Barry Hearn played one of the leading roles in snooker’s rise from a professional sport enjoyed by many to primetime public entertainment in the 1980s.

In 1974, he was a chartered accountant with business aspirations and, through his love of sport, became chairman of Lucania, who owned a string of snooker clubs.

The first player he was interested in managing was Vic Harris, a fine player and former English amateur champion.

Harris, though, had spotted a shy, ginger-haired 18 year-old by the name of Steve Davis and suggested to Hearn that he would be a good investment.

And, boy, did the investment pay off. Davis and Hearn cleaned up in every sense during the 1980s snooker boom in Britain.

On the table, Davis won title after title while, off the table, Hearn negotiated a series of lucrative endorsements.

He was the first businessman to recognise the potential of the players away from the table: exhibitions, adverts, TV appearances, a range of after shave, even a hit single, all kept the money rolling in and also kept snooker in the public eye and not just for who beat who in whichever tournament.
If snooker was a circus, Hearn was its ring master.

Other players came and went from the Matchroom stable – among them Terry Griffiths, Dennis Taylor, Willie Thorne, Cliff Thorburn, Jimmy White and Ronnie O’Sullivan – but only Davis has remained a constant.

He and Hearn are like brothers. One of the great moments in Crucible history was when Hearn barrelled onto the stage and nearly knocked Davis over after he won his first world title in 1981.

Hearn was to join the board of the WPBSA and many inside the sport became wary of his intentions.

For some reason, there has long been an aversion within snooker to people making money, even when they are making other people rich in the process.

Hearn put his money where his mouth was by staging tournaments such as the World Matchplay and Premier League but grew restless with what he saw as the limitations of the snooker world and turned his attentions to boxing instead.

He has since gone into fishing, poker, ten pin bowling, pool, golf and bowls. He is also chairman of Leyton Orient.

He is a master at turning sports and activities with apparently limited appeal into success stories.

He has boundless enthusiasm and has built up a vast network of contacts in the broadcasting and sponsorship worlds.

Hearn’s Jack-the-Lad persona belies a shrewd business brain. What most people appreciate, though, is his approachability.

The first time I met him I was with my Snooker Scene colleagues Clive Everton and Phil Yates.

Barry looked us up and down and said, “Look, it’s the three generations of the snooker anorak.”

The people behind the new Championship League had first been to World Snooker. They did not like the way they were messed around over several weeks and approached Hearn instead.

Within an hour, he had given them the green light.

And then there’s darts...

Hearn is chairman of the PDC, the breakaway organisation that run a rival World Championship to the one shown on the BBC.

What he has helped to do for darts is remarkable. One of their Premier League nights attracted an attendance of 10,000 people.

The PDC circuit this season is worth £5m.

The World Snooker tour is worth less than £4m.

In their response (sneaked out on their website a day after the media were explicitly told there would be no response) to his statement about the clash of dates between the new Bahrain Championship and a Premier League night at Haywards Heath on November 13, World Snooker did not even mention Hearn or his organisation by name.

They dismissed him instead as a “third party promoter.”

This may be a factually correct definition but does not begin to tell the story of Barry Hearn, what he has done for snooker or what he could do for snooker in the future.


Janie Watkins said...

Also worthy of a mention is the 1991 Mita World Masters.
another Hearn brainwave, that brought together players from every snooker player country and a lot that weren't!

Mens Singles and doubles
Womens Singles and double
and Mixed Doubles
and Juniors

It was one of the highlights of my playing career even though I and my partner (Neal Foulds) lose one of the dreaded "tie-breakers" in the Mixed Doubles.

That Junior event saw an unheard of John Higgins beat an unheard of Mark Williams in the final, the shape of things to come!

I stand to be corrected, but I think it was one of the first snooker events shown on Sky.

Anonymous said...

Is this journalism? Mr. Hearn could not have written it any better himself!

Anonymous said...

David, plz, write something like this about Ian Doyle. He is also very interesting manager.


Anonymous said...

David, plz, write something like this about Ian Doyle. He is also very interesting manager.