With the sad deaths of John Street and David Vine, demotion of Clive Everton from the BBC commentary team and Stephen Hendry’s 40th birthday this week, it is hard not to conclude that an era has very much come to an end.
Nostalgia for the 1980s has been one of snooker’s greatest millstones. The constant harking back to the Taylor-Davis final of ’85 and the 18.5m peak viewing audience it drew make modern snooker look like small beer by comparison.
It ignores the extraordinary set of circumstances of that final and the fact that, in the UK, there were only four TV channels.
I’ve never been one to lament the passing of the 80s. Snooker, as a spectacle, is better now than it was then.
But I do recognise that the golden age has passed.
The question now is this: will there ever be another one?
Barry Hearn took over the PDC darts at a time when it was struggling for credibility and finance.
This season, their prize fund exceeds £5m. The WPBSA circuit is worth just under £4m.
Hearn’s approach is straightforward. He wants control and a free hand. He wants to make a profit.
It’s amazing how many people think this is a bad thing. The point is this: if he is making money then the players will be too.
Darts players now cannot believe their luck or the way the sport has turned round.
But I think Hearn is unlikely to want to attempt the same with snooker. He doesn’t need the hassle and would not enjoy working with the WPBSA, with whom he’s enjoyed a fractious relationship for years.
In the 80s, professional snooker existed almost entirely in the UK.
The sport here now is still popular but clubs are closing and interest has declined.
Ronnie O'Sullivan said he believes it is 'dying.' Even if that is true, it is not too late to save it.
Snooker’s future lies outside the UK, in China and in Europe, where its popularity is extremely high.
And it needs its top players to do their bit too. O’Sullivan complained – rightly – about the low crowd turnout in Bahrain but part of the reason for this is that the world champion himself didn’t go.
Ronnie remains snooker’s top draw but it would be wrong to try and build the sport around him. He is a maverick: unpredictable, unreliable and a complete one-off.
We are lucky to have him but, frankly, must accept the good and the bad because that is the man. There’s no point trying to mould him into being something he’s not.
Hearn is right that there is a perception that snooker does not possess the characters it once did.
Pointless PR stunts like the ‘Hotshots’ won’t change that. Only allowing players to express themselves and letting their personalities come across is going to shift the idea that they are ‘all the same.’
Fining them for making mildly controversial statements prevents this happening. An unfriendly attitude to the media does similar.
Snooker as a game remains fascinating and has attracted many new fans in recent years.
The challenge now is to build on this interest and prevent the sport sliding slowly into obscurity, which will happen if sponsorship dwindles to such an extent that tournaments have to be scrapped.
The BBC snooker tribute to Vine showed a clip of him signing off with trademark professionalism after the Taylor-Davis final.
It was only 24 years ago but it looked like a scene from another world, another age.
That era has gone. Let’s hope a new one heralds better times ahead for our sport.