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.


Anonymous said...


Is Lawrie Annandale still working for the WPBSA in some capacity? As he has helped out O'Sullivan a few times and is well known for being the cue - or should I say - tip doctor?

Is Michaela Tabb the only female on the circuit or are there going to be up and coming women referees?

Finally, can you clear this up once and for all; Tabb took time off work recently to become a mother. Is she or isn't she married to fellow referee Paul Colier?

Thanks, Joe

Dave H said...

Michaela's married to the pool player Ross McInnes.

There's another female ref - Patricia Murphy - who officiates on the main tour, although she's yet to get any TV work.

Lawrie doesn't work in snooker any more.

Anonymous said...


What with Jimmy White vacating the qualifying stages of the UK Championship, Dave, and only world ranking tournaments left in Wales,China and Sheffield, how close is the Whirlwind to dropping completely out the tour?

Is it the top 96 that are entitled to enter world ranking tournaments with the rest going out onto a 'satellite tour?' (How do players join it?) I ask this as White may well have to do what Tennis' Andre Agassi did back in 1999 before his famous comeback win in the 1999 French Open.

Thanks, Joe

Dave H said...

He will probably just about stay on even if he doesn't win a match all season but is clearly in big trouble.

Only the top 64 are guaranteed places on the circuit next season, but the WPBSA have a wildcard at their discretion and Jimmy would be the overwhelming favourite to receive it should he drop off the tour.

Anonymous said...


Wonders will never cease. I didn't even know the WPBSA had this 'special' wildcard. Has it been used in the past and, if so, what players were granted the benefit?

So, how many players go down from the 64 and how many get promoted - is it like a football league system?

Jimmy could actually win two big non-WR-events even if doesn't have a very good season; PSL and the Masters.

Thanks, Joe