Happy New Year – and what an interesting year it promises to be for the snooker world.

Out of the darkness cometh light, or rather cometh Barry Hearn, the man now charged with restoring the professional game to something approaching its former glory.

This won’t be easy. The governance of the sport has been a scandal for decades (as painstakingly chronicled in Clive Everton’s book ‘Black Farce and Cueball Wizards’) but at long last there is some hope that better times may be around the corner.

Cards on the table: I like Barry Hearn. I like his attitude and his refreshing honesty. I admire his record of achievement in identifying niche markets and developing them into great successes.

He’s an ideas man. Some are good, some not so good (ITV’s Tenball anyone?) but at least he has ideas and the nous to try them out.

There’s nothing wrong with snooker as a game. Witness the John Higgins v Ronnie O’Sullivan match at the UK Championship last month or Higgins’s clash with Neil Robertson in the Grand Prix or the second half of last season’s World Championship. On its day, our sport is capable of providing absorbing, exciting sporting drama.

But snooker does have an image problem. To many it’s stale and samey. The players are interchangeable and the tournaments hard to distinguish.

This is where Hearn ought to come into his own. He has the passion and energy to set about changing these perceptions. The previous regime merely pretended there wasn’t a problem.

Snooker needs to appeal to casual sports fans, not just its own diehard community of followers. For this reason, let me predict right now that Hearn is likely to do a number of things ‘traditionalists’ may not agree with.

Shorter formats may be introduced. The look of tournaments may change.

However, this is all conjecture. I don’t have the inside track on Hearn’s plans. This would be difficult as he is yet to formulate them.

But what’s clear is that the WPBSA now has a chairman who recognises the sport does have problems and wants to sort them out.

Hearn has been involved in snooker since 1974. It has been the catalyst for all the success he has enjoyed in boxing, pool, poker and, perhaps most significantly, darts.

As he himself has said, he is a benevolent dictator. He will do things his way but for the benefit of the sport as a whole.

My advice to Barry is very simple: ringfence the ‘majors’ – the World Championship, UK Championship and Masters – because there’s nothing wrong with them but regard everything else as being up for grabs. I am particularly keen that he makes snooker tournaments feel more like ‘events’ for those attending and watching at home.

Remember this: all the tournaments that appear on TV have been either directly created or modified for television. However, most formats were created for TV as it was 25 years ago and have not changed as TV and society has changed over the years.

We must end the perception of snooker – which many casual sports fans hold – that it is slow, meandering and never ending. Having finals finishing after midnight hardly helps persuade people otherwise.

I understand Hearn’s main priority is to renegotiate the BBC contract. After this he wants to set up a new Pro Tour of small events, which will give all players, but particularly those lower down the rankings, more playing opportunities. I’m also told he will invite independent promoters to a meeting to thrash out a calendar that doesn’t involve clashes.

This is not an act of genius, merely a sensible move but his predecessor stubbornly refused to do it. His regime regarded all other tournaments with disdain and even refused to mention them on worldsnooker.com – an absurd policy that has now changed thanks to Hearn and his more open minded attitude. Expect many more changes on that website.

In 2004, Snooker Scene was prevented by the WPBSA from being sold at tournament venues. This was shortly after one of its then executives rather theatrically threw a copy into a bin at the Players Championship in Glasgow. This dramatic gesture was spoiled only by him then returning to the room to fish it back out as he realised it was his only copy.

Well, we’ll be back on sale at the Masters. Hearn will also meet the snooker media for a friendly chat and try to generate coverage that is sadly lacking in the newspapers.

I believe that all of snooker should support Hearn, even those who were against his appointment. It is in their interests to: if he is successful, the sport will be as well.

As I wrote earlier, there will be decisions that will alarm the sport’s closest followers – and I suspect it will be revealed that the true financial position is parlous – but I genuinely believe snooker will start to turn a corner this year if everyone pulls together.

Enough already. If you didn’t have a headache from last night’s festivities you’ll probably have one now.

So for some light relief, head on over to 110sport.tv, which has resurrected, Lazarus like, it’s online magazine On Q, which features interviews and irreverent musings on the game.

You can also watch myself and Stewart Weir interview the eight players who comprised the recent Legends event – when Alex Higgins allowed us to.

These included some of the names who played leading roles in the extraordinary boom years of the 1980s.

Let us all hope that, in 2010, snooker can take steps to once again scale the summit of popularity and thus arrest its slide into decline.


Chris said...

Great post to start the year, Dave. I am really looking forward to this year and I'm very excited to see what Barry can do for snooker. I appreciate the traditional formats and I could call myself a traditionalist in terms of snooker but I understand what needs to be done in today's changing society if snooker is once again going to be a real major sport like it was 25 years ago. Snooker will always be a sport and it won't just disappear but there are real changes to be made to get it back as a real huge sport and even if we see shorter formats and the tournaments changing, I understand why this is being done, and more importantly, Barry Hearn knows what he's doing. 2010 is the start of a new era for snooker, and I'm sure snooker and it's players and fans deserve it.

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared
Dear David
How are you lad and a Happy New Year to you! Quite a good introduction, the “In Word” for the Barry Beginnings has been “Transparency” I missed the word Dave but I noticed the word “Honesty” which really doesn’t require transparency when honesty sprinkled around.

Barry is going to need a lot of help. It’s hopped that you Dave and your blog members are in close touch. The strong “voices of snooker” that has failed in the past must not be allowed back with lame and plausible excuses.

My first proposal to Barry is sincere: to invite is Mr David Hendon as snookers first Wild Card to the official board of World Snooker. Too many so called knowledgeable champs and ex-champs have recycled the same daft ideas, and will attempt to do so again. Mr hey you

Anonymous said...

i am not overly bothered if more events make it onto tv, tho id like it

my pov is that if theres more tournaments and more players make a living from it and are happier then i am happy....and ill live with watching 6 or 7 ranking events on bbc/sky/eurosport along with the PL

Greg said...

I don't think snooker should try to out-X-factor Simon Cowell. Because you can't.

That's why I cringed when Ronnie said "We need Simon Cowell" last year.

Barry Hearn is going to do whatever he will do now. Obviously that is far more preferable to another year of misery and circling the drain under Walker. But I'm not going to just blindly agree with everything he does, and neither should everybody else.


Happy New Year David.

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method

A comment is wasted if not posted.

hny dave

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year all.
I for one am really excited about the coming year in snooker terms.

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared
Dear Mr 3:04, Hello Dave
How are you my mischievous friends? Your contribution to the blog is a bit sparse for a year’s new beginning.

A more joyous welcome was in order; your merriment need not be so controlled mister 3/04. A mere hny to Dave was rather demeaning without showing at least a genuflection on a New Years Day.
Mr hey you

Anonymous said...

Mr A.U

i was rubbing daves bum at the time of posting.

that was enuf!

Anonymous said...

"Too many so called knowledgeable champs and ex-champs have recycled the same daft ideas, and will attempt to do so again. Mr hey you"


Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared.
Dear Mr 11:30 PM. Hello Dave
Thanks mister for the chance to explain a mere sentence in my last post in snooker’s favourite blog. For the record sir the “Fine Art” method was sound asleep during snooker’s wonderful “Tobacco Period”.

Snooker developed a “We will never be poor again” attitude as they snubbed the measly offers of ordinary business men that wanted to be part of snooker. The WPBSA voted in a closed shop policy to keep out the shrewd business predators that may waste by investing the lovely prize money.

Snooker Scene and “The voice of Snooker” had much to say in policing correctly the wayward snooker members, but failed to remind members that Break-a-Way coaching groups and schools were unlawful under copyright law.

The shrewd businessmen on hand were Mr Ian Doyle and Mr Barry Hearn both openly rejected as predators waiting to devour the poor wee snooker players hard earned cash. Barry and Ian even Rex Williams would have possible got a life long “Arrangement” from tobacco, plus, possible the Joe Davis copyright for a song and the goodwill. Mr hey you

Anonymous said...

dont mince your words Mr A.U.

Ray,Pontypridd said...

Great to see Snooker Scene will be back at the venues.Must be a huge boost to all who work on this marvellous magazine. I would expect Snooker Scene to be in agreement with the majority of Barry Hearn's changes but we can also be assured of honesty,integrity and constructive criticism and quite rightly so.At last it looks like we are now all singing from the same hymn sheet.This can only be a huge benefit to this wonderful sport of ours.

Anonymous said...

I will ask again,

"Too many so called knowledgeable CHAMPS and EX-CHAMPS have recycled the same daft ideas, and will attempt to do so again. Mr hey you"


kimball said...

Neither Masters or UK seem "Big" enough to ringfence.

Let the World bid, China for sure want there own "Masters", of at least equal status and UK will probably not stay the course with a Pukka Pie sponsor.

The field is now strong enough for a Grand Slam tour.

Why shorter matches??
Snooker is a beautiful game frame by frame in a top class match.
Unfortunately, there are to many mediocre players (relatively speaking).
Maybe tournaments should only be broadcasted live from last 16?

Personally I look forward to a "Ryder Cup" tournament and a team
World Championship.

I suppouse Barry Hearn intend to
invite the Asian promotors for the
Calendar "trashing"!

Asia could probably organise an Open 6-red World Championship with
more than 10000 participants in the opening round, albeit not in one venue!
The Ding "fever" is strong right now and all signs are definetely
pointing east.

Rankingsystem should be speeded up too.

Anonymous said...

im glad i disagree with the majority of what you posted kimball

kimball said...

I am glad that I disagree with most of your disagreeing, Mr Anonymus!

j said...

Hi David. January 3rd today so I think a word should be said for two great men in the snooker world. Referee, John Street. Today would be his 78th birthday. My thoughts are with Him, His Wife, Jean and all his other family and please pass on my regards to them. The other is the main man who was our govenor in a T.V. presenting sense. Dennis Taylor, in a tribute to him just afterhis death, called him, "The face of snooker." I am of course talking about David Vine. Today would be his 74th birthday. Again my thoughts are with Him, His Wife, Mandy and all his other family. Please pass on my regards to them also. Thanks David...

Anonymous said...

i love 'hearing' the same joke twice kim.

happy new year

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared.
Dear Ray of Pontypridd! (With your permission Dave)
How are you Ray! Your post on “Snooker Scene” was very forceful but sadly very, very In-accurate. To use strong meaningful words like “Honesty” and “Integrity” to make a valid point is commendable but so, so wrong to use such words when untrue.

The game at present Ray is about building bridges and long may the Hendon blog continue the good work. Maybe Dave’s blog will show a few inaccuracies but not “Plain Lies”

Mr Phil Yates was asked to access the merits and demerits of the book and video of “Snooker The Fine Art” method. Phil made no reply but instead a no comment reply from a person called “ce”on a Snooker Scene headed paper.

Snooker Scene has repeatedly refused to hire any advertising space to the “Fine Art” method. The magazine has openly advertised “space and boxes for sale”, but apparently reserves the right to exercise a discrimination policy. For the record; I am not English.

A New Year, A new beginnings Ray. There is no malice or hard feelings on the “Fine Art’s” part in this sad exposé. Many people just read the DH blog for snooker know how and would be receiving false information if your well meaning post wasn’t corrected. Mr hey you

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Hey You please read 7:02 PM'S post and actually answer it insted of posting all this B****X about fine art method and copyright SH*T!!!

Greg said...

I think I understand now.

Mr. Hey You = "Mr. AU"

AU = Gold

He's trying to get young snooker players to invest in gold?

Dave H said...

To the person who tried to anonymously post that the PDC World Darts Championship was fixed: put your name (and address) on it next time so that you are sued and not me

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared
Dear Mr 2:21, Hi Dave.
I am very sorry mister that my reply to your request was less than complete. I seem to have the lazy school boy habit of answering questions of choice.
To get back to your 7:02 post sir what specific question were you referring to, or answered. My post was on generalities without names.

I could mention the names of Champs and ex-champs plus snooker writers that have belittle the games good name; but names put blog owners in a dicey position.

Think mister! Who sells “Snooker Diplomas”? Who publishes the name of the said “seller”? Please note mister that it is unlawful to sell copyright material without first seeking permission from the copyright owner. What schools in this country openly sells coaching diplomas?

These students may think that they are copyright owners as the Joe Davis copyright was probable never mentioned. An honest person would not buy stolen merchandise?

There are many professional players making an extra bobee from coaching, as it is seldom taxed or fully taxed. There is more than one snooker coach in every town in England alone. Mr hey you

Anonymous said...

Mr hey you back on good form for the new year. Totally barking.

jamie brannon said...

That would be riduclous if you got sued for that comment, if you didnt make it.

Anyway, I agree Im behind Hearn as the sport does need changes not because I'm bored with it, but just cause I want to see it become more popular and sexy and so when I tell women that I love snooker they wont look at me as being a geek!!

When you say ringfence I take it you mean not to tinker with the format, this I totally agree with.

I am a bit of traditionalist and am not in favour of six red ranking events, but would welcome a shot clock event and different formats like team events. Personally though the biggest thing is to make the venues more atmospheric, lets get music involved not just for walk ons but during frame breaks when the sport is on commercial television. I was watching the PDC darts and love it when the crowd are chanting and shouting to Planet Funk before the ad breaks. Personally would like to see some attractive women used like the darts. Im surprised that Im suggesting this, but it has helped Darts shake it's staid image. Viewers turn on the TV and see people enjoying themselves at the darts and think this is not a bad sport, but with snooker I dont think casual fans get this.

Finally you remark on Twitter about Ted Hankey being the Ronnie O'Sullivan of darts and it certainly raised an eyebrow for me as in terms of talent and success, Ronnie is in a different stratosphere. However, Hankey is similar in that they are both easy on the eye playing wise and both beat themselves up out in the arena a lot.

Dave H said...

From what Barry told the players at Crondon Park today, six reds doesn't feature in his plans

The next few months are going to be a lot of fun though

jamie brannon said...

Im sure they will, but I imagine the new events will come into being next season though.

Anonymous said...

Mr Hey You has got more spin than Muttiah Muralitharan, i'm sure you could name these champ's and ex-champ's without Dave getting into trouble, if Dave see's fit not to post it then fair enough.

snookerfanatic said...

How about this:

Instead of 6 reds tournaments and shot clock tournaments, why not combine the lot and use set play as they do in darts?

Each set is best of 5, each match is best of at least 5 sets (progessing as tournament does to best of 11 by the final) and the rules are 6 reds, shot clocks, no miss rule, one time out allowed per frame per player and go with it.

No other shot clock or 6 reds events need take place.

You've not heard the last of this. Remember the name.