Barry Hearn has been a magnet for ideas since becoming World Snooker chairman. The world, his wife and their step-children has written to him with formats and innovations to ‘take the game forward.’
Most of these are answers to questions nobody has asked, usually involving combining snooker with another sport, adding balls, taking balls away, changing the rules or generally ruining the very thing that attracted anyone to snooker in the first place.
Globally, the game of snooker is more popular than it’s ever been – last week in Berlin was proof of that.
But not every idea is a bad one. Mark Williams came up with an interesting notion for a new tournament: a doubles event with a twist.
Mark’s idea is to have the top 64 in a hat with the pairs drawn out at random. Therefore, players would have to partner whoever came out, even if they were their sworn enemy.
I’m sure you could think of a few tasty pairings which could result under this method.
The event could be played in three days with short matches and would be fun. Many people have called for the return of the World Doubles Championship.
But there was a good reason why it was originally discontinued in 1988. The truth is, doubles was never particularly popular with the viewing public.
ITV showed the tournament but found that their ratings were lower than for their other events. They turned to Hearn for something different and he came up with the World Matchplay: exclusive to the top 12 in the one-year rankings with a best of 35 final (this was before the current mania for shortening everything).
Steve Davis and Tony Meo were the kings of doubles, winning the world title four times. They were eventually superseded by Stephen Hendry and Mike Hallett, who also won the doubles crown at Hearn’s 1991 World Masters.
Much of the fascination lay in who partnered who but doubles snooker was always a little stop-start. In this season’s World Cup a scotch (alternate shot) doubles format was used, but this was even more dragged out.
Maybe Williams’s idea has legs, although the not inconsiderable matter of a broadcaster and sponsor would still need to be sorted out.
It would certainly make for some interesting conversations when the names were pulled out of the hat...