Overall I enjoyed my day out yesterday at ONEFORSEVEN in Cardiff, even if the city resembled a giant ice rink.
The harsh winter conditions undoubtedly had an effect on crowd turnout and a few big names also pulled out but several top stars took part, including Mark Williams, Mark Selby, Ken Doherty, Mark King, Matthew Stevens and the eventual winner, Ryan Day.
This was not, as some had predicted, the ghost of Pot Black Timeframe (for which many in the snooker world have undergone therapy to forget).
The format pitted eight players playing a single frame against one another. Each frame could last no longer than 21 minutes. The aggregate score for each player over the seven frames was used to calculate the overall winner.
The miss rule and free ball were thrown out and players had ball in hand after fouls, which certainly speeded things up. Not one of the 84 frames played lasted longer than the allotted 21 minutes.
Music was played throughout and the crowd were encouraged to make noise. This made it more a snooker club atmosphere and didn’t seem to put the players off.
I dare say ONEFORSEVEN wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it would be wrong to write it off without having seen it.
The players I spoke to enjoyed themselves. I’m sure Ryan will enjoy the £14,707 winners’ cheque he received – not even a semi-final prize in some ranking tournaments.
Players don’t just want to play hard tournament snooker and nothing else. They want to let their hair down (those that have any) from time to time and relax, just as spectators like to see them in less serious mode every so often.
The challenge now for the ONEFORSEVEN organisers is to gain interest from broadcasters. This may be harder than they think. The four table set up would be difficult to cover, although one appealing aspect for TV is that, unlike major tournament snooker, it is possible to discern how long the action will take.
There will, of course, be howls of protest that anyone had the nerve to tamper with the traditional form of snooker.
But the bottom line is that variants on a theme such as this and Six Reds do not threaten the established game in any way. They are merely offshoots that may have a role to play in broadening snooker’s appeal.
Most other sports have tried similar experiments. Some work, some don’t but not trying at all doesn’t get you anywhere.
Certainly the kids in Cardiff enjoyed being given the freedom to get up close to the players rather than sit silently in their seats for hours on end – not a pastime most children enjoy.
At the end, where Day, Liam Highfield and Alfie Burden were all in realistic contention for first place, there was a genuine sense of excitement and everyone got to their feet and gathered around the respective tables to see how it would end.
And remember: snooker was originally invented by messing around with the rules of other cue sports.
I’ve no doubt there were those hidebound to tradition who were appalled by this in the 19th century. If they’d had their way we’d still all be playing billiards and nothing else.
I don’t think ONEFORSEVEN is going to replace what we see at the Crucible any time soon – it’d be hard bearing in mind there is barely sufficient room for two tables in the famous Sheffield theatre.
Personally speaking, my favourite form of snooker is in major tournaments of the 15 red variety, just as I prefer Test cricket to Twenty/20 and one day internationals.
But if experiments such as this can help snooker’s future fortunes, even in a small way, then they should be given a chance.