On the first day of any job you are shown what to do: where to go, who to speak to, what your duties are.

This is not the case for snooker players and never has been. As I’ve written before, a new professional is just expected to turn up with a cue and start playing.

And that is pretty much it. The WPBSA, despite being a ‘members’ association has a poor track record when it comes to inducting players into life as a professional.

The effect has been corrosive. Players accused now of being selfish and not seeing the bigger picture may look at things differently had they been properly schooled.

They have historically not had it explained to them what their professional duties actually are.

There’s been no media training, no financial advice, no steers on dealing with managers and obtaining personal sponsorship.

There was a programme a decade ago, the Young Players of Distinction, which addressed a lot of this, but only for a chosen few.

The rest have just had to get on with it and many have found it difficult.

Snooker players by and large are single minded: snooker is their passion and they need help in other areas.

It seems like a dream profession to many but away from the actual playing it can be boring, lonely and often overwhelming: all that time to think about what can go wrong.

Thankfully, the WPBSA chairman, Jason Ferguson, a former player himself, is addressing these issues.

As part of a wide ranging development programme, which includes a more concrete structure to link the professional game with the grass roots of the amateur ranks, new Centres of Excellence are being launched to provide facilities to nurse talent.

One such centre will be the excellent South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester, whose launch was earlier this week.

But Ferguson also recognises that new players should be looked after more by the very association of which they are members.

“The day I turned professional I was 21 and I was suddenly thrown into a professional sport,” Ferguson said.

“I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t even know who the tournament director was.

“I remember spending the first two weeks of my professional career wondering why I’d bothered and I never want a player to ever feel like that again.

“I think it’s crucial that when new players qualify for the tour they are shown the ropes. It’s vital that we are responsible as a governing body to our members, for the players.”

Nobody would disagree with that, but problems remain in this bright new era.

Several amateur players at the PTC in Sheffield have had their match times changed. Indeed the draw seems to have changed for some of them.

Some players on Twitter said that they believed they had today off and were playing tomorrow but that this has now been altered.

This is clearly the last thing they need. Playing snooker for a living brings sufficient pressure without organisational problems adding to it.

The raft of new playing opportunities are of course exciting but even this brings additional pressure: making sure the entries are in on time, booking hotels and flights, practising enough but not too much, pacing throughout a long season.

Some players have people to do all this for them but, ultimately, they are alone in the arena. Snooker is about as solitary a sport as there is.

Players take a lot of stick. That is the nature of being in the public eye, where your every action and decision is endlessly analysed and criticised. Sometimes that criticism is warranted.

But they are human like the rest of us and deserve better support than they have historically enjoyed.

They are, after all, the people who bring this great game alive.


Moique said...

Great article Dave, putting some things in perspective. Thanks.

John McBride said...

This comes back to what I said in one of your earlier posts Dave, being ‘HEARN GOES NUTS OVER BRAZIL’, in that the right expectations have to be created & communicated clearly so that all parties are totally clear on what is expected of them.

No new wheel has to be invented here, Footballers, for example, because of all the media attention they get, now have media sessions internally with their clubs so that they are basically taught how to listen & speak & deal with the media. The only thing that I remember when signing Pro terms was article 1 a), which went something along the lines of ‘acting like a Professional Sportsman/women at all times’. Other than that, you’re on your own.

With regard to what has happened in the current PTC3 event & the Amateur players not knowing exactly what is going on, in my opinion, to right this wrong, the WSA need draft up a memo PDQ & explain exactly what has happened, why it has happened, & what they have done to ensure it won’t be happening again.

It does make you wonder….

wild said...

what i cant fathom so what the draw was wrong each amataur had a pro to play so why create this fuss for nothing.

Alan Craig said...

A good topical article Dave!

“As part of a wide ranging development programme, which includes a more concrete structure to link the professional game with the grass roots of the amateur ranks, new Centres of Excellence are being launched to provide facilities to nurse talent.”

If Jason is really interested in liking to the grass roots, then it’s time he was talking to the UK NGBs for a start to produce a “pathway to success” template that can be portable.

The WPBSA don’t need to “nurse” talent as it already exists. They never have done before and the talent has always come through by itself or through the support of others outside the pro game, in spite of World Snooker. Those who run the pro game and benefit from it should be re-investing in the grass roots with meaningful assistance.

What they need to do is provide easier and more cost effective access to their product for the existing talent and make sure that there is enough reward for a so called “professional player” starting out. If they can’t pay a decent wage them don’t take them on. It’s all very well for Bazza to say that he won’t support mediocrity, but that is what is happening now by allowing anyone with the cash to turn up to a PTC and Q school.

It will also affect the grass roots game as players vacate these premises to follow the deluded dream taking their money with them

The situation these days is far from the one that the legends of snooker experienced when they started their journey to conquer the world. Then there were a multitude of pro-ams and other money tournaments for them to hone their skills and build up a fund

It is much more difficult, and more expensive now to attain pro status.


I fear, for that reason, that some talent may not get the opportunity to follow our legends.

For a £1000 anybody can spend the weekend with Steve Davis and Terry Griffiths and become a World Snooker Coach, and then go out immediately and earn a living at it. Young snooker players can’t do that and something has to change.”

World Snooker probably take in around £200,000-£250,000 annually from amateur players, their family and sponsors (if they can get one) from participation in the PTCs and the questionable Q School. Nothing of that magnitude comes back. Amateur players are subsidising the pro game, which has been virtually opened up through the back door. It’s a big drain and extra pressure on the amateur snooker economy

I’d like to see them putting that money back to fund amateurs in their first year, and allow them 2 years to find their feet.

The expenses budget for a first year rookie is approximately £8,500. That’s allowing ranking qualifiers only plus PTCs. We have players here in Scotland that have the talent but will never be able to be a pro because of the financial expense and lack of reward for that expense.

If everyone wants a healthy pro game and a continuous flow of the best talent, then WPBSA need to go back to the drawing board.

Nothing really has got any better for the players or their management, only for the snooker fans/viewers. Although having said that, you can't go changing draws after publication!

Anonymous said...

12:00 What? Please make that readable.

I think there should be a booklet or some other written materials given to all players explaining all the aspects Dave mentions. Perhaps backed up by a hotline or other support to answer any questions the players might have.

Fooker Snan said...

tell me this Dave or anyone with half a brain.

why on earth do they always seed 1 or 2 amateurs straight thru to the last 128 when the rest have to win 2 or 3 games to get there. Theres not even a logistical reason for it.

Between that unfair oversight in every PTC draw plus the shambles last night with the draw changing, you have to wonder if they know what there doing or are just making it up as they go along.

Witz78 said...

if this article is a knee jerk reaction to the fan backlash on your previous article about the Brazil dropouts, and an attempt to justify their actions then its off the mark tbh.

fair enough the younger tour newcomers can be cut a bif of slack, but there can be no excuse for seasoned veterans of the circuit like Williams, Ronnie, Maguire, Higgins, Stevens and Robertsons actions.

Dave H said...

Like pretty much everything else it's gone right over your head

Colin M said...

This is a great article Dave and I think a lot of today's problems could have been averted if such a process were in place. Like with any other professional place of work there should be more experienced 'staff' (e.g. retired snooker players) looking after the junior ones in a sort of "buddy" programme. These buddies could be paid for their services.

Witz78 said...

if the replies to me then all ive got to say is dont shoot the messenger.

Simply relaying the concerns of the disgruntled Brazilian fans who are not chuffed with the lack of support from the top players of next months tournament.

As for the over my head comment, ill brush that off. Whens there clowns like Mr Hey You, Wild (no offence squire) etc. populating these boards then ive gotta laugh.

Theres an old saying "if you cant stand the heat, get out of the kitchen"

You seem to start a topic then sit on the fence and let arguments and controversy flow without intervening or really throwing your tuppenceworth in.

At the end of the day, were all fans like you with strong opinions on the game we love so youve got to come to expect disagreements.

Anyway back on topic and yeh i do agree the players coming onto tour should have some sort of training for media duties etc when they become pros so they know whats expected of them. As for older pros well, they really ought to have picked things up over the years from experience and know whats right and wrong in terms of handling themselves.

And great comments from Alan Craig, raises a lot of good points, and in line with what he says, Monique preaches daily and what ive long said about the disadvantages young players are at, i would suggest a topic on this sort of subject might be worthwhile. Only saying though........

Witz78 said...

Colin M,

im sure theres already enough people on the payroll without adding to it with "buddies" as good as they may sound in theory.

In this day and age of financial woes, not to mention the previous regime and spongers and hangers on in the Walker era, id say Hearn has been and is looking to cut back on non-vital roles so theres more money to go around to the actual stars of the game.

No disrespect to those who do actually play vital part in the cog of the World Snooker wheel of course....

wild said...


ill be honest i dont know what you want mate ?

how is the WPBSA going to Put Money Back if its in a financial mess which it has been with Board members being bleeding the sport dry and the White Elephant thats the Academy to fund.

where is this £x amount of money to Fund Amataurs for their first year going to come from.

it will have to come from somewhere and the only way thats going to happen is if Price Money for Tournaments are Reduced.

Would the Top Players Like That afterall "We Put Bums on Seats"

if you as a young person going to Uni you have to get student loans the uni dont fund you.

id like to see Amataurs that Qualify for Last 128 of a PTC Awarded but you cant start to fund everyone or snooker will get nowhere.

i know its tough but life is mate.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, if there is any spare cash it would be better spent covering expenses for travelling to overseas tournaments. Sounds like another half-baked scheme to subsidise a bunch of has-beens. If players who are earning tens of thousands are too dim or greedy to seek out an independent financial adviser then that's their tough luck. As for obtaining sponsorship, that's not even a player's job: they should sign up with a reputable sports management company and leave it to them, there are plenty around. If they are going to let their "mate" down the club "manage" them they'll pay the price.

And let's face it, the end product of "media training" is more cliche ridden interviews, and none of us want to see that. It starts with twitter bans and ends with soundbites.

Anonymous said...

the draw didn't actually change for the ptc. The confusion was that there were two variations of the draw and schedule published and they had different match numbers on them.
one was ws own draw/schedule and the other was the pdf generated by sports stats and the numbers didn't match up.

Anonymous said...

around 1996-7 - can't remember exact year, there was an Induction Scheme for the new pros which included media training, financial training, advice on managers, read the small print on contracts,briefings from tournament officials and more.
It was dropped after one season, for financial and mainly political reasons at the time.
I still have a copy of the full pack.

p00lriah. said...

really enjoyed this post mr. h. i play pool, not snooker, so i'm not very knowledgeable about the snooker scene. however, i think the things you've addressed apply to pool equally. while orientation programs do exist in other sports (some actually conduct seminars on how to deal with gold diggers, incredibly), they are not available to pool and apparently snooker. it would be cool if there's an official program that will help new players get situated.

anyway, thanks for writing this post. i enjoyed the points you've made.

wild said...

"the draw didn't actually change for the ptc. The confusion was that there were two variations of the draw and schedule published and they had different match numbers on them.
one was ws own draw/schedule and the other was the pdf generated by sports stats and the numbers didn't match up."

thats even more reason to sack someone how sloppy is that, one draw 2 different versions.

to quote Barry Hearn “So let us start by behaving like professionals please"