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...