And so to the Wembley Arena for the Saga Insurance Masters where there is to be no official commemoration of the late Paul Hunter, who won the title three times in four years.

As far as I’m concerned, World Snooker had an open goal here and has spectacularly missed it. Not only would renaming the Masters trophy after Paul – not the tournament, which was never a realistic proposition – been a nice gesture, supported as it is by all the top players, it would also have been the right thing to do.

World Snooker chairman Sir Rodney Walker completely missed the point when he went on BBC Radio 5 Live on Wednesday evening to answer claims that his organisation were snubbing Paul, who died of cancer in October aged 27.

Jimmy White had told the same station that Paul was “the only player to have won it three times.”

As Walker pointed out, Stephen Hendry won it six times while Steve Davis and Cliff Thorburn each won it three times apiece. The argument seemed to be that, because of their success, it wouldn’t be right to single Paul out.

However, there is a very simple difference between Paul and these players: they are still alive.

Paul was the first winner of the current trophy, which has only been presented since 2004.

Instead of naming it after him – which would ensure his name will be mentioned every time it is presented – World Snooker has announced a new scholarship for an up and coming young player.

A good idea perhaps but the problem with it is that it seems to depend largely on the fortunes of whoever is chosen: they can have all the practice facilities, advice and media training going but if they fail to perform on the table they will quickly fade into obscurity.

Lindsey Hunter, Paul’s widow, has today spoken of her sadness at World Snooker’s decision in an interview with Peter Ferguson in the Daily Mail.

She said: “"Paul’s name will never disappear, we’ll make sure of that. Whenever he's mentioned they either call him the Beckham of the Baize or the three-times Masters champion - he's promoting the event for them, even though he's no longer here.

“I’m going to the Kilkenny Masters in March to present a trophy in Paul's honour, and the German pro-am that he helped start and won will be named after him. It's just a shame there's nothing in England.

“I never expected them to call the actual tournament after Paul, that's where the sponsors' name should be. But family and friends were thinking it would be lovely if the winner received the Paul Hunter Trophy.

“I think everybody expected it. Every player I've spoken to, every fan, thought it would be 'a definite'.

“There are obviously five or six businessmen who run World Snooker and their decision goes, unfortunately. But if they were listening to the players and fans, it's what the people wanted.

“At the funeral, Sir Rodney asked if they could do a Paul Hunter Scholarship and you feel so honoured. I said, 'Of course, anything you like.' But nobody has said anything to me about the Masters.

“I don't know if there is a reason behind it. I can't understand why anybody wouldn't want it, it seems to be what everybody else wants. It seems odd when he was so closely linked to the Masters.

“Jimmy White thinks that whoever wins will say that it was for Paul, which is lovely. It will probably get World Snooker's backs up even more. But I can't think of a logical reason why they haven't done it.

“If World Snooker asked him to do anything to promote the game, he would do it. He rang one night from China, when he was out there with some top people. He said, 'I've only had to eat shark fin soup'.

“This is somebody who's so fussy about food. He'd have preferred tomato. But he said, 'I didn't want them to feel insulted.' They had him in a Viking costume in freezing weather in York. He'd do anything.”

I can attest to the way Paul helped World Snooker promote the game. He never turned down an interview and was always engaging with the media.

Interestingly, in the same Daily Mail piece, Andrew Goodsell, chief executive of Saga Insurance, makes it clear the sponsors were not the ones who scuppered the renaming of the trophy in Paul’s honour.

Goodsell said: “It is a tragedy for snooker to lose one of its finest champions in his prime, and Saga supports the view there should be an appropriate tribute to Paul.”

I don’t think Walker actually grasps the genuine ill feeling this has created or that his organisation is about to suffer an unprecedented amount of negative publicity in the media.

Can it really be that World Snooker is digging their heels in simply because the trophy renaming wasn’t their own idea?

My advice to them is to very quickly rethink their position on this.

Paul Hunter deserves proper recognition at the tournament he made his own.


liftafinger said...

Not only should the trophy be named in Paul's honour but his missus should be part of the presentation party.

Anonymous said...

The scholarship never seemed like a great idea to me. How these things are awarded always causes controversy, as those of us who remember the YPD programme can testify. What if everyone just started calling the trophy the Paul Hunter trophy in defiance of world snooker? If the players feel that strongly about it, they could manage to remember it, and I'm sure the snooker media would play ball. If it's not offending the sponsor, which it clearly isn't, then the players - who are always complaining that world snooker seems to run the game despite the fact that they're supposed to run world snooker - should just take it into their own hands.

Dave H said...

World Snooker have issued the following statement:

"Following reports in the media, we would like to clarify our position in relation to our chosen tribute to Paul Hunter.

"Our board unanimously agreed that the Paul Hunter Scholarship was the most fitting tribute. Just as Hunter himself rose swiftly through the amateur ranks, the scholarship will give a gifted young player the chance to fulfil his talent through elite training.

"Each year the award of the scholarship and the subsequent achievements of the scholar will allow us to remember Paul's own success and his contribution to snooker. Saga Insurance, sponsor of the Masters, has generously agreed to donate to the scholarship in order to enhance the level of training.

"This new scheme was considered more appropriate than other suggestions, including the renaming of the trophy."

Anonymous said...

"more appropriate" Listen to the people and realise that your actions (or lack of) are inappropriate. We are talking about a humna lfie and someone who contributed to your organisation and tournament tremendously. What harm could it have done to rename the trophy after Paul. Bunch of idiots, who can't even give a valid reason why they chose not to rename the trophy after Paul Hunter.