26.11.06

THREE OUT OF FOUR AIN'T BAD

There has been no sponsor as yet announced for the UK Championship, which starts on December 4.

It seems unlikely now that there will be one announced at such short notice, which is of course disappointing given the prestige attached to the tournament.

However, sponsorship is a complex area often misunderstood. The truth is this: World Snooker could get someone, anyone, to chuck in a few thousand and have the tournament on the cheap.

They’ve done this in the past but I think they are right to instead look for a backer investing serious money. There is a prize fund for the event in excess of £500,000 to cover, plus ancillary costs. Putting these events on is not an inexpensive affair.

They have already secured a five year deal with 888.com to sponsor the World Championship and three years deals with Saga Insurance for the Masters and Royal London Watches for the Grand Prix.

These deals run into the millions and help to underpin the financial stability of the sport. It means three of the BBC’s four tournaments have some kind of identity and security.

The agreements only came about after much negotiation. Snooker isn’t regarded as a trendy sport or one blue chip firms want to get involved with, despite its high profile on television and viewing figures most other sports look at with envy.

Snooker suffers from an unbelievably patronising cultural snobbery. It’s looked down on because working class people like it.

Actually, the demographic of people who come to snooker and watch it on TV is wide ranging. This is a sport enjoyed by Ronnie Wood and Martin Amis alike. Footballers have tables in their houses but so does Tony Blair at Chequers.

However, chief executives and managing directors tend to prefer the middle class atmosphere of golf tournaments and rugby union matches, where corporate hospitality often takes preference over the actual sporting event.

Also, snooker is no longer enjoying the honeymoon it did with the British TV public it did in the 1980s. This is natural: nobody is on honeymoon forever.

Against this backdrop, and considering snooker was tainted for some by its long association with tobacco companies, World Snooker can only be commended for attracting three significant sponsors.

IMG/TWI is the governing body’s agents in this, though Nicky Fuller of World Snooker also played a very important role.

The challenge now is to secure sponsors for the smaller events and build the circuit back up again.

Everyone wishes the UK Championship had a sponsor but the fact that it doesn’t – as of yet – shouldn’t be taken as a sign the game is in some sort of crisis.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dave,

You've made some excellent points in your piece.

But, for some unknown reason, I thought the UK naturally had a sponsorship. For the second biggest world ranking event on the calendar not to have a sponsor is just not good enough.

Am sure, like you say, that the WPBSA could take on anybody to pump some money, but won't. How on earth does the tournament get funded, then. Because, as you explained really well, about turning the German Open into a world ranking event, does the WPBSA rely purely on the TV contract money or do they pay out the cheques from their own coffers?

Thanks, Joe

Dave H said...

Yes, they do