110sport, one of snooker’s oldest management stables, is thought to be on the brink of collapse after a bank guarantee of £100,000 was recalled, placing the company in provisional liquidation.
The management arm of the Scottish company had been placed into liquidation last month.
It has emerged that Lee Doyle, the chairman and a 110sport director, resigned from the board several weeks ago.
A statement is expected next week confirming that the entire company is in liquidation. It is believed players are owed money they may now never receive.
In a letter to shareholders, the remaining 110sport board said: “The Clydesdale Bank took the decision on Friday April 8th to call up a cross guarantee which was in place to support 110sport Management (in liquidation) and removed from the company £100,000. At a meeting on Monday of this week the board urged the bank to reconsider as the board considered there to be sufficient alternative security in place to cover the liabilities to the bank. The bank declined to alter its position.
“The impact on the company in the short term of the bank’s decision has been catastrophic.
“The board reviewed the cash flow position and took account of all aspects of potential for the company but has come to the decision that the company cannot go forward without an immediate cash injection.
“With no prospect of this occurring, the need to protect stakeholders and despite the best efforts of the board the decision has been taken to seek the appointment of Ken Patullo, Begbie Traynor, as provisional liquidator for the company.”
It was clear recently that the company had major problems when 110sport players starting asking tournament organisers to pay them directly rather than through the stable.
The company was established as CueMasters in the 1980s by Ian Doyle, under whose guidance Stephen Hendry made a rapid rise to the top.
The stable included many top players over the years, including Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Mark Williams as well as its current clients such as Hendry, Ali Carter and Ken Doherty.
Doyle fought many political battles with the WPBSA but by the time CueMasters had become TSN in 1999 they attempted to work with the governing body, offering to sponsor tournaments in return for internet rights.
TSN and its backers became so disillusioned with the WPBSA’s generally negative attitude that they took the bombshell decision to launch their own circuit.
For several months, a battle was fought by both sides to persuade players to play on either circuit but the WPBSA survived through the support of the BBC.
TSN became 110sport and again Doyle tried to take the game forward by introducing Altium and its investment in 2002 but this was rejected by the players.
Doyle gradually took a step backwards before retiring and handing the reins over to his son, Lee.
His attitude was to work with the WPBSA and he thus joined their board. This was an understandable position to take after all the infighting but I became concerned about his judgement when I heard him staunchly defending the Rodney Walker regime on BBC Radio 5 Live in 2009.
110sport’s venture into pay-per-view internet streaming of the qualifiers turned out to be a costly endeavour, which ended very quickly after it began.
Doyle chose not to support Barry Hearn when he was elected WPBSA chairman, a decision that has led directly to the demise of 110sport.
Hearn offered Doyle a slice of the commercial action when he attempted to take control of snooker’s commercial rights but Doyle instead backed a bid by John Davison, formerly of Altium, which was thin on detail. Davison did not even attend the crunch WPBSA EGM to debate the matter.
Even after Hearn won the day, Doyle still aligned himself with the old guard and tried to requisition an EGM to remove new WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson and his board.
At last year’s WPBSA AGM Doyle received only six votes.
Now out in the cold as snooker finally goes forward, 110sport has struggled to obtain new investment.
I’m sorry for Ian Doyle, who built the company from scratch, and for John Carroll, who has long managed the company’s affairs on the road, looking after players’ various whims.
But the main sympathy should be reserved for any players unable to recover money they are owed.
As if there wasn’t enough pressure at the Betfred.com World Championship, they have all this to worry about as well.