12.1.09

SNOOKER IS DEAD...LONG LIVE SNOOKER

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.

28 comments:

Anton said...

I agree that something needs to be done in the world of snooker to bring some popularity (and money) to it. Watching the Masters is very strange without sponorship logos plastered around the arena.

However, I do not want to see snooker "sell out" to the marketing men. Just look at that god-awful Rob Walker MC to see what the murky depths of commercialism are like.

What I think would help the most is if TV rights were sold to more countries. I have a friend in Canada (a country which has ben associated with great snooker players in the past) and she would love to watch the snooker but it is just not broadcast over there. If people watch snooker then they will start to play it, and soon some great new players will emerge.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Clive Everton being demoted denotes "the end of an era". There was no logical reason to boot him out, it was just ridiculous logic from the utter buffoons in the BBC. It's nothing to do with him being "out of time" or snooker having "changed". Nobody asked for him to be kicked out, it was just that the idiots at the BBC thought he should go. Wrong. Every commentary booth in every sport needs a "play-by-play" and a "colour" commentator. You can't just have colours commentators and ex-players in ANY sport. And the perceived "lack of characters", again, is something that is a problem for all sports. Look at F1, where Hamilton is considered to be the only one who has "character". I don't feel that snooker has any major problems that are unique to the sport. Pro-sports in general have been stuck in a malaise for quite some time now. Players everywhere need to be allowed to express themselves, not cow-towing to political correctness, and their corporate sponsor PR minders...

Gary M said...

I am utterly appalled to hear the news that Clive Everton has been demoted from the BBC commentary box. Clive Everton remained without any doubt the best and most informed BBC commentator the game had (Phil Yatesvery informed but Clive in the commentary game long). With the loss of Clive following from Ted Lowe and Jack Karnehm we have now lost all of the original commentators. We are now left with Willie Thorne, John Virgo and Dennis Taylor and with the greatest of respect between them you couldn't make one of Clive Everton.

Virgo - out of the game too long, out of touch with both playing and grass roots side and the same old hyperbole time and time again

Thorne - add all of the above and plus this infuriating tendancy to always go on about himself

Taylor - again little knowledge of what's happening in snooker and that continual condescending tone as if he's talking to 90 year ols grannies or people who know nothing about the game.

The only ones that are half decent and in touch with the game are Griffiths and Foulds who only get cameo roles.

We now have the so called "Darling of Dublin" introduced into commentary along with seemingly John Parrot. Why do the BBC now think all commentators should be top ex-players. Players do not necessarily make the best commentators. Take Lowe and Karnehm for example - not top class but involved and informed within the game and good speakers. No harm to the current breed but all such qualities are now missing.
Other examples - Dan Maskell, John Barrett - tennis, Peter Alliss Henry Longhurst - Golf, Barry Davies, John Motson - Football Sid Waddell, Tony Green - Darts, Peter O'Sullevan, Brough Scott - Racing etc and so on - none top class players etc but with a love for the game and well informed and proper commentary rather than all the tired old cliches. Whoever made the decision to remove Clive should be sacked as they clearly know very little about commentary or snooker and their advice is very flawed (or perhaps something more sinister is to blame...)

I intend sending this to the BBC as they must be intent on the destruction of snooker and of common sense. Its just a pity you could not mute the commentators without losing the click of the balls and the crowd otherwise I would switch this bunch of right away. Without the best commentator in the game by a mile I would rather not listen to any of them.

Anonymous said...

Along with Peter Aliss and Richie Benaud Clive is one of these very special commentators who not only truly loves his sport,has mastered the art of commentary and does not exaagerate or show any kind favourtism.For more then 30 years he has done nothing but attempt to serve the game that he loves and has been shameleely persecuted by the WPBSA for it.And now the BBC who he has loyally served for 30 years have joined in.They ought to be ashamed of themselves.Only a crazed lunatic who knows absoloutly nothing about snooker could come up with the idea of replacing Clive with Ken Doherthy.I have no idea how I am going to watch final night without Clive.The treatment of this great man is nothig short of disgusting.CLIVE YOU ARE SIMPLY THE BEST.

Anonymous said...

Dave, can you clarify the reasoning behind Clive's demotion? Is it purely because BBC want all ex-players in the commentary box?

I think it's a totally wrong decision, Clive is a stalwart who was still good at what he did so there was no need for change.

Anonymous said...

I imagine that Clive has been dumped because of the pressure brought to bear by the WSA on TWI the television arm of IMG that is responsible for producing the snooker for the BBC.

IMG will be hawking the World Championship around potential sponsors on the WSA's behalf and looking for a fat finders fee in the process. Just surmising but the WSA could easily have said to IMG/TWI that with Clive in the box, they wouldn't get the World Championship commission.

John

studavis said...

Can somebody please clarify the situation with Clive and the BBC??

Frankly, if Clive has been demoted, and we are left with the run of the mill (so called) commentators as Virgo, Taylor etc then for me that is the start of a very quick, very sudden downward demise of snooker on terrestrial UK TV.

Dave, anybody, want to (honestly) give us the facts??

Anonymous said...

I emailed the bbc asking why their best commentater was not working at the masters- they responded by thanking me for my email and informing me that due to the volume of emails recieved they could not answer mine.
What a surprise that is!
John H

Anonymous said...

The demotion of Clive Everton is akin to the axing of the 'voice of bowls' David Rhys-Jones, with the beeb replacing him with former players and younger models who never say anything worthwhile. Why is there such an insistence to get former players into the presenting and commentary chairs? Sky's cricket coverage is a prime example of this.

I actually quite like Virgo and thorne, but they are not a patch on clive.

And while we are in the moaning mood, how utter dire is the press association's coverage of snooker?

Anonymous said...

The snooker coverage needs Clive Everton. Whilst I have nothing against Ken Doherty, if I hear him say 'you know' at the end of another sentence again I am going to destroy my television. In order to avoid this I will be watching Eurosport's coverage instead..

Anonymous said...

Dave,

I have heard that an online petition has been started about the demotion of Clive. While I am fairly certain that the BBC will take no notice of such an action, it does no harm to try.

Have you heard anything or do you have a link, I would like to register my protest.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Taylor & Virgo. But think Thorne is a superb commentator, and have thought he is by far the best for a year or two now.

On all ex-players? Thats a disaster waiting to happen! Watched Davis & Parrott present on Sunday night standing by the table. What a nightmare. Davis leaning on the table for the whole of the programme on his knuckles, and JP with his hand in his pocket for the same time. Both as plastic as sin.

Please please please STOP !

Marcus Stead said...

I've paid a warm tribute to both John Street and David Vine on my own website, and I agree that their passing, along with the demotion of Clive Everton, marks the end of an era.
I am almost at the end of tmy teather with World Snooker. The time is very near when Barry Hearn, Pat Mooney, or somebody else of that ilk grabs snooker by the horns and revolutionises the game.
On the table, I'm very happy with things, it's everything else that saddens me- empty arenas, awful sets, and TV coverage that could be much, much better.
The Premier League and World Snooker never seem to have trouble attracting crowds or sponsors, and TV audiences remain healthy.
There are NO excuses why snooker can't have a very, very bright future, but whinging won't solve it, an entrepreneur needs to do something about it (and make a fortune for himself in the process) NOW.
If I can help in any way, you know where I am.

Marcus Stead said...

* When I say the Premier League and World Snooker never seem to have trouble attracting crwods etc, I do of course mean the WORLD SERIES, not World Snooker! (It's getting late!)

studavis said...

Story is here from Saturday - http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2009/jan/10/snooker-clive-everton

..including, quite prophetically a quote from David Vine regarding Clive's ousting.

..two greats gone.

andy said...

Willie Thorne should not be allowed to commentate on snooker, commentary work should go to journalists and clear speakers who have a good grasp of the English language. Willie and John seem to have difficulty with the English language as I've outlined before here. Poor use of this idiom seems to be spreading like a terminal disease amongst the professional community!!

Along with this pet hate of mine, I also can't stand the fact that Willie seems to think that snooker is a game of luck, "This was lucky", "That was unlucky", "He deserves to win the game from that one shot alone", "Lucky boy", it goes on and on, it drives me crazy, nearly every shot!! If you're at home watching snooker now and Willie is commentating, count the number of times he think a player has played a lucky shot. If someone had never seen the game before and was listening to Willie's commentary, they would think it was a game of chance.

Oh and Willie, we know Michaela Tabb is the best looking referee out there, ...you don't have to keep reminding us every time she graces our screens!!!

Makes you think, maybe ex-snooker players come cheaper than the pittance snooker journalists receive!!

Willie may be a nice guy, and I enjoyed watching him as a snooker player, but commentators should have some grasp of the job given to them, and learn the professionalism that the position requires. Take a leaf out of John Street's and David Vine's books.

Begrudgingly,

Andy

andy said...

Oh and I forgot to mention, bring back Clive, ....again (as he's been fired many times before I believe!).

Oliver said...

I would be interested to hear if WPBSA have played a part in getting Clive demoted - as they have done on at least two previous occasions. No doubt we will read all about it in next month's Snooker Scene.

Clive deserves much better than he has received, or is ever likely to receive, for his outstanding service to the game. I would like to hear leading players and ex-players stand up and say this, but they never will because they know how much he is reviled by the game's governing body and no-one seems prepared to take on the WPBSA for fear of falling foul of the governing body's draconian disciplinary processes.

Clive is a peerless commentator and the BBC has made a fatal error here as far as long-standing snooker fans are concerned. They should restore Clive immediately and make sure that he gets to cover the final session of both the Masters and this year's World Championship.

Geoff Brooking said...

The Clive Everton story is a bit out-of-date now.

Anyone who didn't know the story about Clive and the BBC must have been living on Mars over Christmas.

Barry Hearn should form a breakaway snooker tour just like the PDC did and get the likes of Sky Sports broadcasting more live snooker again because we all know there would be only one winner.

Just compare the BDO and PDC Darts Tour's as a typical example.

The way World Snooker is being run at the moment they'll be going bust quicker than the country is.

Snooker players deserve far better than being fined for speaking their minds or conceeding scrappy frames before the snooker's required stage.

They deserve professional respect from professional organisers like Matchroom Sport and they deserve to be treated like the stars they are as they were when Jeff Stelling and co ran what was second-to-none coverage at Sky Sports.

That's what all the hours of practice is all about.

Gary M said...

Does anyone know the address of this online petition where I can put my name to it ?

I thought when I posted my rant abo
ve that one or two people would disagree that the loss of Clive is a disgrace but to a man (or woman) every one here agrees he should not be removed and is the best and most informed commentator.

I would love to know which numptie (s) at the BBC made this decision. New doesn't always mean better and clearly that is so in this case. I see Peter Alliss (possible the greatest orator as a commentator ever) has not been removed because he has been there a long time (as this would be sacrelige) and the beeb need new direction in commenary there so this is pure hypocricy.

Does anyone know an email address for the BBC where I could register my disdain and anger at this decision to someone who is the right place ?

stuartfanning said...

The only time that Clive Everton has spoken about his demotion by the BBC is in this recent Guardian article.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2009/jan/10/snooker-clive-everton

Anonymous said...

I would like to know what the players think - it would be good to see some of them stand up for Clive. And have his fellow commentators got the guts to voice their opinions?

stuartfanning said...

I thought Steve Davis may have stood up for him with BBC Sport management, as I understand he is as close as anyone at the BBC to Clive. Whether he did or not who knows.

Anonymous said...

Maybe to liven up the coverage the BBC could introduce a section similar to what Sky do with Eric Bristow in the darts.

They have 'Bristow's Bets', what about getting Willie Thorne's input into a 'Willie's Wagers' section?

Anonymous said...

You can't help but think there are several sets of 'dabs' all over this decision - all of them probably matching individuals who probably have high-ranking status with an alleged governing body responsible for the running of a certain cue sport.

Clive IS world snooker's biggest critic. In the past they have tried to shut him up, usually leading to some rather large cheques (the expensive legal version of a 'sorry note') being posted out to the Birmingham area with a Bristol postmark.

I have no doubt that pressure would have been applied to get rid of this sore once and for all.

Unfortunately for Clive - unlike his last ban a decade ago - there are no militants in the press office now, ready to rally the troops and employ guerrilla tactics against sponsors because there is virtually no-one in the press office, and like snooker journalists, sponsors are a thing of the past.

The one good thing is that Clive’s silky voice and superb words will not be around to commentate on the death throws of the game he loves.

Gary M said...

Anyone who thinks as I do that this is a disgrace please sign the following online petition:-

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/bringbackcliveeverton

Anonymous said...

Snooker players are snooker players.Even the greta ones, NOT commentators.When they are not "waffling on" in some "in-joke" in a schoolboy manner, they got ot the other extreme.Describing available shots,in such as manner, that only a dedicated snooker PLAYER, would understand.its confusing, and entirely unnecessary.A "layman's" point of view, related in a calm manner, without all the irritating "ya boo" asides, is all that is required.

Janie said...

Someone has set up a 'Save Clive' group on facebook if anyone wants to join

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=39751911658