So much for holidays...

World Snooker has written to its players informing them that the sponsors of the game’s two biggest events have terminated their contracts with immediate effect.

888.com will no longer sponsor the World Championship. They signed a five-year deal in 2006 but are ending it after only three.

Saga Insurance has withdrawn its support of the Wembley Masters.

Both companies invoked early termination clauses in their contracts. According to World Snooker, the reason given in each case is the current problems in the financial markets.

This news is about as bad as it gets for the game and, in particular, for the governing body.

When the 888.com deal was originally announced, World Snooker chairman Sir Rodney Walker said: "I believe this is the first step in a transformation which will change the commercial face of snooker in the future.”

Oddly, there is no mention of the double sponsorship blow on the governing body's official website.

World Snooker told its players that they “ask for your further co-operation in assisting World Snooker to promote the game and our organisation in a positive light.”

In other words: “don’t criticise us for this.”

However, I suspect most players will reflect that while to lose one major sponsor can be seen as unlucky, to lose two suggests a big problem with the way the sport is being administered.

For the sake of snooker, everyone connected with it will hope replacement sponsors can be found, but I suspect the next few months will be rocky to say the least.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back David!

I can't believe this news, I received it via a text message from a friend earlier in the afternoon who went to a birthday function yesterday evening and I thought he was still worse for wear!

Joking aside this is an absolute tragedy to lose not one, but two sponsers of our flagship events. That means only a few weeks until the first ranking event of the new season and out of the UK events only the Grand Prix (Royal London Watches) and the UK championship (Maplin Electronics) are sponsered which when you consider the viewing figures Snooker receives is disgusting.

I don't know in the current climate how snooker can entise sponsers with all the politics currently going on and the fact that World Snooker can't announce this breaking news on their website. Likewise they can't cover the news on the World Series as they must consider it a serious threat, in light of today's news who know's what they are thinking?

888.com and Saga Insurance were good sponsers to replace Embassy and Benson & Hedges in the light of things even though 888.com took over the popular Heritage Room at The Crucible with hospitality suites.

The one thing that worries me now, not only as a snooker fan for over 20 years and a qualified referee, is how the players and management are going to take this - darts had serious political problems which lead to the split and the formation of the PDC back in 1993 and as great as it is over the Christmas and New Year to watch and visit two World Championships I wouldn't want this is snooker and I'm sure the leading television broadcasters who do such a good job covering our game wouldn't want.

One things for certain, the coming months will be full of uncertainty and nerves.

What do you think this news holds for the future, David?


Janie Watkins said...

It seems very strange that 888 had cited Financial downturn as a reason to WSA, when only today they were announcing a 33% increase in income from sectors of their business.

Sadly it seems my contribution to SAGA's income via my car insurance, isn't enough to guarantee sponsorship of one of our prestige events.

Monique said...

indeed Janice ...
according to this http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/2008/08/05/big-break-for-888-com-as-sales-rise-115875-20684974/
it does not look as if snooker was a cause of financial concerns, quite the contrary ...

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, sponsorships and other philanthropic causes are the first things to go out the window when economies begin to contract. Anyway, we ain't seen nothing yet. We'll be lucky if venues like the Crucible are still open when this depression is finished. All sports are in for a rude awakening, not just snooker.

Batten down the hatches!!!

Mat Wilson

Oliver said...

Those on the WPBSA board ought to hang their heads in shame for not accepting the Altium proposal in 2002. They won't, though. This, as we all know, would have guaranteed a nine-tournament ranking season for the five years from 2002 to 2007, plus invitation events and a challenge tour, and would have meant players competing for £9.5m more in prize money than they actually have competed for over this period.

Sponsors need to know that their brand is in safe hands. Even in this economic downturn I think they would have been far less likely to withdraw from their contracts had they felt more confident about WPBSA's handling of its affairs.

Kimball said...

Altium was 2002 and if Saga wobble,
so could maybe Altium.
I agree with everybody about mismanagment but the sinking ship
never sank, so it is hard to discredit Sir Walker for the situation in hand.
Masters is the BBC,s baby and there are nothing wrong with wieving figures, if you add Eurosport.
Saga, to me, was not an inter-national sponsor and that is what is needed.
888 ! &%-/# them!
Ladbrokes would have felt fine.
We might all have to get used to
watching daytime snooker, light
is namely coming from east of UK.
Janie, get a new insurancecompany
for your car! In case of a Saga crash.

Anonymous said...

To paraphrase John Virgo, "That was careless".

On the one hand, I'm surprised that 888 have withdrawn, given that as one poster has mentioned, they've just announced a 33% increase, not to mention their efforts as sponsors which I seem to remember David pointing out in his review blog of the World Champs.

It's also interesting though that this news has been announced when the Olympics and the start of the football season are dominating the back pages. An attempt by the WPBSA to bury bad news?

In my opinion, this is not the way to administer a sport which gets more airtime on Free-to-air TV than most. A heavily reduced calendar for the last few years, shocking handling of the Chris Small case, and now this. And that's only recently.

The thing is, though, whilst some players will complain (and with very good reason), it's the professionals who can vote out board members. If the players do nothing about it this time, then they are numpties.


Sam T

Anonymous said...

I feel for you players.

As Churchill once said... KBO!

(It means Keep buggering on!)

Anonymous said...

888.com have announced profits, so it is clearly not fragile markets, and they have signed a five year sponsorship agreement in 2006 - so the money was already allocated! Cricket have announced a £300m sponsorship deal on Tuesday - so it can only go back to the door of World Snooker. Having dealt with World Snooker, they have probably forced the sponsors to walk away through their greed. Unfortunately the Board members do not have knowledge of delivering tangible beneifts to sponsors and just take the money and run. If Rodney Walker wont sack the incompetent board members, the players should have them removed. A professional organisation should have professional people on the board. At present the board consists of a failed businessman, ex hairdresser and a sports administrator. They despise and chase away people who want to help and work with them - often hounding them out of the sport completely. Until these muppets are taken off the board - it will be the same roundabout!

Anonymous said...

Maybe that´s the bill for the WSA for not doing everything for the sport and the pros.

Things like they do with Small, making the dates for there events to hit other tournaments (Worldseries, Paul Hunter Classics), making not everything official, only if Dave is posting it on this site and much more are only small holes in a ship.

But with a lot of small holes a big ship can also get down.

I hope they change there thinking a little bit and all will come to a good end.

Janie: There a enough other insurances.

Jürgen from Germany

Anonymous said...

Regarding the timing of this announcement - does anyone else think it suspicious that it came during Dave's holiday? Either they wanted to wreck his week off or they were hoping he wouldn't bother responding and the news would slip by unnoticed!
As for the future, I think they are going to have to look to getting Chinese sponsors as the game is so big there but if this happens how long before the World's move away from the UK?

Rich P said...

Rodney Walker is on BBC 5 Live tonight at 7.40. Should make for interesting listening.

Anonymous said...

Not least because the interview will be conducted by the chairman of the Snooker Writers' Association.

Anonymous said...

extremely unfortunate piece of news! let us all hope that there will be a reasonable solution to all this without cancellation of tournamets

Black_cat from TSF said...

Mr. Hendon,
Michael89 has included a clearly slandering view of Ronnie O'Sullivan in his comment. I will not quote it, for it sickens me. It is of such seriousness that it should call for a reaction.
Don't you think?
Thank you.
Black_cat, avid reader of your blog

Anonymous said...

Yeah, making lewd comments definitely proofs that O'Sullivan is a N...I didn't know history courses in Russia were THAT bad.

On topic: I hope they don't turn towards China now for finding sponsor, as this would probably mean even more tournaments there. I don't like the atmosphere there, far too noisy crowed and, as far as I understand from comments and articles, the audience isn't so fond of long matches.

Dave H said...

I have deleted the offensive section and repost what Michael89 posted below

Please, please, please do not throw around insults about players or anyone else here.

"Hi for everyone.

Yesterday i read this news and i was very disappointed. The contracts termination will cost "only" 1.5 m pounds per year and it will be disastrous for the game. I think that sponsors has terminated the contracts becouse of very strain and hard relations and negotiations with WPBSA and Rodney Walker.

Maybe Rodney Walker didn't execute all conditions of deal, who knows... But my own opinion is simple - it was because of the scandal with Ronnie in April. I think that this sensational fact has been produced by WPBSA to put O'Sullivan under pressure and make sure that only Rodney Walker has a real power in the snooker world. Now Ronnie is the most popular player in the world, so he is making very good advertising companiies and endorsement contracts. It's not wonder that this scandal could make only losses and bad things for sponsors reputation.

I am from Russia and i can say that in the former Soviet Countries there are many firms that can sponsor majority of snooker events. Now the snooker is become more and more popular there and we want to have may be some major event in Russia or Ukraine. If snooker is become a really international kind of sport it will have 15-17 events per season and millions of pounds in prize money.

And what do you think Dave? For us (Russians and russians mass media) is important to

understand what do you think about this problem and what is your opinon about the snooker's expansion to the Russia and Ukraine?

Sorry for my poor English, I can understand all your posts but can't write all sentences correctly.

Michael89 from Moscow and Donezk."

Миша said...

I want to say for all people - I am really sorry for offensive section in my post - I didn't know that it is so offensive for English people - I can't feel some niceties of English language.

Some opinions about O'Sullivan's behaviour were on Chinese and on Russian snooker forums. I did not want to offend somebody, only wanted to understand Britan's people and of course opinion of Davis about the sponsorship situation. Nevertheless, David, what do you think about my questions?

I again apologise for my incorrect post higher.

supremesnooker.com said...

The World Championship and Masters are now without sponsors, the Grand Prix and UK Championship have just one more year to run on their current contract, and there are at least 50% fewer ranking tournaments than 10 years ago.
The situation has now reached crisis point. The sooner the likes of Pat Mooney and Barry Hearn bang their heads together and start a full breakaway tour the better.
I don't post these comments lightly, but we are facing a situation in snooker similar to that which darts experienced in the early 1990s. The PDC breakway in darts was painful, but was ultimately a beneficial move.
World Series Snooker, while far from perfect, has been a breath of fresh air for snooker and I believe something more substantial may flow from it.

PMM said...

Interesting comment regards the expansion of snooker in Russia, there is a significant investment going into development of Snooker in Russia by the World Series and financial backing is in place to deliver the Final in Moscow for the coming years. If we dare to dream, locations and cities such as Moscow, Berlin, Mumbai, Warsaw and many more will be hosting prestegious and very high prize money events within three years and this will be thx to the World Series of Snooker and bear in mind these events are staged to compliment ranking events and explore new territories at no risk to the game or the finacies of World Snooker, but if they are smart they will watch and learn and open dialogue with WSS and show full support. The choices are simple, Telford or Berlin, Newport or Warsaw, Glasgow or Zurich and so on, you tell me what is the more attrcative sponsors package and audience generator.

A very interested party

Anonymous said...

The only positive part from the Mr. Rodney Walker interview: next week, he said, World Snooker is to announce a brand new tournament in the Middle East later this year. At least that's good news.

cheers, Eric

Anonymous said...

if the new tournament in Egypt is a ranking tournament, which will benefit ALL the player then yes I welcome it but if it's not, they cant class it as a tournament proper.
And I would bet it's not a ranking event.

Anonymous said...

Are the TV contracts the next thing to go? I have the feeling that this could be the beginning of the end - a similar feeling I had about ten years ago but nothing has been done since except struggling on from one season to the next. Successful sports have their seasons mapped out well in advance - probably more than 18 months in advance. Snooker staggers from one week to the next, and the excuse that the end of tobacco sponsorship was a blow just doesn't wash. Apart from the Irish Masters, where national tobacco policy changed almost overnight, there was at least three years' warning about the end of tobacco sponsorship, and much longer in the case of the world championship. Sometimes it makes me so mad!

Dave H said...

Michael - snooker in Russia and the Ukraine is increasing in popularity all the time

I know this because they are both in the top 5 in terms of people who visit this blog

If there is sufficient investment locally there's no reason they can't become established areas for professional tournaments

Robin said...


Just for the absolute record there will be a Sponsor for the World Snooker Championships, which start on the 18th of this month, they we're came to view the Venue last week, and this company will be announced next Week.

Oh and the reason I know this is I work there...

NIBOR said...

Like I said before, the WORLD SNOOKER CHAMPIONSHIP does have a Sponsor THIS year 2009... It will be revealed next week...

Anonymous said...

Last night, Sony rolled out the 3.0 firmware for the Playstation 3, just in time for the launch of the new, lower priced "PS3 Slim.

Anonymous said...

Now that Sony's console is adding the capability to stream movies, should we expect a similar offering from Nintendo? Doubtful.