While Barry Hearn and John Davison prepare for snooker’s own version of Celebrity Death Match, I thought we would take a brief walk down the inglorious memory lane of votes past.

Ah, there’s nothing like the cut and thrust of reasoned, intellectual debate...and WPBSA EGMs and AGMs are usually nothing like the cut and thrust of reasoned, intellectual debate.

I recall one AGM over a decade ago that was held in a hotel in Birmingham during an old folks’ Christmas party.

After all the arguments had been made on the floor of the meeting, it was time for the powers-that-be to go and count the votes in a private room upstairs, which meant they had to take the lift.

Alas, their path to said lift was blocked by a load of pensioners doing the conga to Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody.’

Rex Williams, the then WPBSA chairman, gamely resisted joining in.

Some of the vote counts in years gone by would, to put it politely, have shamed Robert Mugabe.

There was the infamous case of a WPBSA member of staff being co-opted to the board without his knowledge. He voted in the AGM despite not attending it.

Once, an ‘independent’ scrutiniser was introduced, the only snag being that nobody knew where he actually came from. I wondered if he was one of those morbid types that turn up at funerals.

Somehow, it would have been apt.

I should stress that in recent years the electoral reform society has overseen these august occasions, although there have still been rows over proxies.

In truth there are few things there hasn’t been a row over.

There was a period in the late 1990s when there seemed to be an EGM every other week. They pretty much kept the Tickled Trout hotel in Preston in business.

The most controversial of these was in March 1998. There had been a major disagreement between Williams and Ian Doyle, the then 110sport (CueMasters at the time) chairman.

It culminated in Williams banning Doyle from all venues as well as threatening Stephen Hendry with disciplinary action for asserting – correctly – that the game was ‘poisoned from top to bottom.’ In turn, Doyle called an EGM to remove the chairman. To counter the CueMasters block vote, Williams tabled a vote to extend voting rights to the top 64 rather than the top 32.

Three wise men by the names of Steve Davis, Terry Griffiths and Dennis Taylor stepped forward to broker a peace deal between the pair. An agreement was reached that Doyle would be allowed back in and he would call off his vote to remove Williams. The absurd action against Hendry would be dropped, as would the vote on extending voting rights to the top 64.

Peace in our time?

It wasn’t even peace in our lunchtime.

The EGM went ahead. The WPBSA said this was purely for constitutional reasons but it didn’t stop them passing the voting reform with a show of hands by a spectacular margin of 4-0.

Presidents in banana republics have been elected by less dubious means.

The players had a golden chance to secure a better future for themselves and the game when John Davison stepped forward with the Altium bid in 2002.

He was promising an investment that would guarantee £6m in prize money for the circuit. The opposing bid was for no investment at all.

Needless to say, the latter bid was ultimately successful and those behind it were given the commercial rights for ten years.

Prize money was immediately reduced and their contract was torn up after only ten months.

Players consoled themselves that it was still ‘their association’ but few bothered to turn up to subsequent AGMs, some of which were more sparsely attended than a Gary Glitter comeback gig.

The truth is, players want to do one thing: play. All the politics is a rather annoying sideshow that they could frankly do without.

I’m sure many of them are heartily sick of having had their ears bent for many years by various snooker politicians promising them the earth.

If either Hearn or Davison is successful, it should bring more stability to snooker and allow the players to concentrate on their careers and leave decisions on commercial matters to those more qualified to handle them.

Ironically, though, the only way to decide this is to have another vote...


Greg P said...

I think the most shocking thing that has happened this time round, is that Ding has actually spoken up about it and backed someone. Usually the guy's so laconic he makes the Marlboro Man look like Graham Norton.

John McBride said...

Brillant read Dave. Love your wit.

Janie (I woz there!) said...

Absolutely brilliant David. You've excelled yourself.

Albeit that you were given plenty of "material" to play with there!

You've made it sound almost nostalgic!

Anonymous said...

Davison has bottled the EGM. What's all that about? Hopefully Hearn will waltz through the vote now....?

Anonymous said...

He knows if he gets into a room with Barry his 'proposal' will be very swiftly pulled apart

These people prefer to whisper in the shadows with their email campaigns and using their own staff to go on the BBC messageboard to slag off Hearn

But when it comes to put up or shut up they run away, whining to the press as they go

Anonymous said...

Apparently he wanted to share the platform with Hearn and have his proposal in the same vote, effectively hijacking Hearn's meeting. The fact he's kept his cards so close to his chest yet knows exactly what Hearn is offering and therefore that he can trump it with no prior warning to Hearn (so he has little chance to react and adjust his bid accordingly), plus the fact Hearn invited him to the meeting which was turned down, just shows what sort of man he is.

There's only one man who should be leading snooker and he's already in the job. Now let's all get behind him because he has demonstrated he is in it for the love of the game and not self interest.

Anonymous said...

His maths is lousy as well. He is quoted as saying Hearn wants 75%. He doesn't, he wants 51%.

Which last time I looked was less than the 63% Davison himself wants.

Anonymous said...

Obviously sees it as a wasted trip just to turn up for Hearn to ask for an adjournment

RichP said...

If Davison pulling out of the EGM isn't a massive warning sign to the Ebdon's, Ding's and the rest of the players then I don't know what is. Hearn is clearly the only person that will take snooker forward not some Doyle/Davison combo that can't get their act together. This has got 110 written all over it, stick with the matchroom.

The Duck said...

I wonder, would he be thinking of selling off 12% in order to maintain full control with 51% in the future?

Anonymous said...

Nice piece on EGM's of the past Dave although yopu forgot to mention that Williams was voted in by Doyle's block vote in the first place back in the day.
Then Williams attempted to do the job without having his strings pulled in one direction and then the two of them fell out.
The block vote of leading managers towards one particular body has always lead to favours being assumed to be done.

Rex Williams, an honest man who didn't take any crap from the likes of Alex Higgins on the table nor would he be bullied off it.

Betty Logan said...

Hearn's deal does take 75% actually - 51% for Hearn himself and 25% to sell, although the sell-off would generate capital. However you look at it though the Hearn deal leaves the players with 25% ownership. Hearn as chairman and his plans for the game generally have the backing of the players, so he doesn't need 51% ownership to implement his proposal. He wants 51% because he thinks the sport will be a valuable asset down the line, and hopefully he's right. The players should reject his deal as it stands, which in theory shouldn't affect his position as chairman. If he brings something to the bargaining table - sponsorship/TV contracts/capital - then the question is how much is that worth in the game's stock? A 30% increase in prize money guaranteed for one season equates to about £1 million so the simple question here is half the sport worth £1 million? Davison's offer - serious or not - stands at a £7 million commitment which is a more realistic reflection of the value of the game. If the players reject Hearn's bid I don't think he will walk away, I think he will come back with a realistic counter-offer.

Anonymous said...

So Davison isn't turning up. This proposal that came out last week stinks to high heaven.

Why did Davison wait until the v.last minute to show his cards(and not much at that)? Last time they thought Doyle was the real reason. Well I believe this time, it was probably Lee Doyle behind this, with backing of Hendry,Ebdon and Ding(!?) Oh, and of course, Del Hill.

The fact Davison has his team of Octagon pals at the helm of this project makes me think that they may also have kept in touch with Rodney Walker. Octagon productions do a lot of sport for the BBC, and this was possibly the proposal that Walker was talking about before he was ousted.

There is still a lot of bitter people in this sport!

Anonymous said...

A bit of perspective;

1) As Chairman shouldn't Hearn have gone to the wider market to gauge the true value of our sport? Maybe that's why Davison came in so late in the day.

2) Nothwithstanding the above, how can anyone justify buying the rights to an international sport forever? Indeed how can the WPBSA Board allow it...oh yes, 'cos Hearn is the Board.

3) 51% = management control which means in theory Hearn can run the sport and it's revenues as he sees fit. So in theory he could appoint Matchroom to manage tv production, sell sponsorship and manage the events without going to the open market to get the best price. In otherwords channel WSL profits to Matchroom at the WPBSA shareholders expense.

I don't know this Davison character and so can't judge him (yet)but I can't see how Hearn has taken the game's interest to heart in making his proposal. It's a no brainer which frankly I'd be happy to fund.....maybe I should!

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared
Hi Dave
How are you lad and thanks for the posts? You have a good memory or lots of backed dated Snooker Scenes, I remember every punch line.
You forgot Dave that the debonair Rex wanted to invest good “Tobacco Money” in “Property” when there was some top players still without millionaire status.

The lovely Rex was ousted with the same disregard as the Sir Rodney. Barry’s pledge and punch line of “Transparency” and “Complete Honesty” to get rid of the honourable old lad was the wrong election pledge.
Some people Dave actually believe promises even from Father Christmas.

Barry Hearn will Not “Walk Away” as he will be obliged to drag his personal board members with him. Steve the PSA President and PC Douglas may feel comfortable in the job.
Get rid lads and I’ll take the job wasn’t really diplomatic or good advice. Mr Hey You

Simon Day said...

I love the way an above poster bangs on about "whispering in the dark" with emails and message boards etc, but yet you post on this article as "Anonymous"!
Hearn is a manipulative crook, who has dreamed of "owning" snooker for some 20 years. How any one man or organisation thinks he has the right to own a sport is incredible!
With regards to Davison attending the EGM... what is the point? Hearn and the WPBSA have blocked him from directly addressing the players, and they have repeatedly failed to respond to Davison's requests for clarity and transparency of the process of the EGM.
The EGM has been convened to consider Hearn's proposal not Davison's.
I truly hope the voting players use their brains today.

Anonymous said...

Bernie Ecclestone owns F1...and has made a success of it

Idiots like you have spent too long listening to know-nothings like Del Hill

SnookeromAnka said...

Brillant style Dave. One of the best your articles ever!