The Championship League returns today with a top quality field that includes John Higgins, Mark Williams, Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson.

Uniquely, one thing missing at Crondon Park is a crowd. This is deliberate because the event is conceived to be watched on the internet.

The betting aspect means that anyone at the venue may be at a slight advantage because there is always a delay of a few seconds between real time and the pictures you see on TV or the web.

The lowest record attendance for a televised ranking event match is zero (it’s hard to get any lower, in fairness).

This was for Graeme Dott’s match against Dominic Dale at the 2004 Grand Prix. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t actually played before the cameras, or anyone other than the referee for that matter.

It must be odd for players of the quality of, say, Robertson to play in front of virtually nobody. That said, he did win the Bahrain Championship so is probably used to it.

I well recall attending the World Championship qualifiers in Newport around ten years ago. There was a late night match going on and just one person in the audience other than me.

This guy had a plastic bag and every time he touched it the sound was magnified because there was no noise other than the match.

In the end the referee asked him to keep still. The spectator took grave offence and upped and left, thus halving the crowd in one fell swoop.

There was another match there later in the week that also attracted a crowd of two, one of whom was a tramp who had come to shelter from the cold.

On the other side of the coin, you can’t beat a full house. The audience is a vital part of top level snooker.

Anyone who went to Goffs when it staged the Irish Masters or has been at the Crucible when it’s down to one table will know what I mean.

Crowds at Wembley Conference Centre, and now Wembley Arena, have played a big part in the drama of the Masters, sometimes too much of one as we saw two years ago in the Ronnie O’Sullivan v Ding Junhui final.

In China, disruption is now expected. Cameras and mobile phones are a constant feature, although more so in Shanghai and Beijing and it should be remembered that this is a cultural thing that will take some time to change.

Stephen Maguire described the crowd of 1,600 at the World Series event in Berlin as “the best I’ve ever played in front of.” Why? Because they were both enthusiastic and respectful.

Stephen Hendry was right when he said that one way snooker should not follow darts is in the behaviour of the crowd.

Shouting out is OK but not while players are down on the shot. Heavy alcohol intake is likely to increase the noise level.

That said, snooker needs to do all it can to encourage people to come to tournaments. As I’ve written before, the experience of attending a sporting event is not confined to what happens in the arena.

Everything outside is important too and I don’t think most snooker tournaments cater for the fans particularly well in the time between matches.

In days gone by there was a betting stand and Dave Johnston Allen of Cheddar Classics ran a very popular merchandise stall.

How else to get people in? Do deals with local snooker clubs (why this doesn’t happen is completely beyond me) as well as schools and, crucially, the local newspaper and radio stations.

Players respond to big crowds and thrive on a good atmosphere.

All this also helps to persuade the public and a sceptical media that snooker is not 'dying,' as has been endlessly debated of late.


Anonymous said...

I've never understood why silence is so important. Look at the amateurs champs. A big hall filled with tables and noises from other tables and people talking all around. In my opinion surrounding noise could only vitalize this sport.
If you want silence go to the cemetery. Everybody is dead there and silent. But we don't want snooker to be dead, do we?

Mr hey you said...

Snooker The Fine Art Method
Play with Poise Elegance,Finess
A secret is wasted if not shared

Dear David.
You must be aware that the there is a new way to play and coach snooker called "Snooker The Fine Art Method" but has been refused advertising space in Snooker Scene.

Mr Clive Everton has repeatedly ignored The Fine Art requests and does not disclaim exercising a discrimination policy in Snooker Scene.

Being owner and editor Mr Everton can choose what is; and is not news worthy without excuses or appoligising to snooker nobodys.

The Joe Davis books on coaching are copyright and should have been sheltered and defended by both Clive and W/S as opposed to being plundered and sold off as snooker diplomas to overseas students.
Mr hey you

Anonymous said...

I dont understand what the last comment has to do with this post!
I remember being at the first round of the welsh open back in 2000. There were 4 outside tables in action some of which had zero spectators. I was watching a tremendous performance on one of them - Fergal O'Brien beat James Wattana 5-0 with a flurry of big breaks including a century. Unfortunately this fantastic display was only witnessed by myself and one other spectator who I discovered was Fergus O'Brien (Fergal's father). Unfortunately I can no longer afford to travel to tournaments but for those that can they should try the outside tables in the early rounds and the qualifiers for what is often some breathtaking snooker as high in quality as many finals.

Anonymous said...

re: last comment

I checked old records and find that the O'Brien-Wattana match was last 16 instead of first round.

Anonymous said...

acknowledged stat man- my comments still apply though -and it was out in a cubicle.

mathmo said...

How refreshing to hear Clive Everton's commentary again, after him not being at the Masters!!!!

Claus Christensen said...

Read the Selby comment again. I think that is very important: an enthustistic and respectful crowd. You don't necessarily have to go abroad to get that but even so there is plenty interest in Europe. No increase in booze and noise levels required.

Janie - GSC said...

Ha ha ha David. Happy days, or should I say nights, at Newport

and that's no way to describe Jason Ferguson's fan club - tramp indeed!!
If I recall, and could I ever forget, the match finished just after 3am!

Anonymous said...

i hadnt missed clive at the masters....

Anonymous said...

I love to watch the matches at Crondon Park because it is the pure stuff. I think those professionals do not need any crowd to get to high level, the talk about 'great' crowds are just made to adulate people. Money in sports is not generated by tickets, e.g. football arenas are getting smaller and smaller and prices are highly subsidized.

Claus Christensen said...

I think the players do gain something from a good crowd. O'Sullivan is surely not alone when he says he feeds off the crowd. In Germany he told the people that 'this is what players dream of'...' most players would pay to play in a venue like this' (quotes may be slightly inaccurate). Of course you can't expect 90 seconds of applause every time you enter the arena but the point is: the players love it. Does it make them play better? Hmmmm...maybe?

Anonymous said...

id say that most players practise in near silence of the club with the occasional distraction.

that said id rather the silence at matches be adhered too. it adds to the occasion having to whisper etc...