerken of Holland will don their white gloves at the Barbican Centre.
In fact, 12 new referees are being used on the world ranking event circuit this season. Good luck to them all. It’s a tough job demanding many hours of constant concentration.
It also tends to be the case that referees are only noticed if they make a mistake.
Mercifully, snooker isn’t like football. The players don’t ritually abuse the officials and generally have complete confidence in the game’s leading refs.
The top two at the moment are Eirian Williams and Jan Verhaas – both excellent referees with the full respect of the sport’s stars.
The next tier includes the likes of Johan Oomen, Alan Chamberlain, Michaela Tabb, Pete Williamson and Colin Humphries.
Again, they each have experience and are respected by snooker players from one end of the ranking list to the other.
Of course, the telegenic Tabb was fast-tracked through the ranks a few years ago. There was much talk about this at the time but very few would question her credentials now.
Snooker needs new refs to augment all of the above, not least because a number of top officials have departed in recent years.
Lawrie Annandale was rightly considered as one of the very best but did not accept what was a relatively low financial offer to continue.
Paul Collier, who refereed the 2004 world final, also quit because it was not financially viable to carry on, though he still takes charge of the Betfred Premier League.
Stuart Bennett, another safe pair of hands, similarly gave up refereeing for financial reasons.
Colin Brinded, one of the most experienced and well regarded officials on the circuit, sadly died a year ago.
John Williams, who has refereed more world finals than anyone else, retired in 2002.
John Newton, another referee with a lifelong love of, and commitment to, snooker retired after taking charge of the 2000 Crucible final.
Going further back, Len Ganley and John Street, two stalwarts of the 1980s and 90s, have also left the scene.
That’s why the WPBSA have been working to find new refs, a number of whom were blooded at the recent Saga Masters qualifying event in Sheffield.
“It’s imperative that we get more referees coming through the ranks,” said Mike Ganley, the WPBSA’s tournament director.
“These guys have been in the system and assessed for about two years now. They’ve officiated at PIOS events and the next stage was the Masters which obviously featured Main Tour players.
“The next level is to elevate them to the main tour and Oliver and Jean-Pierre will get their opportunity in York.”
Of course, some may say that had the WPBSA treated some of their more experienced referees better there wouldn’t be such a need for new faces but that isn’t the fault of the newcomers and they deserve support.