I was saddened to hear of the death of the referee John Bushby, whose passing was marked by Ian McCulloch wearing a black armband in his match with Shaun Murphy at this week's Welsh Open.

John was a real character. He was also an extra in Bridge on the River Kwai, although he told me he had never managed to spot himself on screen despite several viewings.

Snooker, mercifully, is not like football or, increasingly, cricket, where the officials are abused, sworn at and generally treated like dirt.

There are very, very few incidents of trouble between snooker players and officials. The men and women in the middle command great respect and rightly so.

It's a job that requires long hours of concentration and, at times, a lot of bottle in applying such unpopular things as the miss rule.

Michaela Tabb, I thought, was particularly good in silencing a rowdy Wembley Arena crowd at the end of the Saga Insurance Masters final last month by reminding them that Mark Selby was on track to equal the highest break, which he eventually did.

The refs of the 1980s were almost as well known as the players. Len Ganley even starred in commercials.

Len's son, Mike, now does an excellent job as WPBSA tournament director.

There are now some younger referees cropping up at main tour venues and a clutch of officials from outside the UK.

Where would the game be without them?

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