Jan Verhaas made a *ghastly error when he stopped play in the John Higgins-Graeme Dott match last night to correct an error that had not, in fact, been made.
Verhaas had a brain freeze and believed that a foul in which Higgins had caught the brown and then hit the blue should have been worth five rather than four.
He eventually realised and play resumed but Dott, who had been waiting to play his shot, immediately missed.
Dott lost this frame and the match, but it would take a ludicrous stretch of the imagination to blame Verhaas for Dott’s eventual defeat.
The fact is this: Jan is only human and, like the rest of us human beings, is capable of making mistakes.
We all make them. I do, you do, referees do. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t.
In some jobs it is more serious than others. If Jan were a heart surgeon he would probably be feeling worse this morning than for briefly losing the plot in a snooker match.
Referees are unsung heroes (and heroines). They have to retain concentration for long periods of time and are usually only noticed if they get something wrong.
They are also not paid fortunes – far from it – and have to not only ensure the match is played within the rules but also keep the audience in check and deal with the unexpected.
Snooker has been fortunate to have had many top referees over the years. They have all, at one time or another, done something inexplicable in a match.
Jan is one of the best refs and has been for many years. A cheerful Dutchman, he is a popular figure on the snooker circuit. Friendly, courteous and well liked, he is rightly regarded as a safe pair of white gloves.
He will be embarrassed I’m sure by his mistake but when he walks out at the Ally Pally today he will do so as an official trusted by the players and respected by the game at large.
*EDIT: further investigation of the actual footage reveals that Verhaas's call was, in fact, correct. It should have been five away, not four so his mistake was actually in changing his mind.