Ken Doherty is hoping to unearth some stars of the future after opening his own snooker academy in Dublin.

Doherty, the 1997 world champion, opened the new club at the weekend in the company of Jimmy White, John Parrott and Cliff Thorburn.

He will use it as his own practice base and plans to train the next generation of Irish snooker aces.

"It's always been a dream of mine to establish a club and academy where I could pass on the benefits of the experience I've built up," Doherty said.

"I think I can help people to realise their potential in the game if they are really committed and focused."

At the age of 41, Doherty is still the Republic of Ireland's highest ranked player.

Uniquely, he has won the world title at junior, amateur and professional levels.



The second annual Pink Ribbon pro-am begins on Wednesday at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester.

Several top professionals, including world chamion John Higgins, are among the field, which also features many amateur players.

Michael Holt won the inaugural Pink Ribbon title last year, beating Jimmy White in the final.

The tournament serves as a useful pre-season warm up for professionals as well as a chance for amateurs to take on some of the game’s top stars. The first prize is £2,400.

But it is also about raising money for Breast Cancer Awareness. Last year more than £6,000 was raised with organiser Paul Mount hoping to beat that total in 2011.

Among the pros who have entered are Holt, White, Stephen Maguire, Graeme Dott, Mark Allen, Joe Perry and Jack Lisowski.

Full details and coverage is available here where there are also details on how to buy tickets.

Note: contrary to what I reported yesterday, Judd Trump has not actually entered this event.



So Q School is finally over and we have the last four qualifiers for the main tour: Dave Gilbert, Kurt Maflin, Adam Duffy and Stuart Carrington.

Gilbert certainly earned his place. He had appeared in the final round of each of the previous two Q School events but finally got through with a 4-1 defeat of Allan Taylor.

The surprise for me was that Gilbert had dropped off the circuit at all. He’s a better player than his overall record suggests.

While a gulf does exist between the top players and those down the ranks – in the big arenas on TV in any case – the standard of play in the qualifiers is extremely high and it takes something special to make it through the quagmire time after time.

I thought Maflin was one of those players with a good chance of coming through Q School and he duly qualified with a 4-1 victory over Martin O’Donnell.

Maflin came close to beating Ding Junhui in the China Open last season and now has a choice to make. A Londoner by birth, he lives in Norway as his partner is Norwegian. They have a young child.

Maflin is now considering moving to the UK full time for all the qualifiers, PTCs and practice. Playing on the professional circuit is something you can’t do half-hearted but it’s obviously a big decision to uproot your family.

I said before Q School started that I fancied eight or nine of the qualifiers to have played on the main tour previously.

The final tally was actually nine, with Duffy and Carrington joining Li Yan, a qualifier from Q School 2.

Duffy is a Sheffield boy and so is in the right place for the qualifiers. He was the WPBSA Paul Hunter Scholar in 2009 and is a pal of Judd Trump, who he intends to practice with.

Carrington, I seem to remember, once won Junior Pot Black and gives the snooker hotbed of Grimsby another professional, following in the footsteps of the likes of Ray Edmonds, Dean Reynolds, Mike Hallett and Sean Storey.

Well done to all the qualifiers and good luck to them on the circuit next season.



There was a discussion on Twitter yesterday – which I am now shamelessly hijacking – as to who is the best player never to be world champion.

My responses were split between different snooker eras. In the 1970s it was Eddie Charlton, who reached the final three times. In the 1980s and 90s it was Jimmy White, a six times finalist. In the 2000s it was Matthew Stevens, runner-up twice. Of those playing at the moment it’s slightly different but I would say Mark Selby based on how well he has played there each year and yet not won the title, or at least not yet.

I’m surprised how many people seem to think White shouldn’t be top of this list.

Of course, many people reading this won’t remember or will have had no means to watch Jimmy in his prime.

Well I can assure them that the standard of snooker he produced at his best would be good enough to compete with the top players of today.

It was White who helped change snooker into the all-out attacking game it is today. Stephen Hendry wanted to play like him and, of course, would dish out disappointment upon disappointment at the Crucible.

Much is made of his six finals but perhaps White’s best ever chance to be world champion was in 1982 when a miraculous Alex Higgins clearance denied him a place in the final.

We’ll never know if he’d have beaten Ray Reardon – Higgins only did so 18-15 – but it is one of snooker’s most intriguing what it? moments: the whole course of the game’s history could have been altered had Higgins missed just once during that frame.

But he didn’t, and White didn’t win the title. He wasn’t unlucky but the problem was never his game, rather his preparation – and some of the people he surrounded himself with – and, at times, his temperament.

He freely admits he snatched at the black off its spot just a few balls from winning the decider against Hendry in 1994.

White won all the other big titles but they are overshadowed in the collective consciousness by his failure to become world champion. That is a shame but also the way of the world.

As for the debate which began this post, whoever your choice, “the best player never to win the world title” is almost the definition of a Pyrrhic victory.

Nobody wants to be remembered as a nearly man.



I was amused earlier this week to see Sir Alex Ferguson enhance his status as a sane, rational person by attempting to ban a journalist who had asked him a (perfectly reasonable) question at a press conference.

This is the first refuge of the paranoid and the powerful: if I don't like a question not only will I not answer it but I'll go after the person who asked it.

Happily, relations between World Snooker and the media are better now than they have been for a long time.

There is greater openness, a feeling that everyone is working towards the same end and more fun than we have seen for many years.

Journalists are, of course, not to everyone’s taste, but for every stitch-up merchant there are a far greater number of hard working hacks doing their best in often trying circumstances.

My first day in the Crucible pressroom saw me ‘shown the ropes’ by a couple of tabloid journalists who formed a group known affectionately as ‘the Beastie Boys.’

These ‘ropes’ turned out to be situated mainly around the free bar, which in those days dispensed alcohol from morning to night as if it were going out of fashion.

The Beasties were all good blokes, if a little thirsty. They would often decamp to the Brown Bear, a pub just up the road from the Crucible, and re-emerge hours later demanding to know what had happened at the snooker.

One memorably saved time over writing up a piece about Stephen Hendry by making up the quotes before the press conference, an admirable example of economising.

They were a loud bunch but a good laugh and always seemed to get plenty in the papers.

But it wasn’t always fun. When politics intervened things could get nasty, as Snooker Scene’s editor Clive Everton discovered when he arrived in Preston for the 1999 Grand Prix.

Clive had made some criticisms of the then WPBSA chairman, who responded in time honoured even-tempered fashion by issuing a blanket ban on him entering the pressroom.

To complicate matters, Clive was commentating for the BBC and so could enter the building, go to the commentary box and leave again as long as he stayed away from the pressroom, where he was working for the Guardian.

It was at this tournament he fell out of the commentary box, almost throttling Dennis Taylor by grabbing hold of his tie as he rocked back on his chair.

“Doesn’t he know it’s a no-go area,” was Stephen Hendry’s observation on hearing Clive had hit the deck somewhere outside the box.

The absurdity levels were cranked up to 11 at the UK Championship in Bournemouth shortly afterwards where this ban remained in place.

The route to the commentary box was paved with little plastic chickens, which were representative of the sponsor, Liverpool Victoria.

So it was that Clive was photographed in a national newspaper doing the ‘chicken run’ to the box. For some reason this failed to enhance the game’s reputation as a serious, forward thinking sport.

Matters had not been helped by the appointment of a former tabloid investigative reporter as WPBSA media relations boss. It was at Bournemouth where he managed to have such an explosive row with a journalist that its newspaper recalled him to London.

Piers Morgan, now of CNN but then the Mirror editor, made an unlikely foray into snooker history at this point.

The WPBSA media relations boss, in his polite way, had threatened to submit a formal complaint against the Mirror’s correspondent. Morgan responded he could do so and that he [Morgan] would “come down there and personally stick it up his arse.” The complaint never was lodged, in either sense of the word.

A few months later the WPBSA dismissed their man. He successfully sued them, pointing out they had employed him to ‘target specific individuals, including Clive Everton.’

Clive was eventually allowed back in to the pressroom and all was well again...for a bit, anyway.

At the end of 2000 I found myself working for TSN (which became 110sport) on their new website, which remains better in scope and content than most of the sites that have succeeded it.

They then decided to announce a rival tour to the WPBSA circuit, which for some reason didn’t go down too well with the governing body.

Shortly afterwards I went to Shenzhen for a heavily subsidised trip to the China Open. My first indication that all was not well was when the tournament director greeted me with the words, “are you here on holiday?”

It would transpire that I was now banned. Or sort of, anyway. I was told I could come inside the pressroom as long as I didn’t do any actual work.

I responded that this would be no problem as I had been doing it for years.

I was told, very earnestly, by the WPBSA chief executive that this was the only fair solution. I suggested the real reason was that the WPBSA still didn’t have its own website and were trying to stop others establishing themselves.

He later distinguished himself by managing to get sacked from the same job twice – ironically it had been his original dismissal that had kicked off the nonsense with Clive.

Years later I had another run-in with a WPBSA executive who accused me in Glasgow of “distributing Clive Everton’s propaganda” on the basis that I had given Mark Johnston-Allen a copy of Snooker Scene to read in between sessions.

As propaganda spreading goes, I felt this fell somewhere short of an average evening on North Korean state television.

With great theatricality, said executive slung the magazine in the bin and stormed out of the pressroom, a gesture only slightly undermined by him realising he still needed it and so returning, a little sheepishly, and fishing it out again.

It summed up to me a kind of paranoia about the media that has only recently lifted. Their strategy was never to cogently answer the criticisms but try and get even in some way with the critic.

Sometimes they weren’t even being criticised but still got the hump, believing journalists were out to get them.

Politicians - including snooker politicians - have to roll with the punches. If you take a position of responsibility, you should expect to be challenged.

In my experience, journalists just want interesting stories, and that doesn’t mean just scandal.

Offbeat and quirky tales always play well and people enjoy feel-good stories, such as battles against the odds.

Most of the time the main battle is to get anything in the papers at all, particularly given the rise and rise of football and the space it takes up.

It is a world I have largely left behind now due to my commentary commitments and I don’t envy the latest brigade of snooker journos operating in a declining newspaper market.

But at least it’s a little friendlier these days.



The heavily trailed Australian Open has today been officially announced and will be held in Bendigo, Victoria.

This is great news. Even better news is that it is confirmed as an annual event until at least 2013.

There was, as I have written before, an Australian Open announced in 1989, the only snag being that it was played in Hong Kong. The WPBSA discovered that the promoter’s ‘business address’ was actually a bus shelter.

I have rather more faith in this new event.

Pedants will point out that it isn’t the first ranking tournament staged in Australia because the 1975 World Championship, held in Nunawading – also in Victoria – carried ranking points retrospectively.

But that’s hardly comparable. This is a new tournament and most welcome. It represents a genuine attempt by World Snooker to globalise the sport.

And it gets better. In a letter to the players, Barry Hearn has stated that: “we are in discussion for many more events around the world so watch this space” and that “Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, India, Canada etc are all on the agenda.”

Hearn adds that: “I believe a £10m prize fund per season is achievable.”

I hope the players – all the players – support the moves to make our game properly international.

It is the best way of guaranteeing its growth and ongoing success.

With regards to the new Australian tournament, I’m particularly pleased for Neil Robertson, whose world title triumph last year certainly played a major part in this tournament happening.

As you will know, his mother had never seen him play live as a professional before she flew to Sheffield for his Crucible final against Graeme Dott.

Now, his family and friends will surely turn up mob handed as Neil plays in his own country...and snooker takes another welcome step into the future.



Congratulations to the second group of qualifiers for the professional circuit from Q School – Tian Pengfei, Li Yan, Davey Morris and Simon Bedford.

Tian and Li will further bolster the Chinese presence on the main tour and have earned their place without the need for wildcards.

Tian in particular is fine talent, as he has proved in various Chinese ranking events. Li is the first of the eight Q School qualifiers who hasn’t played on the pro circuit before.

I’m pleased to see Morris returning after he was relegated at the end of last season.

Irish snooker is still waiting for someone to break through and threaten to emulate at least some of Ken Doherty’s achievements.

That player could still be Morris, who went missing so often from worldsnooker.com’s live scoring at Q School that one wag on Twitter wondered whether he had taken out a super-injunction to prevent people knowing he was playing.

Morris made his TV debut at the World Open last September. After that his performances tailed off badly but he has displayed encouraging fighting qualities to return.

Bedford has bags of experience. He played at the Crucible in 1998 and has the distinction of having once made a maximum against his own mother.

The third and final Q School event starts tomorrow.



Do you remember the days when nothing used to happen for about four months after the World Championship finished?

Snooker is now clearly moving towards becoming a year round sport and activity on and off the table in the wake of the great Crucible marathon has been pretty much continuous.

The latest is that World Snooker has issued entry packs for the first four events of the Players Tour Championship, which will be played along the same lines as last season.

Once again it’s £100 to enter, £10,000 to the winner of each with 2,000 ranking points also going to the title winners.

However, prize money for the grand finals next March has increased by £50,000, with the eventual winner now receiving £70,000.

Four of the British PTCs will be played at the Academy in Sheffield and the other two at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester.

In the entry pack, World Snooker state that the first EPTC in Germany in August will be broadcast by Eurosport. In fact, the plan is for all six EPTCs to be televised, which would be a great boost for snooker fans.

I’m told there have been ‘discussions’ over possible streaming for the British PTCs, but such a deal would have to make business sense.

The EPTCs, particularly with TV coverage, have the potential to grow into bigger events.

The British PTCs were not to every player’s taste, especially playing in the sterile cubicles in Sheffield with no room for spectators, but it’s the chance to win £10k in three days, it's invaluable match practice and it’s a way of gaining some confidence and momentum.

It’s better than being sat at home moaning that there aren’t any tournaments.

Anyone can enter the PTCs and now amateurs will be able to join the professional circuit in 2012/13 directly from the order of merit as the top eight, regardless of pro or amateur status, will earn promotion.

Of course, expenses mount up and it’s more time away from home but Barry Hearn is being true to his word and vision: the opportunity is there, whether players seize it is up to them.

The first PTC tournament of the new season takes place next month.

It marks the start of what looks certain to be one of the busiest campaigns professional snooker has ever seen.

More details of how to enter the PTCs can be found here.



The criminal investigation into the Stephen Maguire-Jamie Burnett match at the 2008 UK Championship, which attracted an unusually high volume of bets on the correct scoreline, has been dropped.

The Scottish Crown Counsel say there is insufficient evidence to justify a criminal prosecution.

However, the WPBSA has announced its disciplinary committee will review the case.

"We are treating this case very seriously. We will now be given access to the evidence connected with the case, and our disciplinary committee will review that evidence thoroughly," said Jason Ferguson, WPBSA chairman.

A significant number of bets were placed on Maguire to win the first round match at Telford 9-3.

Burnett had a chance to win the 12th frame but grossly over-cut the final black.

Shot analysis would have formed only a small part of the police investigation, although they did interview TV commentators for their views of the match and shots played.

The bulk of the police case would have been in linking either player to the bets placed, which they have clearly been unable to do to the satisfaction of the prosecuting authorities.

A WPBSA investigation would focus more on the shots played, although an analysis of any match would throw up some odd shot selections because that is the nature of the game, particularly when a player is under pressure.

However, it is right that this case is properly investigated by the governing body, although it goes against the WPBSA's earlier statement that its new disciplinary process would only investigate matches played since it was set up.



World Snooker has confirmed it has awarded main tour wildcards to Luca Brecel, James Wattana, Lucky Vatnani and Yu Delu.

There will be 100 players on the professional circuit during the 2011/12 season.

Of these, the least controversial choice is Brecel, who won the European amateur title last year and would have been on the tour but for the fact that, at 15, he was too young.

Though relegated from the circuit, Wattana can still play to a high standard, as he proved by making the highest break of this year’s World Championship (in qualifying).

In his day he was a brilliant player, one of the best of the early 1990s. Wattana’s run to the final of his first professional event, the 1989 Asian Open in his native Bangkok, sparked a snooker boom in Thailand that lasted until he began to decline in the late 90s.

Thailand was the China of its day. During some seasons there were two ranking events staged there.

Wattana is still Thai snooker’s biggest name and his wildcard should ensure he plays in their World Cup team in Bangkok in July, something I’d imagine the organisers would be happy about.

Lucky Vatnani has lived up to his name, landing on the main tour without having to go through Q School.

I understand Pankaj Advani, the talented former IBSF world snooker and billiards champion, was offered a main tour wildcard but turned it down because he did not want to spend months on end in the UK.

Vatnani’s wildcard suggests that India is due to play a role in Barry Hearn’s future plans.

There was a story recently in an Indian newspaper – unconfirmed by World Snooker – that the governing body would be staging a ranking event in India during the coming season.

It’s not beyond the realms that this is where the World Open will end up.

Of course, it was in India where, according to legend, snooker was invented. There have been pro events there before and it is a huge market, ripe for tapping.

I’m not sure why Yu Delu was favoured over, for instance, Li Yang, who beat Ken Doherty and Graeme Dott in the China Open.

It may be that World Snooker gave the Chinese snooker authorities a wildcard and they awarded it to Yu, who has been a stalwart in the various ranking tournaments staged there over the years.

Wildcards have been dished out for many years. I think their worth is overstated. Ultimately, it is still up to the player to make it through qualifying, otherwise their profile remains pretty low and their value to the game as a whole isn’t particularly great.

It’s interesting that there will be four extra players on the circuit. The scare stories about Hearn before he took over centred on him cutting the tour. In fact, he has increased it.

But 100 players as opposed to 96 surely means there will have to be an extra round of qualifying.



The first Q School event is over and congratulations go to David Grace, Adam Wicheard, Robin Hull and Andrew Norman, who have secured places on the professional circuit for next season.

Competition over the last few days has been fierce but these four players can now look forward to entry to all of the new campaign’s ranking events.

Hull’s return to the circuit is particularly noteworthy. Finland’s best ever player had his career cut horribly short by a virus which caused him to lose his balance to such an extent that he was unable to walk straight, let alone play snooker.

In the 2001/02 season, Hull won 30 matches in ranking events, qualified for the Crucible and the following year got himself into the top 32 for the first time.

Robin also reached two ranking event quarter-finals but his health problems forced him into premature retirement.

So his qualification comes after a bleak period in his life and I’m sure he is now looking forward to having another go at the pro ranks.

Wicheard also had serious health problems. He spent months in hospital after a tumour was found on his spine.

He played on the circuit last season, was relegated but has immediately bounced back.

Grace is a former English amateur champion and is back on the main tour having played on it in 2008/09.

Norman, I know, has been inspired to carry on playing following the establishment of the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester, near to where he lives.

It has given him a first class practice centre with good opposition and the drive to keep going after an indifferent few years.

So well done to one and all. What is interesting, though, is that the first four qualifiers are all former professionals.

Will any new faces make it through from the second event, which starts tomorrow?


Shaun Murphy has given an extensive review of his season over at his website.

You can read it here.

I'm pleased to see Shaun making an effort with this site because player websites are few and far between and even in the ones that exist there is very little input from the actual players - unlike in so many other sports.

Players sometimes complain they have been misrepresented in the media (and occasionally they are) but they have a platform on the web to tell it their way and it surprises me that more don't take that opportunity.

Speaking of snooker on the net, there's a useful summary at Pro Snooker Blog here.



The Premier League, an ever present fixture on the circuit since 1987, will undergo a major format change this year.

There will be ten players involved – an increase of three – and each night will be a mini four-man tournament in its own right, with a winner.

Each of the ten players will compete in four of these mini-tournaments. Points earned will decide the top four who will compete in the play-offs.

These semi-finals and finals will be best of five frames. The shot-clock will be reduced from 25 seconds to 20 for the first four frames. The miss rule has been changed so that players will have three attempts to make a legal contact. If they fail to do so, ball-in-hand anywhere on the table will be awarded to the incoming player.

If any of the matches reach 2-2 the decider will be played under the Shootout rules: a maximum of ten minutes with a 20 second shot-clock for the first five minutes and 15 for the next five.

Prize money for the eventual winner has doubled to £60,000 but there will no longer be £1,000 a frame to play for.

So why the change? Promoters Matchroom felt the Premier League had become a bit stale and resembled a series of exhibitions.

In fact, it’s always been that. The League’s great contribution to snooker has been in taking top players around the UK to places not usually served by the game, as well as providing some big paydays for the game’s leading lights.

The financially lucrative nature of the Premier League means it rates much higher in many players’ priorities than audiences may think.

I’ll reserve judgement on the new format until the event starts – on August 18 – but the first observation is that it is no longer actually a league. The players will no longer all play each other.

There is now a simple qualifying structure for the event. The field is made up of winners of last season’s major tournaments, plus Matthew Stevens, who won the Championship League qualifier.

Tenth place has been awarded to Jimmy White, who won the World Seniors Championship. This means Mark Selby, the world no.3, misses out.

On the face of it, choosing White over Selby is highly questionable given that they are separated in the rankings by 52 places.

However, Selby didn’t win a tournament last season. If he had, he’d have been in.

And although White has undoubtedly been shoe-horned in, if I were the promoter – putting up my own money and looking for a return through ticket sales – I’d have him in the tournament without hesitation.

The complete field is: Ronnie O’Sullivan (defending champion), John Higgins (World champion), Ding Junhui (Masters champion), Mark Williams (German Masters champion), Ali Carter (Shanghai Masters champion), Judd Trump (China Open champion), Neil Robertson (World Open champion), Shaun Murphy (PTC Finals champion), Matthew Stevens (Championship League winner) and Jimmy White (World Seniors champion).



Ricky Cowan of the now apparently defunct 110sport has joined forces with International Sports Management, headed by leading sports agent Andrew 'Chubby' Chandler.

John Carroll, a long time 110sport director and a familiar figure at tournaments, will also be part of the set up.

"ISM will now have a presence in Scotland to further grow their portfolio of sports stars and commercial interests throughout the world," said a statement.

ISM represent a host of golfers, including Ernie Els, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy. The group also represents cricketers and footballers.

They will now presumably be representing snooker players too, although it's not clear how many of 110's former clients will be involved in the new arrangement.

110sport Group went into liquidation last month.



Q School is World Snooker’s latest method of producing qualifiers for the main tour.

There have been many over the years. Originally players had to be formally invited by existing players. Later there was the Pro Ticket series then the game went open, then there were qualifying schools and play-offs and a Challenge Tour and an Open Tour and the PIOS and...well, here we are with Q School.

The format is very simple: anyone can enter if they pay £1,000. There are three tournaments. The semi-finalists in each will qualify for the world ranking circuit in 2011/12. 124 players have entered.

As John Parrott said on the BBC last week, there are a lot of players who feel they may be good enough to be professionals. Now is the time to find out.

The entries include new, young players, some old stagers and several players from outside the UK.

It starts on Wednesday with the likes of David Gray, a former Scottish Open champion, Lee Walker, who once reached the Crucible quarter-finals, and Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon, the Thai teenager who made a 147 on the main tour last season in action.

Luca Brecel is also listed, although it’s been reported he has received a World Snooker wildcard (he would have been on the circuit last season after winning the European amateur title but was too young).

Mike Hallett and Tony Knowles, two of snooker’s leading lights in the 1980s/early 90s, will play each other in the first round.

Reanne Evans, the women’s world champion, who failed to win a main tour match last season, faces Sachin Plaha.

It’s an eclectic line-up. Mohammed Raoof, an Indian doctor, will play Craig Barber.

Thai legend James Wattana faces young Sean O'Sullivan.

Jason Tart, a nephew of Stephen Hendry, tackles James Loft.

It’s hard to predict exactly who will come through all of this but I’d be surprised if eight or nine of the qualifiers weren’t players who had already been on the main tour, and some of these probably on it last season.

Kurt Maflin, who impressed in qualifying for the China Open, would be a likely candidate.

This system is tough for players, say, unwell but sport is tough full stop. If you look at the top players of today, everyone of them has come through a qualifying system of some sort – with both merits and negative aspects – and they have all reached the top through their talent and application.

The Q School is certainly a cheaper option than the PIOS and even if players are unsuccessful they can still enter the 12 PTCs.

This is a little like school exams, with all the nerves that they involve, so I wish all players the best of luck.



A good time – and in some cases a very good time – was had by all at the World Snooker Awards at the Dorchester in London last night, the first such bash staged for a decade.

It was attended by a number of players plus various other figures within the snooker world and staged in association with the Killing Cancer charity.

Ray Stubbs, formerly a BBC snooker presenter but now at ESPN, did a first rate job as host. Similarly, Willie Thorne was superb as charity auctioneer.

Entertainment was provided by Chris Difford, who ran through a few Squeeze songs, and comedian and satirist Rory Bremner.

John Higgins was unable to attend due to being in Italy for a family wedding but won the first award of the night, Journalists’ Player of the Year, voted for by the media. Higgins was later announced as the winner of the evening's main award, World Snooker Player of the Year, voted for by a panel which included Stephen Hendry and John Parrott.

Players’ Player of the Year – voted for by the players – was won by Mark Williams, who won my admiration for his elastic interpretation of the dress code.

Judd Trump won two awards. He was voted Fans’ Player of the Year in an online vote and won Performance of the Year for reaching the world final, although as Steve Davis said, he probably would have received this in any case for capturing the China Open.

Trump’s housemate Jack Lisowski spoke well after receiving his award for Rookie of the Year.

Rory McLeod’s fluked black to beat Tony Drago in the Shootout won Magic Moment of the Year and Rory gave an amusing speech in which he promised to play quicker.

Snooker’s new Hall of Fame was unveiled with inductions for the late Joe and Fred Davis, John Pulman, John Spencer and Alex Higgins as well as Ray Reardon, Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis, who received a standing ovation when he took to the stage.

The best speech came from Barry Hearn, the World Snooker chairman, who listed the steps forward the sport has taken in the last year.

It was a very sociable occasion and mercifully free from politics. Everyone knows who is in charge now and anyone with half a brain can see he is doing a good job. There is much to be positive about for snooker players and it was good to see them enjoying themselves after an intensive season.

Then it was all off to a nightclub to continue the celebrations, although at this point the memory began to fade...



Terry Griffiths, the 1979 world champion and one of the game’s most respected coaches, has been appointed Director of Coaching for On Q Promotions.

Griffiths has previously fulfilled this role for the WPBSA and 110sport.

The Welsh snooker legend will coach and offer advice to On Q’s 19 players managed by Paul Mount, who runs the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester. Among the squad are Jimmy White, Tony Drago and Dominic Dale.

“I’m really excited about this opportunity,” Griffiths said. “The On Q players include opponents who I played as a professional, players who are real contenders for titles and also the new young talent at the start of their careers. It is a wonderful mix of players and I am looking forward to working with them.”

Griffiths’s role will be a dual one, working to continue to develop the Junior Club at the Academy and bringing his knowledge of Snooker in Schools Projects to Gloucester, to provide opportunities for young players to participate in the sport in the World Snooker endorsed facility.

“Terry is a key piece of the jigsaw, working with the team at the South West Snooker Academy,” Mount said.

“With the schemes we have in place from Junior Club, community projects, local schools, summer schools and the specialist packages for international players and governing bodies, I am sure that we will see a future world champion emerge from the South West Snooker Academy.”

In addition to his coaching of pupils, Griffiths also trains new coaches. He is part of the WPBSA coaching team along with Steve Davis and Chris Lovell and the next WPBSA Coaches’ Training Course will take place at SWSA on June 23-24.

The SWSA will also stage the second annual Pink Ribbon pro-am from June 2-5.



So the season is over and that can mean only one thing: the annual Snooker Scene Blog awards, if your definition of ‘annual’ is something I did in 2008 and 2009 but not last year.

Like the Golden Globes, these awards are seen as an indicator - by me anyway - for the Oscars that are the World Snooker awards, which take place tomorrow at the Dorchester in London.

Anyway, a reminder to the winners that there are no actual awards, but plenty of cred, street or otherwise, to be gained.

Doubtless others will have their own ideas for who the winners should have been...

Winner: John Higgins

When Higgins returned from suspension in November there were dire warnings that he would struggle to recapture his previous form and that it would take him a while to win a trophy. In fact, he immediately won his first tournament, reached the final of the second and, on his TV comeback, landed the UK Championship crown for a third time.

He went on to win a total of six titles during the campaign, rounded off by capturing a fourth world title, exhibiting remarkable mental strength and determination.

Higgins’s longevity at the top has been considerable. He was the best player in the 1997/98 season and several times since. He lost his no.1 spot largely because of the tournaments he missed but he was the best player of the season by some distance.

Winner: Judd Trump

Trump has had to endure some pretty spiteful comments due to having the effrontery not to have been a world beater almost immediately that he turned pro.

But that all changed in Beijing when he mixed his awesome attacking game with some mature tactical play and displayed poise under pressure to win the China Open. More – much more – was to follow at the Crucible where his run to the World Championship final caught the public imagination.

Trump played the game with a smile on his face and his shot-making and general attitude were a joy to watch. And it shut up all those who doubted he could make it at the top level.

Winner: Jack Lisowski

Lisowski, a level-headed, dedicated young player, lost his first three matches as a new professional and fretted about possibly falling off the tour but the new PTC series came to his rescue. He reached the final of event three and flourished thereafter.

The Gloucester potter, who wrote a column for Snooker Scene throughout the campaign, qualified for the final stages of the German Masters and Welsh Open – where he ran John Higgins to 4-3 – and also the PTC Grand Finals.

He lost out 10-9 to Steve Davis in World Championship qualifying but ended the season inside the top 64. Lisowski will no doubt take inspiration from all this and from the achievements of his housemate – Judd Trump.

Winner: Stephen Lee (61)

There have been some great breaks – centuries, maximums – this season but Stephen Lee’s 61 clearance to complete his 5-4 victory over Mark Williams in the first round of the China Open was, in the context of what had gone before, a superb example of nerve under pressure.

Williams had made four century breaks in the match but Lee hung on in there and made it 4-4. He trailed 11-70 when he came to the table in the decider with three of the five remaining reds close to cushions.

Lee set about the clearance, developing the reds, but finished awkward on the black and needed the rest to pot it. Cool as you like, he did, and completed a remarkable victory in what was perhaps the finest best of nine frame match contested all season. You can watch it here.

Winner: Judd Trump

In fact, not one single shot but a series of them from Trump, who raised the bar for attacking snooker at the Crucible.

The amount of long balls he powered in was incredible, the embodiment of talent, self belief and nerve on the big stage, which is clearly where he belongs.

I have a few favourites: the red down the side cushion (which won the BBC’s Shot of the Championship) and the high pace black he rammed in to complete the century in the 12th frame of the final included.

Winner: John Higgins v Judd Trump

Yes, it’s a boring choice to pick the world final – and there were many other contenders – but Higgins v Trump was a great way to round off a successful season: the established modern great against the new kid on the baize, full of drama, intrigue, close frames and all played in a wonderful atmosphere in Sheffield.

Trump delighted his many new fans by building a 10-7 first day lead but Higgins found his form on the second afternoon when, trailing 12-9, he cleared blue to black after Trump had missed a tricky blue down the side cushion using the rest.

Higgins led 13-12 going into the evening but Trump continued to go for his shots and could have closed to just 17-16 behind only for Higgins to get the snooker he needed, double the pink and slot home the black to bring the curtain down on a great match, championship and campaign.

Winner: German Masters

The World Championship is always the best tournament so I have disqualified it from this category. Instead, the honours go to this new event which marked the return of big time snooker to Germany and proved that the game’s popularity here is no myth.

The final was attended by around 2,500 people, all of whom played their part in creating the unforgettable atmosphere for Mark Williams v Mark Selby. The prolonged, heartfelt standing ovation that followed Williams’s victory will live long in the memory.

Berlin witnessed some fine snooker but it was the audience that helped make it such a spectacular success story.

Winner: the new ranking system

Under the old ranking system, a player could wait months to see any improvement in their ranking if they won a major title. Players outside the top 16 winning ranking tournaments would still have to go to qualifiers. Players not winning matches full stop would be protected.

Barry Hearn’s new system has changed all this. Now, it is possible to make strides up the list for doing well – rewarding success and not protecting mediocrity.

It has made a huge difference to a number of players and even some of those who have lost out as a result – Mark King being an example – have applauded the changes. They have given the players the incentive of aspiration. As one said to me: “I didn’t start to play snooker to try and stay where I was. I did it to shoot for the stars.”

Winner: Power Snooker

In fairness, the idea behind Power Snooker was conceived with the best of intentions: to create a new, vibrant form of the game mixing tradition with innovation.

What we got, though, was an odd hybrid of snooker and stag-do, an event played before an increasingly drunk crowd shouting abuse so unpleasant that it left one of the referees in tears.

The game itself was entertaining enough but was trumped by Barry Hearn’s own short-form version of snooker, the Shootout in Blackpool, where the banter was better natured and the action more enjoyable.

Winner: Chris Lovell, the Paul Hunter Foundation

When Paul Hunter died of cancer at the tragically young age of just 27 in 2006, the sport was shocked and saddened. Snooker had lost one of its brightest stars.

Paul, though, was always such a positive spirit and those around him resolved to do something positive in his name. Thus, the Paul Hunter Foundation was born and it goes from strength to strength, giving young people who have had to endure disadvantages in life a chance to play snooker and build their confidence.

Chris Lovell and his team deserve great credit for their endeavours and for keeping Paul’s name alive in such a worthwhile way. Find out more about their work here.

Winner: www.snooker.org

Your view of websites depends on what you want from them. Some want information, some want opinion, some want a chance to express their own opinion.

In my line of work, facts are paramount and so I commend those behind www.snooker.org, a website full of constantly updated information including latest scores, results and rankings which together form an invaluable resource.

This was actually one of the first snooker websites, established way back in 1994 when the internet was not a major part of most people’s lives. It has flourished again in the last year and is now the first place I go to crosscheck information.

Winner: Matt, ProSnookerBlog

Twitter now has a fun, relaxed snooker community featuring players, referees, commentators and fans. If you’re wondering what the point of it is, well, there isn’t one really.

That said, at the World Championship qualifiers snooker fans starved of a chance to watch web streaming of the matches were treated to an invaluable service from Matt from Pro Snooker Blog, who gave a running commentary of the action.

It made compelling reading and was proof of the power of social media. The snooker authorities, not always the quickest to recognise the importance of such things, should take note.

Winner: Barry Hearn

Hearn, like so many of his predecessors who have run snooker, is full of big talk. The big difference, though, between him and them is that he actually delivers. In just one year Hearn has presided over a rejuvenation for the sport that has left everyone feeling more positive. New tournaments, new sponsors, new formats...Hearn has injected his considerable energies into making snooker- his first sporting love – big again.

This season was just the start. In 2011/12 the circuit will touch down in Thailand, Australia and Brazil and snooker is now becoming more in line with other sports – no huge gaps between tournaments, opportunities there for players willing to take them.

Hearn doesn’t do modesty. Neither should he. His achievements since becoming World Snooker chairman speak for themselves. For once, the game is in safe hands.



A peak viewing audience of 6.4m on BBC2 – the biggest snooker figure for years – watched the thrilling conclusion of the Betfred.com World Championship.

Footballers Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen and Labour party leader Ed Miliband were among those waxing lyrical on Twitter.

John Higgins’s dramatic 18-15 victory over the ferociously talented Judd Trump brought the curtain down on a memorable season in which the game was reinvigorated.

No wonder the man responsible, World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn, was all smiles as he stood on the Crucible floor where 30 years earlier he barrelled into Steve Davis after the first of Davis’s six world title triumphs.

Hearn has injected energy, ideas and fun back into snooker, a sport which was allowed to drift on without innovation for years.

He recognises in Trump the game’s new standard bearer: a young, attacking, exciting player who can bring a new fanbase to snooker

His run to the final is what captured the public’s imagination. His style of play is easy on the eye and he now has what it takes to be the game’s new superstar.

I will review the season in greater depth later in the week but the stand out highlights were the German Masters, played amid a wonderful atmosphere in the Berlin Tempodrom, the tightly contested UK Championship final and new innovations such as the World Open and Shootout, which brought something different to the circuit.

Players used to put their cues down for up to four months. The 2011/12 season starts for the main tour members next month.

This season was only the start of the Hearn-led resurgence of snooker. The next will see a prize money hike to around £6m with new tournaments in Thailand, Australia and Brazil.

The future is bright and there is every reason for optimism as we bask in the memory of another great World Championship to complete a fine season on and off the table.


Well, what can you say?

John Higgins has once again proved his strength of character to win a fourth world title following an engrossing World Championship final in which he repelled the challenge of the spirited Judd Trump 18-15.

Higgins got the snooker he needed in what proved to be the concluding frame and then spectacularly doubled the pink before slotting home the black for victory.

It comes a year after his world was sent into turmoil by damaging tabloid newspaper accusations surrounding match fixing.

The nuances of the case have escaped many who would rather think the worst of someone successful – and thus end that success – than the facts.

But Higgins has grabbed the second chance he was granted with both hands. It says a lot about him that he could win his first tournament back from suspension and then, at the UK Championship, his first TV event too.

To land the world title for a fourth time propels him into the snooker stratosphere. In the modern era only Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis and Ray Reardon can claim more world titles and the effort and application he displayed at the Crucible this year was formidable.

Credit, though, must go to Trump for the way he played. This exciting, entertaining, personable player gained many supporters throughout the event and is clearly set to be the game’s next superstar.

The final turned on a single shot this afternoon. Leading 12-9, Trump went for a very difficult thin blue using the rest.

Had it gone in it should have been 13-9. But he missed and it was 12-10.

There has been much discussion as to whether this was the ‘right’ shot. I wouldn’t criticise Judd because the way he played got him to within touching distance of the title.

What is indisputable, though, is that Higgins, who prior to this had been on the ropes and struggling, was given a huge injection of confidence when he won that frame and did not lose another in the afternoon session.

I thought Trump endured a poor run of the ball overall, particularly when going into the reds, but he will be back and the bad news for the rest is that he can only improve.

But Higgins and the way he plays the game is the standard everyone else must aspire to. He has played the best snooker of the season and brings the curtain down on a campaign in which the sport has been reinvigorated.

It was my pleasure to have spent time with his father, John senior, backstage at tournaments enjoying the odd drink and laugh.

He would have been proud of his boy for the way he applied himself at the Crucible this year.

It was a great performance in a great match that brings a great season to a close.



An intriguing, dramatic first day of the Betfred.com World Championship final has left Judd Trump eight frames from becoming the second youngest winner of the title.

Trump, a few months older than Stephen Hendry when he won for the first time in 1990, is 10-7 up overnight against John Higgins.

His fanbase growing all the time, he received a huge cheer as he was introduced into the Crucible and once again stepped up to the occasion.

And again flamboyant shot-making – including the last black he powered in to complete his 103 break in the 12th frame – was the order of the day.

Higgins’s problem was that he wasn’t scoring heavily enough. He competed well tactically and made a couple of good clearances but his highest break was just 64. This surely has to go up if he is to win a fourth world title tonight.

My only concern for Trump is that there were a couple of frames where he was 50-60 ahead and couldn’t close the shop in the way Higgins would do. But for these he could be even further ahead.

But Trump still seems completely unaffected by the whole experience. His little asides to the camera and his obvious enjoyment of the whole experience have been refreshing.

Today is Jimmy White’s 49th birthday. The symmetry is perfect. White famously never won the world title but has graciously sent his best wishes to Trump.

He recognises in this left-hander something of his own early days and the entertainment it is bringing the public.

So it’s the biggest day of the snooker year. 17 days of competition – and the 2010/11 season – ends tonight in Sheffield with the 84 year-old trophy being presented.

If Trump wins the title this evening then this will be a day still talked about many years from now, like the other iconic days snooker has experienced during its rich, varied history.

This exceptionally talented young man has the world at his feet.

Destiny awaits. It’s up to him now.



Ted Lowe, who has died at the age of 90, was for 50 years the hushed voice of televised snooker.

He earned the nickname ‘Whispering Ted’ because, when his commentary career began, he would sit in the audience and had to keep his voice down to a level that would not disturb the players.

Lowe devised the weekly BBC series ‘Pot Black’, which began in 1969 and led to a snooker boom which in turn paved the way for the professional circuit as it stands today. In the 1980s, he commentated on almost all of the sport’s best remembered moments, including the conclusion of the 1985 World Championship final, in which Dennis Taylor beat Steve Davis 18-17 on the last black watched by a BBC2 record audience of 18.5m.

His commentary career began by chance. He was part of the fledgling snooker scene as manager of Leicester Square Hall, at the time the home of billiards and snooker, and knew all the greats of the pre and post war years, including Joe Davis, who won the World Championship in each of its first 15 stagings.

One day, the BBC’s regular commentator, Raymond Glendenning, was unavailable and Lowe was invited to fill in. He was to remain behind the microphone for half a century.

Snooker was used as a regular filler on Grandstand in its early days to ensure something was on screen between horse races. That it was hard to differentiate between the various coloured balls in this age of black and white TV did not seem to be a hindrance but snooker’s exposure was only fleeting.

That changed when colour television arrived. Lowe had tried for many years to get snooker a proper showcase on the BBC but he had to wait until 1969 and the launch of BBC2.

The channel’s first controller, David Attenborough, wanted something to show off this new service and snooker, with its colours and cheap production costs, was ideal.

Lowe devised the format for Pot Black, which featured the leading professionals of the day, and commentated on the matches. It brought snooker players into living rooms around Britain and the game’s popularity rocketed.

The BBC began to show highlights of what tournaments there were and, with the emergence of Alex Higgins and the following he gained, took the decision in 1978 to show every ball of the World Championship.

The professional game thus grew from just a handful of events to an international circuit, which next season will be worth over £6m in prize money.

Lowe was an unobtrusive commentator who preferred to let the action do the talking. Indeed, so sparing were his comments that when he collapsed in the commentary box one year at the Masters at Wembley, and his colleague Rex Williams put down his own microphone to go and get help, nobody rang the BBC to ask why 15 minutes had passed without a word being uttered.

A traditionalist, Lowe disapproved of the behaviour of some of the game’s wilder characters, most notably Higgins and, more latterly, Ronnie O’Sullivan.

He insisted Joe Davis – not Steve or even Stephen Hendry – was the greatest player of all time.

Lowe retired from BBC commentary in 1996 at the age of 75 but was invited back for a brief reprise of his role for the last World Championship to be sponsored by Embassy in 2005 and recently took part in documentaries on both Higgins and the Taylor-Davis final.

He lives on through the many snooker moments to which he lent his voice, part of a golden time when our sport hit the heights he could scarcely have believed were possible when he started out.


The Betfred.com World Championship final will be one of contrasts: one of snooker’s greatest champions against the new, exciting kid on the block.

Judd Trump has been the star of this tournament and he may well prove to be the winner.

But John Higgins has been there and done it before – three times – and this experience may prove to be crucial.

Nobody who saw Trump’s 17-15 victory over Ding Junhui could fail to be impressed by the 21 year-old’s performance.

He stood up to all of the pressure and expectation on the big stage and there’s every reason to believe he can do it again in the final.

Higgins described him as “the new young star our game badly needs.” It is a role Trump is willing to play. He is still loving every minute of his Crucible adventure.

But Higgins has the game, the class and the iron will to stop the Juddernaut in his tracks.

It’s been obvious ever since his return that he is giving every frame of every match 100% and that intensity isn’t going to wane in a world final.

“I don’t know where I can put the cue ball to stop him potting,” was his view on Trump’s game. But as one of snooker’s finest tacticians, he knows full well what he needs to do to contain this ferociously good potter.

Trump’s safety game is vastly improved of late but Higgins’s is still stronger. This may ultimately be key in him dictating what sort of match it will be.

This Crucible final is a clash of styles and generations. It is a modern day great against a young man giving us a glimpse of the future.

Trump has the belief to win but does he, over four sessions against Higgins, have the game?

The fascination, as ever, lies in finding out.