This blog now has an email address if you want to get in touch.

We'd appreciate any information you may have about any aspect of the snooker world and will, of course, treat it in the strictest confidence.

The address is snookersceneblog@aol.com


I was interested to read Alex Higgins dispensing advice to Paul Gascoigne in yesterday’s News of the World.

My first thought was that the Hurricane is the last person Gazza should be taking advice from but, then again, Higgins knows better than most the consequences of self-destructive behaviour.

At 59, it’s worth celebrating the fact that Alex is still alive. Ten years ago he was ravaged by throat cancer but, despite his frail disposition, he managed to beat the disease.

Make no mistake, he was a great player but he was also a total maverick. Some of the things he did were unbelievable. Some were contemptible.

But he remains a great icon, not just of snooker but of sporting rebellion.

Jimmy White and Ronnie O’Sullivan are the natural inheritors of his maverick mantle but neither has quite self-destructed to the same degree.

White has also always been a model professional on the table. O’Sullivan, of course, has not but has kept his demons at bay long enough to win three world titles.

Higgins was certainly treated more harshly than O’Sullivan by snooker authorities, although this is not to say too harshly.

He did, after all, twice assault tournament officials and threaten to have another player, Dennis Taylor, shot.

Alex thanked me in his autobiography after I helped out with some stats. A short while later when I asked to interview him at the Irish Championship, I received a reply that would not be suitable for a family blog, or indeed this one.

That’s Higgins. A man of contrasts, conflicts and contradictions.

A rebel, it seems, to the end.



Well done to Bjorn Haneveer for winning the first event of the Pontin's International Open Series in Prestatyn today.

This gives him a good springboard to return to the pro circuit.

Bjorn is Belgium's best ever player and was ranked as high as 53rd in the rankings during the 2004/05 season.

For the last couple of years, he's been concentrating on a new business and on commentating for Eurosport in Belgium.

I always thought he was good enough to be in the top 32. He still may be and it would be good to see him back on the main tour.


Here's Jimmy White winning his first ranking title, the 1986 Mercantile Classic.

I particularly like how quickly ITV get off the air after the last ball goes down.



World Snooker are refusing to confirm or deny claims that a member of the main tour has been fined £2,000 after being found guilty of offering an opponent £1,000 to lose the match they were playing.

This is a very serious allegation. The player would have been in breach of rule 2.8 of section 2.c of the WPBSA handbook, which states “a member shall not directly or indirectly solicit, attempt to solicit or accept any payment or any form of remuneration of benefit in exchange for influencing the outcome of any game of snooker or billiards.”

I should stress that the player said to be involved is not a household name. I shall not name him until further investigations have been completed.

Peter Francisco was banned for five years for losing 10-2 to Jimmy White in the first round of the 1995 World Championship. This was the scoreline on which huge amounts of money had been placed pre-match.

Quinten Hann was banned for eight years and fined £10,000 for agreeing – on tape – to receive £50,000 for losing a match, although the scam was called off because it had been initiated not, as Hann apparently believed, by a betting cartel but by a national newspaper.

In this latest case, it is claimed the player was found guilty by the WPBSA disciplinary committee but will be allowed to continue playing on the circuit.

I have asked World Snooker to clarify this - or deny it if it isn't true - but they are making no comment.

What other sport conducts its disciplinary affairs in such shadowy secrecy?

In tennis, when claims of match-fixing were made an independent report was commissioned, published earlier this week.

Gerry Sutcliffe, the Minister for Sport in the British government, stated he hoped those found guilty of this offence would be jailed for up to two years under new legislation.

Surely if there has been malpractice, a governing body should not only punish those involved but do so in public to prove they are weeding out those players who break the rules?

And if the claims are completely untrue, why not just say so?




China is now seen by most as one of the key areas for expansion but this is less because of some grand commercial strategy and more almost entirely down to one player in one week in 2005.

Ding Junhui may never have been at the China Open in Beijing. He was ranked 76th going into the tournament and thus had to chance his arm at the qualifying scramble in Prestatyn.

The decision was made to withdraw the 17 year-old and enter him into the final stages as a wildcard.

This was controversial with some but at least ensured the prodigiously talented teenager would be seen by his home fans.

The China Open had not been held for three years before heading to Beijing for the first time. It started badly. Tim Howland, the chief executive of World Snooker, was summarily dismissed on the eve of the tournament and Ronnie O’Sullivan pulled out at the last minute.

But Ding was soon off and running, beating Mark Davis 5-2 in the wildcard round before an extraordinary 5-0 demolition of Peter Ebdon, his mentor and one of the first people to spot his potential.

With Chinese journalists not always being the most tactful, the out-played Ebdon was asked in the press conference: “How come you won the World Championship?”

To his credit, he replied: “I was just lucky.”

Ding was a little lucky, too, to see off Stuart Bingham 5-4 in the last 16, helped by a fluked brown in the decider, but he played very well indeed to see off Marco Fu 5-2 and Ken Doherty 6-0 to reach the final.

To put it into context, this would have been like Tim Henman reaching the Wimbledon final. The level of expectancy and sense that a new star had been born was palpable.

A peak viewing audience of 110million watched Ding beat Stephen Hendry 9-5 in the final. This is six times as many people who saw the conclusion of the Taylor-Davis world final in 1985.

Because he was not eligible for prize money or ranking points as a wildcard, Ding did not receive a penny and actually went down the rankings.

But longer term, his victory cemented China’s place in the future of snooker. This vast country had found a player capable of beating the very best and there are now two fully funded ranking events there, with more sure to follow.

For a sport so long dominated by British players, Ding’s victory served as a wake-up call that there is a whole world out there, full of talented cueists looking for their slice of the snooker cake.

Just three years on, there were three Chinese players at the Crucible, with one reaching the quarter-finals.

It surely cannot be long before there is a Chinese world champion.



The final of the first World Series event in Jersey proved to be the best match of the tournament.

From 3-3, John Higgins turned it on as breaks of 72, 104 and 69 saw him over the line 6-3 against Mark Selby.

The match was played in a good spirit and the crowd - the biggest of the weekend - seemed to enjoy every minute.

The mood backstage was that this first event went well, even though there will inevitably be issues to address before moving on to Berlin in July.

There is great enthusiasm for this project among those involved in it and also from the players.

Pat Mooney, the chief executive of FSTC Scotland, the promoters, has 14 cities interested in hosting events next year, so it looks like the World Series is only going to get bigger and better.



There's a great atmosphere here in Jersey tonight for John Higgins's match in the World Series against local man Aaron Canavan.

Aaron seems to have brought everyone he knows along and will doubtless do all he can to emulate Gary Britton and spring an upset.

Britton beat Ken Doherty 4-1 this morning. Ken played badly, although his tip was slightly damaged.

It's been fun here. Last night we were entertained at no fewer than three receptions and the players mingled with invited guests, stressing that this is not just about what happens on the table.

Crowds have built up during the course of the day and the mood is very positive.

As Shaun Murphy put it: "We've been saying for years that we want more tournaments. Now we've got them and we're not here to mess around."



A few bits of news...

Firstly, snooker has made it into Time magazine, which underlines its international appeal as this publication is read right around the world.

The article focuses on snooker in China. Everything written is true but what's also true is that World Snooker have chosen to completely ignore the other great growth area for snooker - continental Europe and in particular eastern Europe. This is, in part, being remedied by the independently promoted World Series.

Even so, it's nice to read a positive article about snooker for once, especially in a magazine as widely respected as Time.

Next, the qualifiers for this season's Maplin UK Championship will be played at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.

As anyone who has gone along to watch the final qualifying round of the 888.com World Championship will surely agree, this is a first rate venue.

If you stand at the back you can pretty much watch all four tables and, assuming the players ranked 17-32 will be in action as they were last season, the likes of Steve Davis, Ken Doherty and Mark Williams will all be playing.

Jimmy White has to start in the first round. Meantime, he has a new DVD out. I've reviewed it for the July issue of Snooker Scene and it is, I have to say, hilarious.

It follows Jimmy around the circuit during the 2006/07 season and features cameos from Alex Higgins, Steve Davis, John Higgins, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O'Sullivan to name but a few.

As from next month, you can order it for just £10 from the Snooker Scene mail order service.

A word of warning, though: not for nothing is it rated 18. This is not suitable for your granny or small children as the swearing is constant and about as strong as you can get.

Also available through our mail order will be Chris Downer's excellent Gazetteers - a sumptuous statistical tome which includes full records on ranking tournaments, maximums, prize money and, well, pretty much everything.

This is a labour of love for Chris and I commend him for his considerable effort. Having a copy nearby will enhance your viewing pleasure when snooker's on TV.

In the future, one name that may feature is that of Adam Duffy, who has just started his year as the new recipient of World Snooker's Paul Hunter Scholarship. The first, Daniel Wells, is about to take his first steps on the pro circuit.

Good luck to them both. You can read Adam's diary here and read more about him on his website here.

Adam is hoping he gets to play Ronnie O'Sullivan at the World Snooker Academy. He will probably spend most of the time picking the balls out but will still learn a great deal.

Thanks to the good people at Cuefactor I learn that Ronnie last season made a century every eight frames.

This is staggering, really. Ronnie made 50 centuries last season but only played in eight tournaments. If he keeps practising I reckon he'll be a bit of a player.

He's still just under 200 tons behind Stephen Hendry, who has had to change his practise base as Spencers Snooker Club in Stirling - where he has played his whole career - has shut down.

Hendry is converting part of the stables at his home into a snooker room and will mainly practice there.

The PDC darts circuit will be worth more than £5m next season - more than the World Snooker tour.

This is chiefly due to the influence of Barry Hearn, the PDC chairman, who has - as throughout his career - taken something already popular, marketed it properly and made it even more popular.

The World Championship prize fund has grown seven-fold since 1999. In snooker, the prize funds have either fallen or stayed just about the same in this period.

Is Hearn any longer interested in snooker? I don't know. More to the point, though, is snooker interested in Hearn? It's not a sport that's exactly thrown its arms open to entrepreneurs, more's the pity.

Anything else?

Well, don't forget the World Series starts in Jersey tomorrow. One of the players involved, Ken Doherty, talks about it on the website of his management company, 110sport.

And with that, I have a plane to catch...



Tony Drago, relegated from the professional circuit after 23 years, is to continue on the Pontin's International Open Series.

The top eight in the end of season PIOS rankings will be promoted to the 2009/2010 main tour, although the field looks to be very competitive so Drago will have his work cut out.

It's good to see him carrying on. He has always had great enthusiasm for snooker and, even though his form has declined in recent years, he's still capable of odd moments of brilliance.

This dashing Maltese player had at times in the past made Ronnie O'Sullivan look like Eddie Charlton. Drago once won a frame in only three minutes - a record.

The fact that he's on the PIOS obviously means he won't be receiving a WPBSA wildcard. The discretionary place went to Liu Chuang, although Drago was hopeful he could be in the frame if any more became free.

He has had a few run-ins with authority in the past due to his emotional, at times combustible personality but the same can be said of O'Sullivan and World Snooker appear to be acting as his personal PR firm.

Regardless of how he fares, Drago is carving out a lucrative career in 9-ball pool but snooker is his first love and many will wish him well as he battles with newcomers and old stagers on the game's secondary tour.

(Incidentally, Drago's opening round opponent in the first PIOS event next week is Robbie Williams, who is presumably loving angles instead.)


Two Jersey snooker players are set for a taste of the big time when the World Series gets underway this weekend.

Gary Britton and Aaron Canavan have been called up for the brand new tour, which kicks off at Fort Regent, St. Helier on Saturday (June 21).

Britton, who works in the treasury department of the RBS bank, will provide the first round opposition for Irishman Ken Doherty, the 1997 world champion.

Britton, 34, spent two seasons on the Challenge Tour, the game’s secondary circuit, from 2000-2002 and has won the Channel Islands Snooker Championship on three occasions.

But he admits nothing in his career to date has come close to taking on one of snooker’s all time greats on home turf.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Britton said. “It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever played in and one of the biggest sporting events we’ve ever had in Jersey.

“It’ll be great to play Ken, who has such a good record in the game. I’ve played a few professionals in exhibitions and pro-ams and have fared pretty well, so I’m hoping for the best.”

Canavan, 32, who runs a classic car hire firm, faces twice world champion John Higgins on Saturday night in a match that will be broadcast live on Eurosport.

“It’s just fantastic to be playing John,” he said. “It’s the biggest thing that can happen for an amateur player to draw someone like him. It’s an opportunity you’d never expect to get.

“That’s why this World Series is such a good idea for promoting the sport. It provides chances for players like me to play greats like John.

“It’s also huge for Jersey. Snooker has a high profile and will help to promote the island. It’s a beautiful place, is safe and has a low crime rate. Hopefully, people will enjoy the snooker but also take time out to look at Jersey itself.”

Martyn Desperques, the reigning Guernsey snooker champion, will tackle world no.3 Shaun Murphy in the first round on Saturday.

Rafal Jewtuch, the Polish champion, has also been invited and faces Mark Selby, the reigning Masters and Welsh Open champion.

Other top stars, including Steve Davis, Ding Junhui, Stephen Maguire and Graeme Dott, will take part in the later tournaments.

After the Jersey leg, the World Series will call at Berlin, Moscow and Warsaw before the Grand Finals in Dusseldorf in November.

The overall winner of the Grand Finals will pocket a cheque for €70,000 (£56,000).




The early days of televised snooker carried with them one major drawback: it was broadcast in black and white.

Thus, commentator Ted Lowe was once to utter the immortal words: “For those watching in black and white, the yellow is next to the pink.”

Pre-colour, snooker was hard to watch and tended to be used merely to fill time between other sports.

The likes of Joe and Fred Davis would be asked to play for 20 minutes between horse races and would have to contrive the frame lasting this long and no longer.

It was hardly a great showcase for the sport.

However, this all changed at the end of the 1960s when BBC2 arrived and with it the advent of colour television.

The first BBC2 controller would gain fame as one of the most respected figures in the history of broadcasting through his ground-breaking natural history programmes.

In 1969, David Attenborough’s main concern lay closer to home, namely how to fill his new channel in ways that would best advertise the fledgling colour service.

Snooker, with its different colours and small playing surface, may now seem like an obvious choice but at the time it was a brave one.

Few had heard of the likes of John Spencer, Ray Reardon and Eddie Charlton. Would the viewing public really want to watch them?

Lowe had been trying for many years to widen the game’s appeal on television and he put together a format and pulled together a field.

Philip Lewis, who would produce this new show, decided to call it ‘Pot Black.’

The first programme was broadcast the week Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. Pot Black proved to be one giant leap for snooker, the new age of colour television ushering in a cast of characters whose skill on the table and likeable personalities off it turned the game into popular entertainment.

Almost immediately the show went to second place in the BBC2 ratings and, through time, and certainly helped by the emergence of one Alexander Gordon Higgins, the BBC were persuaded that full coverage of the World Championship would bring in such a sustained audience that it would be well worth their time and effort.

The rest, of course, is history.

In the end, Pot Black became a victim of its own success. It ended in 1986 because people no longer wanted one-frame snooker over half an hour when they had week long tournaments to follow.

It was revived in the 1990s and has been again in recent years but only really as a bit of fun. It shows players in relaxed mode, although whether viewers necessarily want to see them like this is a point of discussion.

Its contribution to the development of the professional game is unquestioned, however.

Pot Black lit the blue touch paper for snooker’s love affair with television which continues to this day.



John Higgins believes the new World Series of Snooker will be an important step forward for the sport.

The twice world champion is among eight top players taking part in the series of four events, which will be organised by his management group, FSTC Scotland, and broadcast on Eurosport.

The World Series kicks off at Fort Regent in St. Helier, Jersey this Saturday (July 21) and will call at Berlin, Moscow and Warsaw before the Grand Finals in Dusseldorf in November.

The popularity of snooker has grown considerably in Europe since the professional circuit’s major events became available to watch on Eurosport.

And Higgins, 32, believes the opportunity to see the top players up close will further increase interest in the green baize game.

“I’ve been fortunate to have enjoyed a successful career as a professional. I wanted to give something back to the sport and that’s how the World Series came about,” Higgins said.

“I met Pat Mooney, now my manager, three years ago and, over a few rounds of golf, he asked me about the snooker circuit and what I thought was needed to improve the sport’s fortunes. He came to a few tournaments and started talking about Eastern Europe and whether I thought snooker would be popular there.

“At the same time, the game’s popularity was rising in Europe because of the coverage on Eurosport.

“We decided it was time these new fans had the opportunity to watch live snooker close up, not just on the TV.”

Higgins will be joined in Jersey by fellow former world champions Ken Doherty and Shaun Murphy plus last season’s Masters and Welsh Open winner Mark Selby.

In addition, two Jersey cueman, Gary Britton and Aaron Canavan, Guernsey’s Martyn Desperques and Rafal Jewtuch of Poland will take part.

“We want to nurture home talent in each venue,” Higgins said. “If they are part of the World Series, they will gain some experience of playing the top players on television and it will hopefully help them to improve.

“It’s crucial for the future to help develop new talent and give them a chance to play on the big stage.

“It’s also very important to us to involve the fans. They are what it’s all about. We had a successful event in Poland last year. All the fans seemed really happy to see us players and it was refreshing and enjoyable for all of us.

“It was nice to meet the public after the matches because they were so enthusiastic and that’s the atmosphere we want at all the World Series events.”

The overall winner of the Grand Finals in November will pocket a cheque for €70,000 (£56,000).



Here is the format of play for the first World Series event at Fort Regent, Jersey this coming weekend:

Saturday, June 21
First round (best of seven frames)
11.15am: Mark Selby (England) v Rafal Jewtuch (Poland)
1.30pm: Ken Doherty (Ireland) v Gary Britton (Jersey)
5pm: Shaun Murphy (England) v Martyn Desperques (Guernsey)
7.30pm: John Higgins (Scotland) v Aaron Canavan (Jersey)

Sunday, June 22
Semi-finals (best of nine frames)
11.15am: Selby/Jewtuch v Doherty/Britton
2pm: Murphy/Desperques v Higgins/Canavan

Final (best of 11 frames)

Fort Regent, Jersey
Tel: 01534 449827 for tickets
Further info FSTC Sports Management - 01786 458108 email: info@fstcollege.com

(Times given as BST)
Saturday, June 21: 7.15pm-10pm
Sunday, June 22: 7.45pm-10pm



Twice world champion John Higgins has become a father for the third time.

His wife, Denise, gave birth to daughter Claudia last week. The couple already have two boys, six year-old Pierce and Oliver, three.

Higgins will attempt to shrug off the sleepless nights when he takes part in the first World Series event in Jersey next weekend.

"I'd better do well because my wife is spending a small fortune on pink outfits for the baby," he said.

"But we are thrilled to have our first little girl and while I've had a few sleeps on the couch she has been brilliant. The whole family could not be happier."



This blog is now two years old and I'd like to thank everyone who has read it, left comments and generally shown any interest during this time.

What would be of help to me is to find out what snooker fans would like from a blog like this.

The idea from the start was to post a mix of news and opinion. I have tried to bring you stories you wouldn't read anywhere else and also analyse various happenings in the snooker world.

But I would welcome any input and opinions as to the future.




Snooker, like any sport, is dependant on a constant supply of new blood to refresh and renew its ranks, but for romantics and nostalgics – and there are a high proportion of these who follow the green baize sport – you can’t beat an old timer, apparently past his best, returning from the sidelines to reclaim former glories.

Doug Mountjoy, one of the myriad cast of characters who helped make snooker such a popular television attraction, was one of the leading players of the late 1970s/early 1980s but, by 1988, appeared to be in terminal decline.

He did not look like the player who won the Wembley Masters at his first attempt in 1977 and the UK Championship in 1978.

Down at 24th in the rankings and out of the top 16 after a run of 11 consecutive seasons, it was widely assumed that it would not be long before he was also relegated from the top 32.

Mountjoy was, after all, 46 years of age in a game largely dominated by the younger brigade – Steve Davis (31), Stephen Hendry (19), Jimmy White (26) and John Parrott (24).

There had, though, been signs of an upturn. He defeated Hendry 5-1 at the Grand Prix in Reading where the Scot had been defending champion and had had his confidence restored by having teamed up with Frank Callan, a Blackpool fishmonger and renowned snooker coach.

Mountjoy had sought Callan out after a humiliating, dispiriting 13-1 defeat to Neal Foulds at the previous season’s World Championship.

Callan completely rebuilt his technique and the results started to come at Preston Guild Hall.

First, Mountjoy battled past his fellow Welshman Wayne Jones 9-7 before a confidence-boosting 9-4 victory over Foulds.

In the last 16, he beat Joe Johnson 9-5, wobbled in the quarter-finals before edging John Virgo 9-8 having led 8-3 and then defeated Terry Griffiths 9-4 in the semis.

Even so, few gave him much hope against Hendry, the natural heir to Davis’s decade of domination.

Mountjoy believed, however, and led 8-6 after the first day before winning six of the third session’s seven frames to extend his advantage to 14-7.

This was not some bygone era where players won through tactical play alone; Mountjoy compiled three centuries in four frames at one point.

He led 15-7, suffered anxiety a-plenty when Hendry won the next five, but eventually prevailed 16-12.

His triumph against the odds caught the public imagination with 13.2m tuning in to watch on the BBC.

“Without that guy, I’m nothing,” he said in paying emotional tribute to Callan.

This was a remarkable, heart-warming victory for a player refusing to embrace the apparent dying of the light.

Perhaps even more remarkably, Mountjoy went on to win the next world ranking event, the Mercantile Classic and would rise to fifth in the world.

His professional career ended in 1997. He had gone down the rankings after having a lung removed because of cancer.

But he could look back on 1988 as both a personal high point and as one of the most popular victories in snooker history.




Professional snooker in the 1970s was, essentially, a closed shop. Players wanting to join the pro ranks had to be approved by the very people they would be playing against.

It was akin to swimming through glue.

Unlike today, players did not walk out of school and straight onto the circuit. Terry Griffiths, an outstanding amateur from Llanelli, South Wales, worked as a postman, bus conductor and insurance salesman before taking the plunge at 30 – an age today where players are considered to be close to veteran status.

Everyone told him he should turn professional but he was unsure. He had a young family and saw it as a big risk.

But as he himself said in his autobiography, Griff: “What made my mind up was that I was now 30 years old and I didn’t want to get to 40 and be thinking, ‘would I have done as well as a professional?’”

Such was his record, Griffiths was accepted but made an inauspicious start by losing 9-8 to Rex Williams in the UK Championship, his first match, having led him 8-2.

The entirety of the 1970s had been dominated by three men. Ray Reardon won six world titles, John Spencer added two to his first, won in 1969, and Alex Higgins made a remarkable breakthrough by winning the 1972 championship.

All three, as well as the likes of Eddie Charlton and Cliff Thorburn, were expected to excel at the Crucible in 1979.

Griffiths had to qualify and did so with a 9-2 victory over Bernard Bennett and 9-6 defeat of Jim Meadowcroft.

In the first round, he beat Perrie Mans, the runner-up the previous year, 13-8 but it was his electric 13-12 defeat of Higgins in the quarter-finals that truly announced his arrival in the big time.

Higgins led 6-2 but Griffiths fought back and eventually won the decider with a break of 107.

His semi-final against Charlton ground on...and on...and on...until Griffiths came through 19-17.

Memorably, the BBC’s David Vine came into the arena and thrust a microphone under his nose to ask how he felt. Before Griffiths had time to think, he said simply: “I’m in the final now, you know.”

It perfectly captured his charming naivety and utter disbelief at suddenly being through to the final.

The fairytale was completed three days later when Griffiths defeated Dennis Taylor 24-16 and his life changed forever.

Now, the man who had held off turning pro out of concern he would not earn enough to support his family was being offered lucrative endorsement deals, exhibitions and TV appearances by the bucketload.

His victory transformed snooker, too.

It opened the door for a new era in which younger players would come to the fore, no longer over-awed by the old guard.

Chief among them, of course, was Steve Davis, whose rise to the top was surely the main reason Griffiths failed to win a second world title.

The pair played seven times at the Crucible; Davis won all seven.


As there won't be much going on - World Series excluded - in the next couple of months I shall be presenting a countdown here of what I consider to be the ten greatest moments in snooker history.

Such lists are often memorable for what's not included, so let me be clear: not everyone will agree with my choices.

A number of what a lot of people will think obvious moments have failed to make the cut. Why? Because it's a personal list and I've limited it to just ten.

Let me explain what I consider to be a 'great' moment.

It has to be memorable, dramatic but also play an important part in the great snooker story.

I could have had a list of ten 147s or ten world finals but this would have ignored the many other stories and memories from down the years.

Feel free to leave your own comments and suggestions as the countdown goes along.

The ending may well prove controversial!



Dusseldorf will host the Grand Finals of the new World Series of Snooker from November 28-30.

The field will feature the eight leading players taking part in the first four events, the best four local wildcards from these tournaments and four invited players.

The overall winner will receive a cheque for €70,000 (£56,000) - more than the winners' cheque in four of last season's seven world ranking events.

The new series will be broadcast on Eurosport and includes five former world champions - Shaun Murphy, John Higgins, Graeme Dott, Ken Doherty and Steve Davis - plus world no.2 Stephen Maguire, reigning Masters and Welsh Open champion Mark Selby and Chinese ace Ding Junhui.

June 21-22: St. Helier, Jersey
July 12-13: Berlin, Germany
September 27-28: Moscow, Russia
October 25-26: Warsaw, Poland
November 28-30: Grand finals in Dusseldorf, Germany

To keep up with all the news and action on the snooker tour, check out this new sports blog. They have score updates plus the latest snooker betting as well as all your other favourite sports.

Visit their site for the best Ryder Cup odds on the web.



The rights and wrongs of the punishment given to Ronnie O’Sullivan for his behaviour in China will be debated – indeed is being debated in the comments section of the post below this one – but that is only one issue arising from this matter.

It transpires that the fine was actually £2,750, not £3,750 as reported by 110sport. The costs of the hearing were paid for using the prize money he forfeited.

This will not be well received by the various lower ranked players who have been forced to pay costs for attending hearings on far lesser offences.

Not that we know exactly how many have done this as World Snooker’s disciplinary procedure is so shadowy it belongs in an episode of the X-Files.

We know that the disciplinary committee chairman is Jim McMahon, a long serving World Snooker board member.

There are two other people on the committee but it isn’t known who they are.

O’Sullivan didn’t actually attend the hearing but wrote to the committee promising, I suppose, never to do it again.

Times have changed. When O’Sullivan was stripped of the Irish Masters title in 1998 he turned up to face the music. A press release was then drafted and issued that same day in which the committee members were named and the punishment announced.

Belatedly, World Snooker has put a statement on their website today revealing the punishment.

Make no mistake: this was only done because the story had already appeared in the press and, indeed, on this blog.

The hearing was held on Thursday. They say they held off releasing the news because O’Sullivan had to be informed first.

Yet his management company issued a statement on Saturday, so the player obviously had been informed.

I believe that if 110sport had not sent their statement out then we would never have heard anything about it.

One interesting thing to come out of the statement, though, is that the committee considered a heavier fine but decided against it as O’Sullivan had promised to ‘work closely’ with them in the future.

Can’t see that decision back-firing at all.



Ronnie O'Sullivan has been fined £3,750 for his behaviour at a press conference at the China Open last March.

O'Sullivan, the 888.com world champion, was filmed making lewd remarks and the video was posted on the internet.

He has been docked the 700 ranking points he earned from the event and also fined the £2,750 prize money he received as a first round loser. A further £1,000 was added to the fine to cover legal costs.

However, we only know he was punished at all because his management company, 110sport, issued a statement.

There has been no such statement from World Snooker, who will now face allegations that they have attempted to cover the whole thing up.

The 110sport statement said: "Ronnie regrets what has happened and he has accepted his punishment.

"He realises he made a mistake in China, but he never intended to offend anyone. He wants to forget what happened and move forward.

"He has apologised to World Snooker, the promoter of the China Open, his fans and also to his sponsors.

"He is keen to get on with his career and continue demonstrating why he is regarded as the best player in the world."

I think many will share my view that though this incident was regrettable, it was something of a storm in a Chinese teacup.

Ronnie has since apologised and his contracts in China have not been affected.

The punishment is, in my view, about right.

But what I find incredible is that the governing body of snooker do not routinely announce the results of their disciplinary hearings as is standard practice in just about every other major sport.

What have they got to hide?



Liu Chuang, who became only the fourth 17 year-old ever to play at the Crucible last season, celebrated his 18th birthday today with the news that he has been awarded a wildcard to remain on the main tour during 2008/09.

This is the right decision. By holding Ronnie O'Sullivan to 4-4 in their first round match, Liu proved he has great potential and it would have been a shame if he had disappeared from the circuit after only one year.

Jin Long and Li Hang will also be on the main tour next season after winning the Asian Championship and Asian Under 21 Championship respectively.

Stefan Mazrocis won the European play-off yesterday and has now been nominated by the European Billiards and Snooker Association for a main tour place.

The remaining place will go to the winner of the European Championship, which began today in Poland.

Full coverage of this event is available - of course - at the excellent Global Cue Sports Centre.


Ding Junhui will face Mark Selby in Sunday's Jiangsu Classic final.

Ding beat Ryan Day 4-0 while Selby defeated Joe Perry 4-1 in Nanjing today.

This is good news for this new tournament as the final will be played in Wuxi City - Ding's home town.

However, what a daft decision it was to play one semi-final on one table and one on the other, which isn't televised.

They were only best of seven frame affairs and could easily have been played one after the other on the TV table.

It means TV audiences will not see a ball of Selby's victory.

Also, Ding's match lasted just 50 minutes and Eurosport have an hour and 45 minute long programme to fill.

And it gave the paying public only an hour and 20 minutes of entertainment.

There is no logic at all to this.



The following statement has been agreed by the WPBSA and Clive Everton, editor of Snooker Scene:

"The WPBSA has withdrawn its claim against Clive Everton for payment of costs awarded by the S.D.R.P. on 1 November 2006.

"Although the board believes it has conducted its case correctly and that it would ultimately prevail in court, it is acknowledged that as with all litigation there is sufficient doubt about the outcome as to render further expenditure of the membership's funds inappropriate.

"Mr Everton also believes his case was conducted correctly and that he would ultimately have prevailed in court but is happy that it can now be concluded without further expenditure on either side."



The snooker circuit is becoming well acquainted with China as more and more tournaments are developed in the world’s largest country.

The latest, the Jiangsu Classic, begins on Wednesday. It features eight members of the world’s top 12 plus four local wildcards.

The trailblazer for snooker in China was Barry Hearn, the Matchroom supremo, who took his stable of players out there in the 1980s.

After a few forays to Hong Kong, they first played in the People’s Republic in 1986, where Steve Davis defeated Terry Griffiths in the final of the China Masters.

Also part of the field was the then WPBSA chairman Rex Williams, who turned up for a promotional tour of the Great Wall of China in an expensive cashmere coat. When Hearn told him that the dress code was ‘casual’ the always immaculately attired Rex replied: ‘Dear boy, this is casual.’

Several more invitation events were staged in China before Stephen Hendry won the first world ranking event on Chinese soil, the 1990 Asian Open in Guangzhou.

Hendry beat Dennis Taylor 9-3 in the final, although Taylor had been exhausted after finishing his semi-final at close to midnight only for the final to start shortly after 9am.

Nine years passed before China hosted another ranking event, the 1999 China International.

This was notable for having all four semi-finalists coming from Scotland. Billy Snaddon beat Stephen Hendry but came up short against John Higgins, who defeated Alan McManus in their semi.

The boom hadn’t quite started at this point but I recall going through passport control with Higgins where an austere official asked him to stop and wait at the desk.

I worried there may have been something wrong with John’s passport and was envisaging the diplomatic repercussions only for the guard to return with a piece of paper for the champion to sign.

He’d watched the snooker on the TV the previous night and wanted Higgins’s autograph.

Shanghai also hosted the China Open at the end of 1999, won by Ronnie O’Sullivan, before this event switched to the magnificent Mission Hills golf resort in Shenzhen a year later.

I remember the interest was such that Hendry had to be locked in the pressroom – not necessarily his preferred place of refuge – for his own safety as a sea of fans tried to get his autograph.

O’Sullivan spent the whole week mired in depression but still beat Mark Williams to win the title.

We went back to Shanghai in 2002 where a 14 year-old Ding Junhui was a wildcard.

It was here that Mark Selby, in full snooker dress, attempted to hire a taxi at one in the morning because he was playing at two (in the afternoon).

Selby was so jetlagged he had not realised it was night, even though it was pitch black outside.

Nevertheless, he still beat Stephen Hendry the next day and also knocked O’Sullivan out on his way to the semi-finals.

Graeme Dott, it would be fair to say, did not enjoy the trip. His flight from Glasgow to London was delayed, which then held up his flight from London to Bangkok and on to Shanghai.

It took him 38 wretched hours to reach China and, understandably exhausted, he went to bed where he slept through his alarm.

Realising he was late, he threw on his snooker gear – although famously not any underwear – and hailed a taxi to the venue.

Unfortunately, the taxi driver went the wrong way and Graeme got out and ran the last half a mile.

He arrived 15 minutes late for his match with Darren Morgan, was docked two frames and lost 5-3.

Asked how he felt afterwards, he simply replied: ‘Suicidal.’

Anthony Hamilton wasn’t too happy either after throwing away a golden chance to win his first ranking title when he lost 9-8 to Williams from 8-5 up.

Because the game had gone into financial disarray, the China Open disappeared from the calendar for three years but returned in 2005 at the Haidian Stadium, Beijing.

Ding was taken out of the qualifiers and put into the main draw as a wildcard. This was the week of his 18th birthday but played with great maturity to land a succession a good scalps – Peter Ebdon, Marco Fu and Ken Doherty – to reach the final.

A couple of things stand out from that week. One was Davis banging his head on a thick steel door and becoming so dizzy as a result that he had to withdraw from his match with Ricky Walden.

I had every sympathy with Steve because I managed to bang my head on the same door and it was not an enjoyable experience to say the least.

The other was Paul Hunter who, unbeknown to all but his closest friends, had just been diagnosed with cancer but still flew the 8,000 miles to play.

After one match, it was noted that Paul had not come in for his press conference. Some 20 minutes went by before we went to look for him.

He was still in the arena signing autographs, which he did for around 300 people.

Ding beat Hendry 9-5 in the final. He received no money or ranking points as a wildcard but, for the sport as a whole, his victory was an extraordinary stroke of luck.

Everything that has happened in China since is down to this one match. It helped ignite a snooker boom that is continuing to this day.

Williams won the 2006 China Open and Dott took the crown in 2007. This year’s final, in which Stephen Maguire beat Shaun Murphy 10-9, was, for me, the best match of the season.

Last August, a second Chinese ranking tournament was added to the schedule, the Shanghai Masters, won by Dominic Dale.

A third could well be on the cards and the Jiangsu Classic, which will be played in two cities, Nanjing and Wuxi City, serves as evidence of the huge interest that remains in China.

This is reflected by the number of Chinese journalists now following the circuit and the emergence of players to challenge Ding’s prominence as top dog in his home country.

Liu Song was a quarter-finalist in last season’s Grand Prix, Liu Chuang qualified for the Crucible at 17 while Liang Wenbo made many friends as he reached the World Championship quarter-finals.

Fast forward ten, certainly 20 years, and it seems likely that the World Championship will be staged in China.

Whether this actually happens or not, China is one snooker success story worth noting.