15.1.09

THERE'S MORE TO SNOOKER THAN SNOOKER

Mark Selby and Mark Allen are two 20-somethings who play exciting snooker and today served up a thrilling, high quality contest at the Masters.

It’s a shame, then, that they attracted only 282 spectators to the Wembley Arena.

I’m not an expert in marketing but it seems to me that a lot more can be done to promote these tournaments and also make visiting the events a better experience.

When you walk through the doors at Wembley Arena, what is there other than the actual snooker? There’s a table to receive some coaching but no betting stand as in days gone by or proper merchandise stand as run previously by Dave Johnston-Allen.

In the past, these have been little hubs where communities of snooker fans have gathered.

A sporting event has to offer far more than just the sport.

When people go to darts, the actual matches are only a part of the experience.

I agree with Stephen Hendry that snooker should not follow darts by allowing the audience to get drunk and rowdy but we can learn a lot from the way Barry Hearn’s PDC make the audience feel like an important part of the occasion.

Indeed, the crowd at darts often make the occasion.

Snooker is more limited in what it can do because it demands silence while play is going on but Selby, on his Eurosport blog, suggests playing music as the players come in, which is a minor innovation but would at least help to create some sort of atmosphere.

All this has already been grasped by the people who run the Premier League and World Series. I realise flashing lights and pop music at the Crucible would appal many traditionalists but that's one venue where you wouldn't need it because it's usually full from day one.

In terms of getting people along to start with, the tournament organisers should target all snooker clubs within a 10-15 mile radius of the venue.

The people who play there are, after all, already interested in snooker and ticket offers may well bring along several dozen spectators at a time.

The Premier League organisers supply pull-out supplements to local newspapers where their matches are staged. which seems to me to make resolute common sense. The more media coverage the better, particularly in the town where the event is on.

The other problem, of course, is in making the players attractive and well known enough to draw people in.

World Snooker has taken a step towards this with their ‘Hotshots’ campaign but, as Selby and Allen are both part of the scheme, it doesn’t seem to have worked so far.

In fairness, these things take time but a PR campaign will not work if at the same time players are threatened with disciplinary action for making controversial – or often not even remotely controversial – statements.

Snooker actually needs more controversy. It needs rivalries and grudge matches and characters and all the stuff that the media looks for when covering a sport.

The players need more freedom to express themselves. I promise you, if they did the interest would increase but chiding them for even the merest deviation from the norm is preventing the public from getting to know them.

One well known player was even rung up because someone at the World Snooker office in Bristol didn’t approve of the colour of his shoes.

Let the players be themselves. That is the best way for their personalities to come across. Moulding them to some corporate model is a sure fire way to make people lose interest and proclaim that they are ‘all the same.’

The quality of snooker being produced at Wembley is very high, not least by Selby and Allen.

But a crowd of less than 300 is poor for a quarter-final and it’s time for action.

51 comments:

Geoff Brooking said...

Agree it was a great match but this is a typical indictment of World Snooker.

Anonymous said...

i disagree. i dont want or need more controversy. dressing a player in a clown suit, having them juggle whilst riding a unicycle into the arena to Eye of the tiger wont make people who are fans of snooker tune in and stay tuned, as theyd get bored of that if they didnt like snooker. tis but my opinion. some agree with, others dont.

Dave H said...

I wouldn't want to see that either but I haven't seen anyone suggesting it

Anonymous said...

i didnt say anyone had suggested it.

i was saying i didnt want that kind of thing.

Anonymous said...

In the 80's and early 90's reasonable crowds came to venues- a part of the reason for going was that tickets were so very cheap. The prices of tickets now have limited the number of matches fans attend. As a former regular crucible season ticket holder I can assure you that the increase in ticket prices (especially at the crucible) has seen attendences fall in less attractive matches. The numbers at many midweek sessions even at the crucible are no longer what they were simply because the fans have to choose to attend fewer matches. Thus in most crucible first week session there are many empty seats (even taking into account the number of sponsors guests free tickets). The absence of the heritage room in recent years has further diluted the experience at the crucible and initiatives at other venues have come and gone. It would be interesting to know what the attendences have been at other masters matches and whether time of day and cost of ticket makes much difference to attendence figures as oppose to merely the 'pulling power' of certain players.

Dave H said...

That's an interesting point and the heritage Room is another good example of something at the venue other than the mere action that is no more

I have a vague memory - which could very well be wrong - that when Terry Griffiths played Silvinio Francisco at the Masters getting on for 20 years ago it drew a crowd of around 300 and that that was, at the time, the lowest ever attendance at the tournament

CueSport_TV said...

I think it is down to the way that snooker is marketed, it cannot progress by using the same traditional marketing techniques. The 'Hotshots' thing was mentioned as a 'campaign' I saw about this once, that is not a campaign.

All marketing and PR takes time, however any efforts in this department need to be constant. The biggest companies in the world are in a strong position beause they continue to advertise. World Snooker need to make a continual sustained effort.

I agree that under 300 for a 1/4 final is poor and also agree that going to the snooker should be made into more of an event in itself rather than just about the snooker.

What about not only contacting snooker clubs, but what about special discounts for schools or sports clubs, thes youngsters could be the future of the game (and I don't mean the players!)

Anonymous said...

an active forum on the WS site ?

Janie Watkins said...

Personally I think all this marketing and PR speak is a load of B o l l ox !!
I used to work in marketing and it's a world populated by people more obsessed with their own egos and naval fluff than the product they're supposed to promote.
The average London agency has absolutely ZERO knowledge of snooker fans/players around the world, or how to get them into venues.

The BBC also seems to have little conception of what the viewing public actually want to watch and who to commentate. That's quite clear by the huge campaign and volume of emails and protests against the disgraceful removal of Clive Everton as the BBC anchor commentator.

These little campaigns zoning in on a few players is a waste of resources.

Time and effort would be better spent "educating" all professionals in the A-Z of their sport, of what it means to be a professional sportsman, that they (and us) will only ever get out what you put in, on and off the table.

Sadly the PA debacle means we're getting less rather than more local and repeated media coverage.
If WSA or A N Other sends pro active media stories to players' local and regional media, it will be published, usually without even a comma or apostrophe changed.


It's dreadfully sad that so few people saw the Mark-Mark match live this afternoon. It was a truly great match, non stop entertainment from start to finish and both players found time to express their personalities and have a little laugh and joke through the match.

Matt@PSB said...

Totally agree Dave, particularly when it comes to the marketing and promotion side, indeed it's something that I've been saying a while for myself.

Since I've started attending snooker tournaments live it has been very obvious to me that during the last few years this side of it has gone downhill fairly rapidly.

When I attended the World Championships in the Embassy days for example, you had a nice merchandise stand with some things actually worth buying link signed metal presentations to frame, Embassy mugs and other things player related that I can't think of now. The betting stand was also really well done, you had the brilliant heritage room and the vibe seemed to be better. Oh and the programme was miles better.

In recent years the betting stand has been replaced by an 888.com roulette wheel for pretend money, the heritage room is no more and the merchandise is pathetic, generic and a wasted opportunity. the programmes are poor too, they've used the same standard photos for 2-3 years which gets a bit irritating after a while. In 2006/7 at least the CueZone was actually very good, but last year even that was quite poor.

Also as you say, the Premier League really puts it in the shade. The promotion of the event is really quite extensive and then when it has finished and you are leaving the building, someone was there handing out flyers for the finals weekend, quite a nice touch I felt. Obviously it helps having Sky on board but I'm sure that they could do more with the ranking events on the BBC.

Anonymous said...

Matt

apart from the pictures being out of date by a couple of years or so (which used to happen in programmes ages ago too btw) what would you say was in (or out) of the programmes years ago that made them miles better?

Scott said...

In this day of immediacy people want things now and they want them quick. Remember when there were just 2 ad breaks in an hour long show. Now there are generally 4.

The simple reason is that people have become used to quick entertainment; if it does not provide stimulation, they move on.

Here is my suggestion. Most will hate it, but drastic measures are needed. We need snooker's equivalent of a 20/20 competition.

Let's have it as 6 reds only at the start of each frame, and play it as best of 3 frames per set. First to 2 sets wins (or maybe more sets as the competition progresses). You can call it 6-Three-2 snooker.

Before dismissing it, it can start as a trial, just one new event. This is the kind of thing Sky would easily entertain.

The success of 20-20 cricket has made the authorities in that sport wary of it becoming the dominant form of the game. But guess what - the public love it and it generates money.

Having said that, major test matches still get sold out months in advance, so there is room for different variations of the same game. And guess what - snooker has lots of free dates!

Anonymous said...

i dont hate the idea and know similar has been done. i dont think it right for ranking events

Matt@PSB said...

Anon,

Comparing the Embassy/888.com programmes mainly, on the old ones I felt that the player pages were better, for example the top 16 all got a full page each and they had more information on them such as how they had done at every previous appearance at the Crucible.

The 2008 one had two players on a page and most of the profiles were cut and paste jobs from the website (this may have happened before, I don't know). Also the referees used to have a page, there used to be a clearer space on the profile pages for autographs and in the centre pages you had a blank version of the draw that you could fill in as the tournament went along.

In fairness the 2008 one was a definite improvement on the two before it which were pretty poor I felt. I just miss some little things from the Embassy ones which I felt made them more worthwhile though.

I guess official programmes are never going to be too original, but using the same O'Sullivan pic as for 2006/7 but mirroring it so the Highland Spring logo was reversed and unreadable just irritated me a bit :D

Matt@PSB said...

I really don't think that a six reds event would be necessary, as Dave said himself on this blog when he discussed the subject, people still love snooker for what it is now and I don't think the game needs dumbing down.

The problems are more with the management and organisation of the sport rather than the game itself in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

thanks matt.

i actually like the new ones as much as the old ones and could nit-pick about "both". ta for your observations

Semih

Dave H said...

Here's a thing - I wrote the 1999 Embassy programme. I had to do it all myself and it took ages, a lot of hard work.

This year's Masters programme is excellent - it's well laid out, has interesting content and Ivan and Caven at World Snooker have put a lot of work into it.

Some of the other tournaments have programmes scaled down compared to years ago but that's down to cost.

Never mind all this - how frickin' good is the Higgins-Ding match???

Let's get the boys on the baize! Yaaay! Woohoo! said...

I agree with Janie. Anyone who reads the free Metro paper will find that many times they have no reporting whatsoever of many major tournaments, even some televised ones.

To be honest, even the BBC snooker website is quite poor. There frequently are no comments whatsoever from the losing player of a match, and sometimes even the winning player. Maybe the losers bugger off after the matches and don't give interviews, but it can't happen that frequently. Also, a lot of stuff on the website is video based, but they don't put that into writing anywhere for those of us at work who cannot view them.

It's very lazy. Even the teletext coverage in the past was better in some ways. Thank god for blogs such as this. What are the BBC paying their commentary and studio team? Surely a piece from each of them during the course of a tournament would not be asking too much. Instead we get a single piece from some Ashenden guy and a BBC news article prompted by Ronnie's comments. They even have that same bloody "Where does Ronnie rank amongst the all time greats" 606 link. I'm a fan of his, but they could update the page once in a while.

If anyone watches Formula 1, another sport that perhaps (until the arrival of Lewis Hamilton) doesn't have a huge following, you will see that there is a vastly greater amount of coverage. True, there is more money involved. But ITV's own F1 website is very good indeed. Articles all the time, full reaction from the pundits, Q+As and even some humorous pieces. Ok, so not all of that is the BBC's fault, a lot can be blamed on the general promotion of the sport, but ITV at least put in a lot of effort and do many things themselves.

It's a sad state of affairs when there isn't much coverage of this great sport on the website of the channel that broadcasts it. The only good thing is the online streaming of matches, but that is hardly a difficult thing to set up.

Let's get the boys on the baize! Yaaay! Woohoo! said...

Oh shit, i forgot Higgin's vs Ding was on. Better turn it on.

Dave H said...

Good name, although Rob seems to have been told to tone down his intros

Ceefax used to send reporters to the Masters and the World Championship

BBC onlinedon't send anyone and when they do it's only to 'take a sideways look at the tournament'

It's up to World Snooker to be chasing these guys and reminding them that they are BBC events and should be receiving better coverage on their website

SupremeSnooker.com said...

Why was snooker so successful in the 1980s? There are a number of reasons.

A big factor is that everybody, whether a casual fan who watched for half an hour here and there, or an avid viewer who would watch snooker all day, had a favourite player. They also ALL had a player who they really didn’t like. The power of such things should not be underestimated.

Most of the leading players of the 80s started their careers in an era where they had to do exhibitions to make a living. Therefore, they would need a repertoire of jokes, or have something distinguishable about them, and this played in their favour when the TV boom began. All of the young players who emerged from the late 80s onwards didn’t serve their apprenticeship in exhibitions, so don’t feel the need to have any sense of individuality about them. This is not their fault, and I’m sure many are a great laugh away from the table, but it is a fact nonetheless.

Secondly, snooker’s presence on television was more prominent in the 1980s. There were four tournaments a year on the BBC, three on ITV (more if you include regional coverage and late-night highlights of the Matchroom League). Yes, there were fewer channels and getting big TV audiences was easier, but snooker’s presence on terrestrial TV has effectively halved since the 80s (with little more apart from the Premier League and Eurosport’s offerings at unsociable hours available to those willing to pay a subscription).

Thirdly, the venues and settings are often, frankly, dreadful. There is often little to do in and around the venue. There’s nowhere to place a bet, have a drink and a chat or receive some coaching. All of these things would add to the experience. Getting the punters in isn’t rocket science. Charge a much lower price for afternoon sessions when many people are in work. Put an advert in the local paper every day for a week leading up to the tournament. Get in touch with local clubs and leave a pile of flyers in there. Not rocket science, folks!

Fourthly, the players are actively discouraged from having anything interesting to say to the media, and this forces them to come across as a lot more boring and drab than they actually are.

Finally, there needs to be more innovation and excitement for the TV . The Premier League and World Series have the right idea. Things like introducing players to music and coloured lighting, having the TV presentation studio overlooking the arena, and having a more relaxed dress code for players and referees would all be good innovations. (Yes, I do know that Sky Sports did many of these things when they covered WPBSA tournaments).

World Snooker has to learn to work alongside other commercial entities to ensure snooker has a bright future, but going on past form, I find this very, very unlikely. Time is running out folks. I hate to say this, but very soon, the only feasible option will be for Barry Hearn, Pat Mooney or somebody of that ilk to arrange a full breakaway.

Let's get the boys on the baize! Yaaay! Woohoo! said...

As annoying as he used to be, I think Rob has perhaps toned things down a bit too much. His announcements are almost flat now. Perhaps he's doing it just to show whoever told him off that that his other way was much better. The crowd aren't whipped into as much of a frenzy now. The previous older guy used to be much better. At least his "boys on the baize" used to generate a lot of crowd excitement, even if one felt that perhaps they were in fact laughing at him. I mean today, when announcing Higgins and Ding, two fantastic players, you'd expect huge cheers. Instead there was mostly just enthusiastic applause at best. Perhaps that's just how it came across to me though.

Rob Walkers Underpants said...

Promotion and Marketing is everything. Matchroom sell out every premier league fixture at about £20 a ticket. All of the World Snooker events cost less yet are full of empty seats.

nipperse said...

IMHO the audience should be allowed to get more involved , if anybody makes a noise the referee comes down on them like a ton of bricks. As long as they are quiet when the player approaches the table I cannot see any problem. Ask yourself the question if a darts crowd were made to behave like a snooker crowd how many people would turn up to watch?

Let's get the boys on the baize! Yaaay! Woohoo! said...

I didn't know Rob Walker's underpants could type. Guess all his energy needs to come out somewhere and obviously some of it has ended up in his underwear. So what type of underwear does he actually wear? Boxers? Briefs? I'd vote for thong or that Borat mankini thing.

I'd agree with the promotion and marketing thing. Snooker tickets aren't anywhere near as expensive as in other sports. And it's not as if there are 80,000 seats to fill. It really is embarrassing to watch a match when there looks to be only 15 people there.

By the way, can anyone tell me who that chap who always sits at the front during the world championships is? He's a grey haired gentleman, wears a (navy blue?) suit, has glasses and maybe has a moustache. He's a fairly large man, circumference wise. I've always wondered who he is.

Let's get the boys on the baize! Yaaay! Woohoo! said...

Someone from a darts crowd would probably glass anyone who asked them to be quiet.

Darts is such a dangerous game. Has any player got angry and fired darts at their opponent? Anyone remember that Quentin Hann vs Andy Hicks match a while ago? Think it was at the world champs. If they'd have been darts players, I'm sure blood would have been spilled that day. And thank god Alex Higgins didn't take up darts.

Let's get the boys on the baize! Yaaay! Woohoo! said...

I miss Clive Everton. Does anyone have the link to any petition to have him reinstated? Please let him back in the box BBC. And not just for a few rounds of the world championships. Permanently. Or I'll kidnap Steven Maguire's chalk and hold it hostage until they reinstate him. Does Clive read this blog? I love you Clive. Was it your nemesis Willie Thorne who forced you out? Or Dennis the Menace? Maybe it was Neal Foulds. Or just some idiot BBC executive who was forced to by the authorities. You're my hero, Clive. You risked your job for so long just so you could speak the truth to the people. Did you really slip and break your hip that time or was that an excuse made by the BBC? Clive Clive Clive Clive I can't stop thinking about the injustice they have done to you. Sorry if I seem to be going over the top, but it's just how I feel.

Matt@PSB said...

Regarding the noise point, I think Stephen Hendry was very correct when he said that it's different for darts players because they're used to playing in pubs etc with noise. Snooker is a totally different situation, you saw how one little noise distracted Mark Allen this afternoon.

Let's get the boys on the baize! Yaaay! Woohoo! said...

Just been checking out the eurosport website, and their coverage of snooker news is far superior to that of the BBC. Q&A with Selby! Yaaay!

Matt@PSB said...

Selby's blog is excellent actually, well worth keeping an eye on.

oneball2 said...

We're singing from the same hymnsheet Dave

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/606/A45972129

Oneball

Anonymous said...

A ticket for the final on Sunday is around £45. Does anyone know how the price of a ticket is distributed? What I mean is, does it all go to the venue or does some go to World Snooker or sponsors or even the BBC?

Wolfgang said...

What puzzles me is: why do the players storm out of the arena after each match as if they had to get to the last bus?

I saw Marc Allen write autographs after his match against Ryan Day and thought: why don't I see this more often?

Or do the players meet with the fans afterwards somewhere else?

I think that kind of contact between the players and the fans could be more effective than an artificial "hotshots campaign".

Matt@PSB said...

At the Crucible I tend to grab the players autographs at stage door, 80% of them are very happy to do it and interact with the fans.

ringlunatic said...

I also wish they would make their official homepage a bit better. A good representation on the web is very important, cause it can change people from home-watchers to go-ers. Both the snooker people and the BBC are rubbish and it's a shame that the only really reliable website is one made by fans. It should be an informative place with maybe some 'exclusive' interviews with players, but also referees, cue-makers and whatever else.

And the coverage. I can't see the BBC anymore, but Eurosport does this really well. Even during commercial breaks between other sports they point out the snooker matches, and I wonder if the BBC is doing the same. If I look at the tv-guide I can only tell that they show it very very late (unless you red-button it, I imagine). I've always heard that many people watch the snooker on Eurosport, so they must be doing something right.

Anonymous said...

It certain'y looks like Rob has been "stamped on" by someone.
During hte UK he had the audience whipped up into mass enthusiasm during his pre-tv intros. He involved members of the audience and it was fun.
When he tried to introduce another element of fun by buying, at his own expense, £250 of Christmas hats to give to the audience he was very quickly stamped on by both bbc and wsa.
He ended up with the audience donating for the local hospital and receiving their free Santa hat as they left the building.
The only beneficiary was the local hospital.
Rob is fun, he's an asset that could be utilised - lok what he did for the Sailing coverage during the Olympics - Sailing is now sexy!! Snooker - well, on table it's fabulous - off table hmph!!

A few years ago we used to have the Welsh Open at the CIA in Cardiff which was also used for the World 9-ball, prmoted by Barry Hearn.
If you went to both events you would not believe you were in the same venue.
At the snooker a bloke on the door checking your ticket.
At the pool - a cafe area, a public practice table area, countless cue/accessory stores. meeting areas with the players for autographs, photos chat. It was a fabulous atmosphere, only marred by the presence of Strickland whose behaviour disgusted all who witnessed it.

jamie said...

Why is Walker toning down it was better before

jamie said...

Why is Walker toning down it was better before

Let's get the boys on the baize! Yaaay! Woohoo! said...

He did the boys on the baize thing today but without the finger pointing thing. Don't think he could control himself for todays match.

Anonymous said...

Right. The attendance problem. A few years ago I suggested a possible way of overcoming the situation of playing in front of sparse crowds.

WSA used to use referees to act as security, then they decided to bring in a crew who cost the earth (imbeciles?).

What I suggested was that only the first 5 or 6 rows would be available for seating. If more seats are required, the referee/security guard simply opens up another couple of rows (its only barrier tape thats required).

As with a TV game show, it only plays to a "Full House". They simply move the audience to where the camera needs to be. This involves stopping the show which cannot be done in a snooker match, but to get the crowd to the front to make it 'look' there is a packed auditorium can create an great atmosphere. Then simply keep the cameras focused on those rows when they have a need to show that particular image and not to the rows of empty seats.

Its not rocket science, but for imbeciles? Thats another matter.

Anonymous said...

so, your "solution" to the problem is to mask it and do nothing to "solve" it. great!

the best seat in the house is about 5 rows back and in line with the blue spot as you are high enough to see the table layout clearly and not too far away and it gives a middle view of all the table which is a great clear view of the business end of the table.

if the rows were closed until the ones in front were full id not bother going.

and how does 5 full rows but 15 empty ones create a good atmosphere just because the cameras can see the empty ones?

Anonymous said...

The atmosphere created of there being a full house, would/could encourage others to come to this sporting event.

You have to walk before you run m8.

Also, do you work or act as director of WSA? [Sarc.]

Anonymous said...

There wouldnt be an atmosphere created as folk who go would know that goes on and so word wouldnt spread that its a great, full, atmosphere.

i will refrain from being childish (unlike some)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...There wouldnt be an atmosphere created as folk who go would know that goes on and so word wouldnt spread that its a great, full, atmosphere.

i will refrain from being childish (unlike some)



Well, you are obviously THE expert, so if you have no ideas, might as well shut up shop!

The world is full of negative fools, and one made it on here.

Anonymous said...

another childish comment because someone disagrees with someone elses opinion :sigh:

Anonymous said...

You have not disagreed. You have simply said it would not work.

You did not give any alternative argument. You just said it would not work.

I do not subscribe to the "It will/It won't" mentality.

If someone asks my opinion, I give it. And also I give them my reasons why.

Some liken it to "Finding some meat on the bone".

Please don't think your bereft 'Throw-away' comments concern me. But moreso, please please don't think I would resort to it.

Well, do you or don't you ?

:sigh: ....






swifty followed by ....






:laughs out loud:

Anonymous said...

:yawn:

i know when i disagree with someone and i certainly disagreed with you.

i am not forced to give an alternative. if i want to say something wont work i am allowed to. its my opinion. its not wrong - its my opinion. i do not need to give reasons for my opinions. this isnt school, although you clearly didnt attend when you should have!

Anonymous said...

You do, don't you ?

LOL

Anonymous said...

:yawn:

Anonymous said...

Moving on now.

My last post on this subject.

I'll take your "yawn" as a yes.

L8rs ;o)

Anonymous said...

:yawn: