The draw for the qualifiers of the first World Seniors Championship for 19 years was made last night (now edited to include today's results).

One player will come through to join the likes of Steve Davis, Dennis Taylor and Jimmy White in the final stages.

The action takes place today and tomorrow at Cue Gardens in Bradford with the finals in November.

Tony Drago 2-0 Tony Knowles
Mike Hallett 0-2 Peter Lines
Joe Swail 2-0 David Taylor
Nigel Bond 2-0 Dave Harold

Lines beat Drago 3-0
Bond beat Swail 3-2

Bond beat Lines 4-3

Congrats to Nigel who will now go forward to the final stages.



Just as Barry Hearn’s plans for the future of snooker looked set to receive the green light from players at next Wednesday’s EGM a rival bid has been tabled to take control of the sport.

John Davison, who was behind the Altium bid in 2002, which wanted control of the game’s commercial rights in return for a large investment, is heading a team promising ten world ranking events

In fact, I understand Davison and Hearn met last week and came close to agreeing a joint deal but could not conclude terms.

So, once again, battle lines are being drawn and the players have to decide who to back as various parties tug at their waistcoats, asking for support.

Davison was treated disgracefully by the snooker world when he originally attempted to breathe much needed investment into the game eight years ago.

All manner of misinformation was spread, chiefly that he was some kind of patsy for Ian Doyle, the then 110sport chairman, to “take over the game.”

The players’ vote was tied at 36-36. In the days that followed, Davison formed the view that the WPBSA board members – who would have had their power significantly eroded were he successful – were doing their best to prevent him getting anywhere near the sport and withdrew his offer.

Davison is a serious figure from the business world. He was a partner in a leading private equity firm and thus has access not only to financial resources but also other contacts in the City.

He has named Karl Bistany, a leading sports rights agent, and Joylon Armstrong, a well established PR expert, as two other members of his team.

What is Davison proposing?

His plan is for ten ranking events, two invitation events, six Players Tour events and prize money for next season guaranteed at £5m, rising by £200,000 for each of the next three years.

What does he want in return?

Davison is asking to secure the commercial rights of the game for the next 15 years, acquiring a 63% stake in World Snooker Limited, the WPBSA’s subsidiary company.

He intends to pay £315,000 for this, which will be redistributed as a dividend of around £5,000 to each of the world’s top 64 (i.e. the voting membership). Hearn has questioned whether this is legal.

Davison also states that the WPBSA, which will remain the rules and regulatory body, will have “a strong team of new independent directors.”

What are the pitfalls?

Davison is not some con-artist trying to scoop up snooker’s commercial rights in a big swag bag but there is a lack of clarity in parts of his proposal.

These ten ranking events: where will they be? When will they be? Who will broadcast them? Is there a provisional calendar?

Crucially, who will be the new directors?

Snooker’s problems are not just related to finances but also personnel. Will Davison invite back any members of the previous WPBSA board?

If he does, the game will lose credibility with broadcasters, sponsors and other potential partners. These people were after all rejected by the players less than six months ago.

So what happens now?

Well, Hearn has invited Davison to the EGM to address the players directly and debate the issues surrounding his bid.

This will give Davison the chance to himself answer some of the questions in this post and the many others the players will have.

It will also give Hearn the opportunity to point out the dangers – as he would see them – of abandoning his plan and taking a chance on this last minute proposal.

However, the vote won’t be for Hearn or Davison. If the players want to take a chance on the Davison proposal they will have to vote down Hearn and then vote for Davison at a subsequent EGM.

And knowing the snooker world, it is entirely conceivable that they could reject Hearn, then conspire to reject Davison and end up back where we started.

Davison, and of course his money, would be a valuable asset to snooker. Had he launched this bid a year ago he would probably now be running the sport.

But many will argue that Hearn has started a job and should be allowed to continue it. He is known and liked by the various broadcasters snooker will need to increase its reach (Sky Sports have said they will not work with anyone else) and has a very clear set of plans in place – whether you agree with all of them or not.

With his directness and enthusiasm, he has established a media profile for himself that has seen a thaw in sports editors’ generally negative attitudes towards the game.

These same people would have a field-day at snooker’s expense if he was kicked out so soon after becoming chairman.

It’s a shame he and Davison could not reach an agreement because they would have made a formidable team.

As ever, though, it is up to the players. They will vote according to such a multitude of reasons, and because of various pressures they are put under from those who surround them, that I couldn’t predict the EGM outcome with any degree of confidence.

What I can say, though, is that it will be the most important vote snooker has faced since, er, the last one...



Luca Brecel at 15 has become the youngest ever Belgian national champion.

Brecel defeated Bjorn Haneveer, who reached the last 32 of last season's China Open, 7-4 in the final.

He compiled a 136 total clearance to win the third frame and won the last having needed three snookers with five reds remaining.

Remarkably, Brecel had only started using a new cue last week.

Brecel, who won the European under 19 title last year, will represent his country in the European amateur championship in Bucharest later this week.

He is eligible to turn professional next year.



Neil Robertson, the new Betfred.com world champion, was beaten 6-4 by Judd Trump in the final of the Austrian Open pro-am in Wels tonight.

Australia's king of the Crucible defeated Stuart Bingham, Peter Ebdon and Mark King to reach the final but 20 year-old Trump denied him more silverware.

The tournament was well attended by several prominent members of the main tour.

Results here.



Congratulations to Jack Lisowski who has won the English Amateur Championship, snooker's oldest title, two years after being diagnosed with cancer.

Jack, 18, has thankfully overcome Hodgkins Lymphoma and can now look forward to the start of his professional career.

He was already guaranteed a place on the main tour after winning two events on the Pontin's International Open Series to finish top of the rankings in the season just finished.

And he rubberstamped his promotion by beating Leo Fernandez 9-2 in the English amateur final at the World Snooker Academy in Sheffield.

Lisowski follows in the footsteps of previous winners including Ray Reardon, John Spencer, Terry Griffiths, Jimmy White, Nigel Bond, Stephen Lee and Stuart Bingham in a tournament first staged in 1916.

Good luck to him on the pro tour.



It’s good news that Sky Sports are to broadcast another WPBSA event after losing faith in the governing body six years ago.

The new Sky Shootout promises to be a fast-paced, glitzy and above all gloriously tacky affair in which snooker – so often seen by outsiders as deadly serious – will play second fiddle to entertainment.

There will be a 20-second shot-clock – with no time-outs – and frames will be adjudged to be over after 12 minutes, although it isn’t clear how exactly this will work or what would happen if, for instance, the frame scores were tied at this point.

WPBSA chairman Barry Hearn has already intimated that he wants a ‘Grim Reaper’ to accompany the losing players out of the arena and that the crowd should be encouraged to get involved.

The top 64 will all be invited, the draw will be random and prize money will double each round, meaning a top prize of £32,000, as Hearn says not bad for three days’ work.

The tournament runs from January 28-30 next year at a venue to be confirmed. A big city, possibly Manchester, is likely.

Players will be able to choose their own outfits and be encouraged to project their personalities.

One frame snooker is nothing new. Pot Black brought the game to the British public’s attention in the 1970s and Darren Morgan won a one-frame knockout event in 1991, although the WPBSA bizarrely made the final a best of three.

Sky don’t want a ranking event – or at least not a lesser one – so the sport should welcome their willingness to show any snooker.

However, a 20 second shot limit was originally trialled for the Premier League and it was found that the players could not cope. Some shots require extra consideration, even for Ronnie O’Sullivan and the other fast players.

Playing ultra-quickly does not guarantee high quality snooker. In fact, it could produce quite the opposite.

However, as a spectacle there’s no doubt the new Shootout will be a fun affair.

Snooker needs a range of tournaments and formats to appeal to different audiences. Too many events look the same, feel the same and, frankly, are the same.

And if the new Shootout persuades Sky to take more snooker in the future then it will have done its job – despite the inevitable howl of protests it will bring from dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists.



Overseas trips with snooker have always been fun, usually because no sooner has the plane left the tarmac that something goes catastrophically wrong.

China is a country snooker players have had to get used to visiting in the last decade. It has two ranking events with talks underway to convert the Jiangsu Classic, currently an invitation tournament, into a third.

I recall two incidents from the 2002 China Open in Shanghai that sum up the way British snooker players have had to adjust to life playing a long way from home.

The first concerned Mark Selby, then just 18 and so understandably not worldly wise.

Selby had beaten a 14 year-old wildcard by the name of Ding Junhui in the opening round and then Joe Swail and was due to face Stephen Hendry in the last 16.

This was, of course, a big deal for the teenager and you could understand his excitement at the prospect of playing one of his heroes.

That said, it was still a surprise to see him fully dressed in his waistcoat, cue in hand, in the lobby of the tournament hotel at 1am.

I had been enjoying light refreshments with other journalists and officials and as we made our way to the lifts, there was Mark and his mate talking to the concierge.

One of the referees approached him to check all was well. Selby explained he was trying to arrange transport to the venue as he was “playing at half two.”

The ref said something like, “yes, half past two in the afternoon.”

It was here that the penny finally dropped. Selby looked up at the glass atrium of the hotel and saw that it was pitch black outside, a fact that had not previously registered.

After such a bewildering experience, there was only one result possible. Selby beat Hendry 5-1.

Credit to him, he told the whole story in the post match press conference. He then beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 5-3 in the quarter-finals.

Graeme Dott did not enjoy such a fairytale end to his own embarrassment, which was a sort of snooker version of Trains, Planes and Automobiles.

Dott had been unable to catch his scheduled flight from Glasgow to London because of fog and the delay meant that he also missed the scheduled flight from London to Bangkok (players were flying to here because there was a tournament in Thailand the week after and it made it easier to go home from Bangkok rather than fly back into China).

I’d imagine hanging around various airports didn’t improve Dott’s mood because, yes, by the time he made it to Bangkok, he had missed the intended flight to Shanghai.

It ended up taking him something like 36 hours to reach Shanghai and he immediately collapsed in bed, exhausted.

He was, in fact, so tired that he slept through his alarm call. When he eventually awoke he realised it was something like 15 minutes before his first round match against Darren Morgan was due to start.

Dott bolted out of bed and threw on his snooker gear – not wasting time to put on any underpants.

He ran from the hotel and hailed a taxi. The taxi driver went the wrong way and Dott was reduced to getting out and running the last half a mile.

He arrived around 15 minutes late, was docked two frames and eventually lost 5-3.

In time he came to see the funny side. It would be fair to say, though, that he did not do so in the post match press conference.

When I asked him how he felt he replied, “suicidal.”

The Guardian, for whom I wrote the story, found it so hilarious that they made Graeme their ‘alternative’ sports personality of the year although, to put this into perspective, H’Angus the Monkey (Hartlepool FC’s mascot) was third.

I supposed there was a happy ending of sorts. Dotty used to argue with Michael Holt as to which of them had the worst record of playing in China.

It was a dispute Holt won when Dott captured the 2007 China Open.

Of course, Dott and Selby contested one of the Crucible semi-finals this year.

On balance, they are probably both happy the championship hasn’t moved to China.



Alex Higgins, the world champion in 1972 and 1982, is reported by several media sources to be down to six stone and living on baby food after his teeth fell out following radiotherapy treatment for throat cancer.

A website has been established asking for donations towards the £20,000 Higgins needs for teeth implants. The 61 year-old speaks in a whisper due to the cancer.

Higgins did as much as anyone and more than most to elevate snooker from folk sport to major television attraction.

His mesmeric playing style and chaotic private life created a heady mix loved by newspapers and the public.

His capture of the 1982 world title, after which he tearfully beckoned his wife and baby daughter on to the Crucible stage, are fondly remembered as some of the most iconic images in the sport’s history.

Higgins was a hellraiser and an anti-hero. He craved the limelight and seemed addicted to self-destruction.

Many of the things he did, notably his treatment of people, could not be defended. Ken Doherty was among those who organised a benefit night for him in Ireland in 1997. Higgins repaid this generosity by refusing to sign any autographs afterwards.

This sums him up: a stubbornly rebellious spirit walking a tightrope between genius and madness.

But any other sport would have erected a statue to Higgins by now. Without him, snooker may never have reached the peaks of popularity in the late 1970s that led to the creation of the professional circuit as we know it today.

Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins once stood on top of the snooker world. The game today should offer its compassion to a fallen star.

Donations can be made here.


This blog - and indeed this blogger - is taking a break for a while.



Many congratulations to Neil Robertson for winning the Betfred.com World Championship.

Neil is a nice guy, a great player and will be a terrific world champion for snooker.

His Crucible tussle with Graeme Dott was not, in terms of standard, of the finest vintage. Both players looked drained after a long tournament and their concentration wandered as the pace of play slowed down.

But this should not detract from Robertson's achievement.

Some snooker players don't like travelling abroad to play in events.

Neil has had to move to the other side of the world to pursue his profession. It was very hard to walk out on his family and friends in Melbourne and spend nine months of the year away from them, which is why it was a heartwarming moment to see his mother, Amanda, embrace him in the arena after the final.

Credit too must go to Dott for the way he has turned things around. Just two years ago he didn't want to play. Now he has figured in a third world final and will be back in the top 16.

The scheduling didn't help matters and is one of a number of issues snooker needs to address after a thrilling tournament that nevertheless ended on a sour note with the John Higgins story.

But nothing should take away from the glory of Robertson's moment: he worked for it, he earned it and he should enjoy it.



So another late, late finish is now almost guaranteed.

Yes, the pace of play has been slow but what did people expect to happen when they chose to start at 3pm rather than 2pm as originally announced? They could at least have got the two remaining scheduled frames in.

Will snooker ever learn from its past mistakes?

Neil Robertson seemed to take the comparisons with Eddie Charlton a little far when he took four and half minutes over a single shot - which he then didn't play.

In fairness to him, he isn't the first player who has found it impossible to think clearly in the Crucible cauldron but his best chance of winning is to play at his normal pace.

If you look long enough for problems, you'll eventually find them.

The final has been hard work for both players. Graeme Dott found some fluency with a century in the last frame of the session, which will hopefully be a portent of what is to come.

More likely, given how important this is, will be a tough scramble for the line.

Hopefully snooker fans will be able to stay awake to watch it.



John Higgins has issued the following statement in response to today's News of the World story:

"Can I say that I have never been involved in any form of snooker match-fixing. In my 18 years playing professional snooker I have never deliberately missed a shot, never mind intentionally lost a frame or a match.

"In all honestly I became very worried at the way the conversation developed in Kiev. When it was suggested that I throw frames in return for large sums of money, I was really spooked. I just wanted to get out of the hotel and onto the plane home.

"I didn't know if this was the Russian Mafia or who we were dealing with. At that stage I felt the best course of action was just to play along with these guys and get out of Russia (sic).

"Those who know me are aware of my love for snooker and that I would never do anything to damage the integrity of the sport I love. My conscience is 100% clear."

The WPBSA has suspended Higgins from all future tournaments pending an investigation. His manager, Pat Mooney, has resigned from the board of the governing body.


If ever snooker needed a great world final it was this year so let's hope Graeme Dott and Neil Robertson can provide it.

Dotty exemplifies the best qualities in the sport: determination, hard work and an iron will to win.

He's arguably played the best snooker of the tournament and has certainly been more fluent than when he landed the Crucible title in 2006.

Robertson's game is allied to unshakable self belief in his own abilities. He has made many sacrificies, including leaving his family to live on the other side of the world.

They can be rightly proud of his achievements.

You can read my pre-tournament preview about him here.

Robertson has noticeably slowed down in the last year or so. He needs to make sure he isn't dragged into a grind because Dott, although he has played quickly this year, can scrap it out if he has to, as he proved against Mark Selby last night.

I think it will be a close match and hopefully one that snooker fans will enjoy and that will present the sport in a positive light to the wider world.


John Higgins is likely to have his professional status suspended today while the WPBSA's new head of disciplinary affairs looks into the News of the World story that has stunned the game.

David Douglas, a former Metropolitan Police chief superintendent, has been in the job for barely a month but will now have to deal with what is potentially the biggest scandal ever to hit snooker.

WPBSA chairman Barry Hearn today told BBC Radio 5 Live that Higgins is likely to be suspended providing the constitution of the governing body allows it.

Hearn said: “I’m absolutely mortified by it. I’ve known John Higgins for a long, long time. Pat Mooney is a co-director of the WPBSA and it’s come as a huge shock.

“It’s an enormous blow to the integrity of the sport, which is vital to the expansion plans we have. It’s been a shattering experience and one that will be immediately looked into by our disciplinary process.

“The fact is, this has come at the worst possible time. We have a showpiece final on BBC television and to millions of people around the world and this casts a shadow over that event.

“I’ve read the piece. I’ve seen the video. I can’t see any reason not to suspend him.

“Once the integrity of the sport is taken away from the public perception, and we’ve seen it to an extent in athletics where people think, wrongly, that everyone is taking performance enhancing drugs, it affects the mindset of the population.

“This particular story has the potential to affect the integrity of the entire sport.

“Anyone found guilty has no part in the game in the future and there’s a hell of a rebuilding job to ensure this is not widespread within the game.

“I don’t see any place in any sport for anyone who affects the credibility of the sport.”

Hearn added that he is now considering his own position as chairman of the governing body.


John Higgins, the three times world champion and new world no.1, has been accused by tomorrow's News of the World of agreeing to accept money to lose frames in the World Series he jointly promotes with his manager, Pat Mooney.

The full story is here.

Of course, this is only the newspaper's side of things and I would like to hear Higgins and Mooney's before passing judgement.

However, this is potentially the biggest scandal ever to hit the game and needs to be dealt with urgently, not least to safeguard snooker's public image whatever the truth of the allegations.

Mooney's position on the WPBSA board is untenable. He has to resign to protect the integrity of the sport.

There should be a disciplinary hearing convened as soon as possible, preferably conducted independently of this WPBSA administration or any other.

Higgins - and Mooney - could then present their side of the story and explain themselves. Video evidence gathered by the newspaper should also be studied.

Sympathy should be with Neil Robertson and Graeme Dott, who are about to play the biggest match of the year in the shadow of this grubby tale.