Reanne Evans will today attempt to win her first match on the main tour when she plays Ben Woollaston in the qualifiers for the China Open.

Evans, the women’s world champion, was given a discretionary wildcard by the WPBSA to play on the circuit this season. She has played 16 matches thus far and lost them all.

Today also marks Allison Fisher’s 43rd birthday. Fisher is regarded as the best women’s player of them all. As well as dominating the ladies game she beat Mike Hallett, Neal Foulds and Tony Drago in the Matchroom League and was respected by the top male players of the day as a genuine talent.

Fisher turned pro when the game went open but failed to climb above a ranking of 192nd. Given that there were 700 professionals this was respectable but not high enough to convince her that she could make serious waves on the circuit.

Instead, she headed to the USA to play on their lucrative pool circuit, where she has been a revelation.

The ‘Duchess of Doom’ has won scores of titles and is making a very good living.

Karen Corr and Kelly Fisher, two other women’s world snooker champions, have also followed Fisher to the states, although this does not appeal to Evans, for whom snooker is a passion. Her family also play and she was steeped in the game since birth.

Women’s snooker has a long history. Earlier this month, Agnes Davies died at the age of 90.

Agnes won the Welsh women’s title at the age of 17 in 1937 and the world title in 1949. She was still playing into her 70s.

But women players are inevitably compared to the men, usually in uncomplimentary fashion or by those who don’t actually understand that snooker is one of the least sexist sports around.

Around the time of the recent Richard Keys/Andy Gray/Sky Sports sexism row, BBC Radio 5 Live conducted a discussion in which some pundit whose name I forget stated that women are not allowed to play professional snooker and speculated that “perhaps the men are scared of losing to them.”

What patronising twaddle: for women and men. As far as I know the BBC is yet to correct this inaccuracy.

Firstly, there is no bar whatsoever to a woman playing on the professional circuit. If they are good enough, they can play – end of story.

Michaela Tabb is a well respected referee and Hazel Irvine presents the BBC coverage. Neither has encountered prejudice backstage because of their gender.

What is true is that fewer girls have traditionally played snooker in clubs than boys in the UK. Women have even been banned from working men’s clubs and perhaps too many feel that the environment in which the game is played is not for them, even though snooker is watched by large numbers of women.

Young Hannah Jones looks likely to be the next big thing in the women’s game and, outside Britain, other girls are taking up the sport.

But sponsorship and TV coverage will only follow if the standard is sufficient to make women’s tournaments a popular spectacle.

As for Evans, she is stuck in a kind of snooker limbo: too good for the women, not good enough for the men.

The women’s circuit keeps going because of the hard work of those who organise it but it is not hugely competitive and it is hard to see how Evans can improve playing the same women in every tournament.

She will be relegated from the pro circuit at the end of this season but I hope she keeps playing in the PTCs because that is the best way to bring her game on.

Oddly, her best performance this season was running Neil Robertson to 4-3 in EPTC6. Had she won it would undoubtedly have been put down to a bad day at the office for the (professional) world champion but Robertson himself commended the way she played.

Snooker is one of the few sports where men and women can compete on an equal footing, it’s just that it has rarely happened.

There’s no immediate sign that it will but, then again, forever is a long time.


Anonymous said...

de ja vu dave

ddrIII said...

Here in Hong Kong, the Open tournaments always see some female players playing very well against the men, including IBSF champion Ng On Yee and Ip Wan In.

jamie brannon said...

You do see a good number of female supporters at the snooker. However, a lot of women who I speak too about snooker still think it is uncool to like it.

Then again, there are some men who think the sport is uncool, too.

It would be good to see Evans win a match, as if she can take three frames off Robertson, then she can't be without a chance of acheiving this.

Is womens snooker not of standard to be shown on television?

Women's golf is not as high quality as the men's, but there are a fair few televised events. The BBC also provide coverage of the women's world darts championship, which is significantly lower standard than the men's.

With no significant physical element to the sport, it is beyond me as to why women have not broken through more.

That pundit made a mistake and he should apologise. However, he may have been mis-informed by someone else.

Dave H said...

The women's world championship (when promoted by someone called Barry Hearn) was shown on Sky a couple of times but the women's game never really took off sufficiently and when Fisher left it was a mortal blow

jamie brannon said...

Although his bit about the men being scared was twaddle.

It goes to show that some offensive comments can pass by, but Keys and Gray were hounded. Another example of selective demonising in the media.

I find channels tend to only apologise if their is hysteria in the media about it.

TazMania said...

Surprising that the commentator spoke against men but we men take it on the chin. Had he spoken something like that against women he would have been hounded like the sky commentators?

Seems like some women(especially in the media) just exaggerate the small difference between them and men to make it seem there is great difference in equality

I personally think the gap in equality is really tiny especially compared to other countries. That is why Britain is Great

Ruthie said...

I am a terrible snooker player, but the complete lack of talent aside, I did find it hard to find anywhere to play as a young teenager when I most wanted to be able to. My experience reporting on the professional game was generally excellent. Sometimes men made stupid remarks, but sometimes men make stupid remarks in completely mixed environments too. I've also heard tell of women making stupid remarks in some environments. I think the only thing that really bothered me recently was the 'personality girls' or whatever version of that moniker they got at PowerSnooker. That was like a throwback to the worst of the 1980s. I've always been proud to be a snooker fan and loved my involvement in the game and I would certainly encourage other women to get involved. By the way, I got lots of encouragement from men and from women in the game when I was there. Great post, David. This debate is worth having.

Anonymous said...

YES Power Snooker was everything thats bad about the 70s and 80s society.

Having Refs there that was Women having sexist Remarks thrown at them by Drunk Men with no Respect and having 2 Glamour Puss Bringing on The Players and everyone thought it was Acceptable Behavior.

Had there been Women playing i can guarantee you some idiots would say "Well they only there because they are Women" but fact is Jimmy White was only there because hes Jimmy White not Because he is a Top Player.

its one Rule for men other for women. Where was the Male Models for the Girls ?

Anonymous said...

its got something to do with their boobies

Anonymous said...

India has more than one billion inhabitants and is yet to produce a snooker player who could compete at the highest level. Their presumably best player, Aditya Mehta, fell of the tour after just one year. Same as Reanne Evans is about to. So is it a question of genes and natural ability? I wouldn't think so - the likely answer is that less Indians have picked up or tried to excel in the game, and I suppose the same goes for women.

I am a woman and started to play snooker with a group of 15 guys and another woman. Four months later I finished runner-up in a tournament with those boys (admittedly at a rather low level, but still). The other woman finished somewhere mid-table. Apparently gender had little to do with talent and ability. The thing is, I didn't keep it up, for several reasons. I'm not trying to suggest I could have competed at a higher level, but what I'm saying is that it seems to be a question of quantity and percentages. I think it's about as likely to have a German, Indian or French player to actually compete with the big boys in a few years' time as it is for a woman.

Anonymous said...

Evans record over 5 years is 100% against own sex and 0% against men.
Massive gulf, bigger than San Andreas Fault.

Anonymous said...

RE Anonymous at 5.41pm:

Had there been Women playing i can guarantee you some idiots would say "Well they only there because they are Women" but fact is Jimmy White was only there because hes Jimmy White not Because he is a Top Player.

Well no actually, fact is Jimmy was there because he's in the top 64, end of story.

But I do agree with the comment that "its one Rule for men other for women."

This is absolutely true, because Reanne Evans was given a place on the tour she'd done nothing to merit, ahead of hundreds of more deserving male players, and Michaela Tabb was fast-tracked through the refereeing ranks and promoted ahead of better qualified and more experienced refs.

So yes, it is one rule for men and another for women, as in most walks of life. But one day we'll fight back.

jamie brannon said...

Lisowski and Maflin have produced four centuries in their qualifier, but it's the Norewgian number one who progresses.

John F said...

11.33 a.m.

Didn't Tabb have a lot of experience on the pool circuit before she joined the snooker tour? I'm sure she refereed world level 9-ball before she had TV snooker matches.

If it truly is "another rule for women" how come Patricia Murphy never made it all the way up the ranks?

Reanne Evans is a difficult one, though - the season has been a horror show, for sure, but to say her place could have gone to a "more deserving" male player isn't entirely right IMO. For all we know, that male player could have matched the likes of McGlinchey or O'Neill who are staring Q-School in the face.

She isn't the first player to have an awful season and won't be the last - look at some of the players who've come through the Mainland Europe Play-offs and have failed spectacularly. Roy Stolk won one match, Kevin van Hove had a string of losses and resigned his tour card, Alex Borg got relegated after one season, and so on. Seeing as some of these players got on the tour through a route which excluded (presumably tougher) UK players, surely Evans' insane women's record merited a place?

I'm sure there are a few male players who spent a winless season on the tour? (Dave H, help me out here!)

Anonymous said...

thanks jamie
by the time id read your post on here i already knew.
youre like yesterdays paperr!

Matt said...

John F,

I think Roy Stolk was one such player four or five years ago.

Anonymous said...

To John F

9-ball is a different sport

Patricia Murphy never made it because it was embarrasingly exposed - especially at the World Series - that she didn't know what she was doing.

Reanne Evans isn't the first player to have a dreadful season, but at least all the others (except obviously during the six years when it was entirely open) were given the chance because of their ability and results - e.g. in the European play offs as you say - and not because of their sex.

Betty Logan said...

I agree with the comments that Evans benefitted from positive discrimination, after all the qualification routes open to the men are open to her, but you can't blame World Snooker giving her a wildcard. It highlights that the professional game is open to women (which will possibly attract more female players to the sport) and it helps deflect misguided comments form the media that women are banned from competing. Reanne's place is all about publicity, and nothing to do with merit and I kind of feel sorry for her, because no doubt the odd sharp comment gets put in her direction because of that. I really hope she can win a match and justify the chance given to her, because she will at least then be validated by the fact she can play at professional standard.

Anonymous said...

Jamie - the women you speak to think YOU are uncool. Your chat-up line probably goes like this-"I think Ronnie O'Sullivan plays sexy snooker, and I think they should ban safety play from professional snooker so he can start winning again, what so you think?"

Anonymous said...

Go on Evans. Good luck.

jamie brannon said...

A strange joke already made by Dave a while back. I say strange as neither of you know me, but I hold no grudges!!

I am not into women, I love Ronnie so much that he turned me gay, so much, that I aim to go to Sheffield and declare my feelings!!

On a more serious note, I don't get why I have reputation on here for disliking safety play. I prefer breakbuilding, but the game needs variety and the safety aspect provides this. Among my favourite players are Anthony Hamilton and Alan McManus both fine exponents of the safety art.

Plus if he is the right mood for it, O'Sullivan can mix it in the safety department with anyone.

Anonymous said...

that last comment proves u are an idiot brannon. hamilton is actually one of the best breakbuilders in the game . have a look at his century stats. he can actually play the odd safety shot also.u just judged him cus he doesnt play as quick as ron .slow player = safety play . brannon = dont understand snooker.

Betty Logan said...

I am not into women, I love Ronnie so much that he turned me gay, so much, that I aim to go to Sheffield and declare my feelings!!

Oh dear, Ronnie just needs a kick in the backside!

jamie brannon said...

What so if you are a competent breakbuilder you are unable to play safety? That shows your lack of understanding.

Hamilton is very shrewd tactically, not up there with a Higgins or a Davis, but still very good.

It was a joke, just decided to play along with this nonsense that O'Sullivan is my god.

Stevie Baillie said...

This maybe Help the debate.

Many years ago whilst studying, I read an article on the complexities of the human brain.
Scientific findings on the male v female brain where such that:

Women's Brains have a much better "Multi-Tasking" facility than their male counterparts brains.
This is general terms (and it is also well known to many) means that women have much better scope for accurately handling and completing many tasks at once.
Men on the other hand tend to be better focussing on one issue through til' completition before progressing to their next linear task.

A negative side found in women's brains was that in general they have weaker "Spatial Awareness" than male brains. This may be why it has been proven in physical tests that men are more comfortable parking cars than females.

So........ getting back to Snooker:
I personally believe that the slight differences and powers of spatial awareness between male and female, is the reason why their has yet to be a woman who can make her mark on Professional Snooker in equal or near equal terms, than the male players.
This slight weakness of "Spatial Awareness" or something like this must be why none have achieved..Yet!

There appears to be very little physiscal difference in Snooker or Darts, so for women to lag behind there must be something making the difference?

Until someone comes up with any other scientifcly proven evidence, then this will always be my own belief as to why a woman has not "come through" in the world of precision sports such as darts and Snooker.

PS Good Luck to Reanne for the remainder of her matches, I have met her and watched her on many occassions. She really is a very fine Snooker player.
Good Luck

Betty Logan said...

If we're going down the science route then the main difference between the two sexes is that far more men take up snooker than women, so the ladies game draws from a far smaller skill pool. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that there are 100 men for every woman that take up the game, probably even more. That's the most obvious reason why there are no women who attain professional standard.

If you want to put forward a "scientific explanation" Stevie, then I suggest you put forward an empirical test as well: take 100 men and 100 women who have never picked up a snooker cue before, and give them the same number of hours of coaching and see what the resulting level is.