Paul Mount, who owns and runs the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester, host venue for this season’s UK PTCs, has issued a statement in response to a letter sent to the WPBSA by the Snooker Players Association.

This letter lists a number of complaints from players, including being charged to use practice tables and for refreshments.

Here is the SPA letter in full:

Regarding PTC events.
While at the PTC1 in Gloucester the SPA was bombarded with complaints from our members, No players lounge, having to pay for tea & coffee, and not being able to bring there own food into the premises, Some players do not live on pie and beans or toasties, some players have a special diet such as vegetarian or vegans, one thing that annoyed the players is that the refs and officials had there own tea facilities and also brought there own food in, such as fish and chips.

Practise tables, players are aware that other PTC events don't have practice tables, but when they are asked to pay £4 to practice, it shows that facilities are there to be had.
I had a meeting with Paul Mount and he explained that world snooker were penny pinching and with charging him £10,000 to hold the events at his venue, and with all his overheads and staff ect to pay for he has no choice but to charge players for tea and coffee, practice facilities ect.

Talking to Paul he has said that for the sake of £500 WPBSA could have recovered the two spare tables and practice could be free, The SPA feel this is a small price to pay to keep its members happy. £4 is a lot to pay for players who are on a very tight budget, while at a venue player like to practice at least twice a day.

Our members say that practise tables help break up a players day, one player told me that he had the most boring day of his snooker life.

Prize money.
Players are finding it hard to meet expenses, the feed back is that the prize money is not spread enough, you and I  have talked about this on many occasion, and the SPA feel that if any player wins a match he should receive some prize money.

Players are saying if you run a factory and you had 128 workers you don't say right I want you to work but only 64 of you will get paid.

Players are christening it as the minimum wage tour.

Jason Ferguson, the WPBSA chairman, replied to the effect that it was a matter for Mount how he runs his academy building.

Mount’s response to all this is as follows:

After a very arduous week, preparing and running PTC1,(average of 16 hour per day) for myself and each member of permanent and temporary SWSA staff I have been asked to respond publicly to several complaints about UKPTC1. 
In the interest of openness, I would like to explain my position and more importantly the position of the SWSA.

Before discussing details I would like to point out that the SWSA is a limited company, limited by Guarantee. This means that the Directors guarantee that all profits go to designated charities of our choice and not to shareholders.

Since the SWSA opened it has cost in excess of £120,000 per year to keep operating, all of which has been covered by myself and my profit making companies. I have never taken a wage from SWSA or any other of the snooker companies I own. Call this naivety or, as I prefer, a benevolent attempt to help develop snooker from grass root level and upwards. Either way it seems to be insufficient for some people.

It is my target to develop the SWSA so that it can operate profitably or at least break even. To do this it needs to be run as a business and operate within the boundaries of any contract it enters in to.

I, on behalf of the SWSA, entered into a contract with World Snooker Ltd to provide a venue for all four UK PTC’s.

I was and remain happy with the contract I negotiated directly with Barry Hearn and have not complained about its contents to WSL or any other persons. It enables us to provide a first class venue and facilities whilst at the same time the scope to carry on normal business activities to cover our costs for the five day period of the event.

I had an amicable meeting with Les Barton, Director of SPA, at UKPTC1 to discuss complaints the SPA wanted to make to me on behalf of their members. I did talk with Les, as a bone fide representative of the players, about some aspects of our contract with WSL but I will not go into detail in public as this is confidential information between WSL and SWSA. Suffice to say I did explain our overall costs  and why we charged for table time and coffee to help pay for those costs.

It is worth pointing out that if I did not charge for table time the cloths on the practice tables would undoubtedly need replacing shortly after the event to maintain the standard of playing surface we strive for and the likely cost for that would be in the region of £700. Should the SWSA reasonably be asked to cover that entire cost and the costs of refreshments for all the players?

As far as catering is concerned we offered a variety of food including ploughman’s lunch, soup & Roll, pies, pasties, a variety of sandwiches, toasties, cold bar snacks and plain Toast. With the available space we have, and our focus on providing the best playing and spectator venue we can, there is no space for advanced catering but there are a range of pubs and restaurants within 1-2 miles that cater for all tastes. Leaving the venue for a hot meal may also prevent boredom, which is an alternative to practice for those players unwilling to pay £4.

The reason that no practice was available on Friday and Saturday was because the practice room, which WSL did not require as part of the PTC agreement, had been subsequently hired by World Snooker to make promotional photo shoots of the players.

Another misconception is that SWSA based players have an advantage. Let’s be clear; all match tables were covered on Monday and they were out of action to everyone until they were used in the PTC on Wednesday evening. In effect SWSA players had to share our remaining two available practice table with everyone else who booked tables for practice. In reality this meant they had no sustainable practice all week.

We do not allow food and or other refreshments to be brought into SWSA for two reasons. Firstly it will affect our chance of covering our operating costs and secondly we are left with disposing of a large amount of waste and cleaning up the mess.

A closing observation - Since the PTC we have held a full summer school and have just started the European Open Under 18s junior championships which includes 72 players from all over the globe including Russia, Hong Kong, Malta, Belgium, Israel and Germany.

All of these players and their families have paid to travel to Gloucester and stay in Hotels with the hope of winning a major trophy and a modest financial prize.  I wonder if I should be surprised that not one of them has complained about paying for refreshments or using the tables.

Reading between the lines, Mount appears unhappy that a private conversation with an SPA representative was made public when the SPA put their letter to Ferguson on their website.

Mount has made his millions through his other businesses but is a life-long snooker fan and has built a first rate facility as well as raising money for cancer charities close to his heart. He is a good man with the right intentions.

World Snooker charge £10,000 for staging rights so the SWSA have to look to claw this back somehow.

Back in the ‘good old days’ the bar in the players’ room was free to anyone. I was once told it cost the WPBSA £20,000 per tournament in free beer.

Thankfully there are now business principles being applied to a sport which not so long ago had serious financial problems.

The SPA make good points, though, about prize money, much along the lines that I made not so long ago.

But if they want to be taken more seriously then they have to operate in a more professional manner.

Just recently they invited players to take advantage of a deal with a bookmaker offering a 10% refund on losing bets for sports including snooker. World Snooker saw this as an enticement to bet on snooker, which players are banned from doing.

Snooker was, I suspect, included in all innocence by the SPA but it certainly didn’t look good.

The WPBSA was originally the players’ union. The problems began when it tried to fulfil commercial and rules and regulatory activities as well.

Over the years, managers have proved more influential in redressing problems than attempts by independent bodies, but self evidently managers tend to be interested mainly in their own clients.

Players could certainly benefit from a body such as the SPA but only if it is taken seriously by the sport at large.

My suggestion to them is to focus on important areas such as prize money because if a victory can be won here it will make a big difference to players lower down the rankings.

There are also issues which would be better addressed privately so that people such as Mount – who snooker needs – don’t feel unfairly maligned.



Betfred’s sponsorship of the World Championship has ended with the 2012 tournament, the last of their original four-year deal.

It is believed to be an amicable parting of the ways. World Snooker thinks the sponsorship is worth much more than Betfred paid due to the increase in global TV rights.

However, Betfred’s business is primarily British-based, so the worth of this additional exposure in markets in the Far East and beyond is questionable to them.

Betfred were terrifically enthusiastic sponsors for the game’s leading event. It was a good deal for them and the sport.

However, professional snooker is a business and it is down to World Snooker’s commercial team to get the best deal they can.

Barry Hearn is considering a sealed bids process for companies interested in sponsoring the World Championship.

It remains a huge sporting event. It carries 17 days live BBC television coverage in the UK, goes to 59 countries on Eurosport, is broadcast live on Chinese TV and in other territories.

I understand World Snooker is seeking a non-bookmaking sponsor for the championship. There is some concern that the game is putting its eggs in the same basket, as it largely did with tobacco sponsorship.

But sponsors are hard to come by in the current economic climate. Hearn did secure BGC, a finance firm, for last season’s Masters but there is no news on whether they have renewed.

If bookmakers want to give the sport money then they should be welcomed. Betfair’s support of the Shootout is encouraging. There are other sponsorship deals to be announced after the Olympics.

What do sponsors want?

Exposure, certainly, but also a positive association with their brand.

They also want a sprinkle of stardust and reflected glory. The harsh truth is that most CEOs would rather be teeing off in a pro-am with Tiger Woods or posing for pictures with Rafael Nadal than hanging out with snooker players.

But the World Championship is different. It is the one tournament followed by those who take little interest in snooker throughout the year.

The much vaunted 18.5m BBC2 figure for the conclusion of the 1985 final – endlessly trotted out by parochial Brits, usually as a weapon with which to attack the modern game – has long since been dwarfed by the worldwide viewing figures.

So this sponsorship is an opportunity for a global brand to associate itself with a much loved sporting event which lasts 17 days, plus all the qualifying and build-up.

They will have to pay the right price for it but it will be worth it for them and, hopefully, for the sport too.


Shailesh Jogia, the world no.57, has been banned by the WPBSA from playing professional snooker until the start of the 2014/15 season following a disciplinary hearing into suspicious betting patterns on his match against Matt Selt at last season’s Shootout event in Blackpool.

A number of bets were placed on Jogia to lose, a fact he attributed to injuring his knee in an accident. He subsequently withdrew from the tournament. The investigation found four bets had in fact been placed before he sustained this injury and seven more before he sought medical treatment.

Phone records revealed he sent 33 text message to one person placing bets on him to lose and 42 to another.

The WPBSA disciplinary committee, headed by Nigel Mawer, said Jogia “has failed to provide a consistent or detailed explanation as to the reason for the contact.”

£4,830 was placed on Jogia to lose in 14 bets in the Leicester area, where he lives, with £2,300 in four bets and another undisclosed amount declined.

The Shootout is something of a lottery given its format, with all matches lasting only ten minutes and a shot-clock.

Jogia, 36, was nicknamed Joe by Willie Thorne’s mother. He has reached the last 32 of four world ranking events, including last season’s UK Championship.

He was originally suspended in May pending the investigation and made some ill conceived allegations about the WPBSA being racist in pursuing him.

This ban is potentially career-ending as he will be relegated from the circuit and have to re-qualify in 2014.

The full WPBSA statement is here.



Twenty years ago in the summer of 1992 as the eyes of the sporting world were about to turn to the Barcelona Olympics, three teenagers were ensconced at the Norbreck Castle Hotel on Blackpool seafront embarking on careers in professional snooker.

There was Ronnie O’Sullivan, of whom much had already been written. A snooker prodigy backed to the hilt by his father, he had cut a swathe through the junior ranks.

There was John Higgins, a quieter Scot, who began playing because his father took him and his brothers into a snooker club one day to give them something to do.

And there was Mark Williams, a left-hander, the son of a coalminer from the snooker hotbed of Wales.

In the two decades that have followed they have won 66 ranking titles between them, including ten world titles. They have each been world no.1. They have each tasted glory and they have each had their low moments.

They are three bona fide legends of the game: the best three players of the current century and still all ranked in the top 16.

But now they are in their late 30s, what lies in store for this formidable triumvirate?

Before I consider that, a dip back into the archives...

The first qualifier back in 1992 was for the UK Championship. They were each successful in their opening matches, played in the Norbreck's grand ballroom.

Higgins beat Ray van der Nouwlan 5-0. Williams defeated Jason Greaves 5-2. O’Sullivan received a walkover and then beat Jason Scott 5-3.

If you don’t know these names, don’t worry. The game had gone open to anyone with the money to enter the year before. There were around 700 professionals but the vast majority fell by the wayside.

O’Sullivan and Williams both qualified for the final stages, successfully negotiating nine rounds to do so.

Williams recovered from 8-3 down to 8-8 with Stephen Hendry but lost the decider. O’Sullivan beat Alain Robidoux but lost 9-8 to Cliff Wilson to be denied a place on television.

The world didn’t have to wait long. O’Sullivan was the first of this holy snooker trinity to make his mark. Just a year later he won the UK title the week before he turned 18.

But problems were already beginning to bubble up, all stemming from his father’s imprisonment for murder. Cut adrift in the world and suddenly in the public eye, O’Sullivan struggled to cope.

Higgins had a far more stable home life and, dedicated and possessing a good snooker brain, won his first ranking title in his third season at the Grand Prix. He swiftly became the first teenager to win three ranking titles. Steve Davis commended him for playing the game “the right way.”

It was Higgins who beat his two contemporaries to the world title in 1998. It looked like he might dominate in the manner of Davis and Hendry but a mixture of factors stopped this: though determined, Higgins was not quite of this mindset. He became a father and enjoyed family life. Plus, there was O’Sullivan and Williams to contend with.

Williams’s first ranking title came in 1996. From the back end of 1998 to 2003 he enjoyed a terrific run which encompassed all the game’s major titles. He became in 2002/03 the only player other than Davis and Hendry to win the ‘big three’ trophies – UK, Masters and world, in the same season.

Since this early flourishing there have been titles and scandals, bust-ups and comedowns, moments of brilliance and times of despair. They have each ridden the snooker rollercoaster and experienced the full range of emotions it has to offer.

Here in 2012, there is a new era. It would have been perfect for all three as teenagers and they would have made hay. But how much longer will they continue at the top level?

In O’Sullivan’s case, it’s hard to say, purely because he currently isn’t playing at all.

He is the reigning world champion but has opted out because he finds the players’ contract ‘too onerous.’

O’Sullivan’s camp tells me Ronnie sees this as a point of principle. He does not want extra money to play in tournaments but believes his worth to the sport means he is deserving of money for promotional activities. Every player’s contract stipulates they must do these activities if asked, but the point is O’Sullivan will be asked more than any other player, because he is the biggest name in the sport.

When will he return? There’s no guarantee he will. World Snooker is not budging an inch and neither is he. The big day is approaching, on August 6. This is the closing date for entries for the UK Championship. If O’Sullivan is willing to miss this tournament then there’s no reason to believe he will play at the Masters or even the World Championship.

Higgins, it should also be noted, hasn’t played yet this season. He is in a position to pick and choose more than players lower down the rankings but this is a big season for him.

Last season, he was poor. He told me at the World Championship launch that he hadn’t practised properly and that he was having a table installed at his house to try and remedy this.

But is the hunger still there? I don’t mean to win trophies – that will never go away – but to practice and practice to maintain his place in the elite at an age when players are supposed to decline.

Williams is always talking himself down. In many ways, Mark has never changed. He’s always been a bit cheeky and a fan of winding people up but, underneath it all, is thoroughly decent.

The way he responded to dropping out of the top 16 showed how good he can be when he’s fully determined. He got back to no.1 and is still third at the time of writing.

The bottom line, though, for these three men – all fathers – is that they don’t want to be playing snooker every week, not at this stage of their careers.

I’d fancy any of them to come good in a major tournament but the events which take place a little below the radar understandably don’t get the juices flowing in the same way, and it is because of this that they may slip down the rankings.

And it will happen eventually because it happens to every player. The question is how long it will take.

O’Sullivan, Higgins and Williams were products of the 1980s snooker boom on British television. They were inspired by the heroes of this golden age.

The boom ended and fewer young players have come through the ranks. Those who have are yet to emulate the achievements of these three remarkable players.

Personally, I hope they all continue at the top level. Between them they have been responsible for some of the most memorable moments of snooker's recent history.

They are three very different men in terms of personality but they are united by their status in the sport.

20 years ago they displayed great promise. They have each delivered in ways which will never be forgotten.



With his unshaven appearance and iron determination, Stephen Maguire looked mean and moody for the final of UK PTC1 in Gloucester last night.

He was not, in fact, magnificent as well throughout the whole match, which grew increasingly edgy as it progressed, but he held his nerve to beat Jack Lisowski 4-3 on the final black to win the title.

Lisowski, who hung on with two good clearances along the way, was set to win but, needing green and brown in addition, missed the yellow from its spot.

This was pressure. He was within touching distance of his first professional title. Nerves overcame him.

He is in good company. He isn’t the first to have done this and he certainly won’t be the last.

Ronnie O’Sullivan said recently: “The only players I played who never choked were Stephen Hendry and John Higgins.”

In fact, even they, at times, missed pressure balls. Higgins did so against Mark Williams in the 2000 World Championship semi-finals. Hendry lost 9-8 from 8-4 up to Williams in the 2001 UK Championship semi-finals.

Lisowski will have been gutted last night and most probably gutted this morning. Hopefully in a couple of days he will be able to take the positives.

After all, he beat Judd Trump and Williams – ranked second and third in the world – in successive matches.

He displayed great guts, a positive attitude and self belief right up until that last scoring visit in which he missed the yellow against Maguire.

Lisowski is a fine prospect and exactly the sort of player snooker needs: attacking, exciting and articulate.

He enjoyed a good debut season in 2010/11, which culminated in him being named Rookie of the Year at the World Snooker awards.

Last season was not so good. He found himself becoming too caught up in his ranking position.

I’m told he also pegged his practice routine too much to that of Trump. This is understandable but the two players are at different stages of their careers and need different things. Trump is already a top player; Lisowski is still playing qualifiers.

This season he is doing things differently. He is already seeing the benefits. He is only 21 and there is plenty of time for him to recover.

As for Maguire, it was at Gloucester last year where I interviewed him about the PTCs.

He wasn’t a fan, saying: “I feel like a bit of a prostitute, turning up for these events because I have to.”

Last night, his quotes were less negative: “I think everyone has realised now that the ranking points from the PTC events are important. Plus £10,000 is a lot of money to be won in a weekend. It’s easy to be up for it on the final day.”

The point is, whatever job you do you will find aspects of it that you don’t enjoy. You have a choice to either complain about it or look for the positives.

Maguire has done that. He has now qualified for the Grand Finals, which could have a top prize as high as £100,000.

He hasn’t won a full ranking event since the 2008 China Open. He came very close last year, losing tight finals to O’Sullivan at the German Masters and Peter Ebdon at the China Open.

Law of averages suggests Maguire will land a big title soon. He’s playing well enough, but the problem is that so are plenty of others.

The circuit moves on this week to Sheffield at the Shanghai Masters qualifiers, which start tomorrow.



The Players Tour Championship was part of Barry Hearn’s plan to get the players back doing what they said they wanted to do: play.

Now in its third year, the first UK PTC begins today with the amateur rounds before the professionals enter on Friday.

The British PTCs were not a laugh-a-minute affair for players hanging around waiting for spare tables in Sheffield until past the midnight hour but they will surely go down better at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester.

There are more tables at the SWSA than in Sheffield and also room for spectators, which should guarantee a better atmosphere, particularly in the main arena.

If I were a youngster mad keen on snooker I would want to go along and watch. What a great chance to see big names in action as well as rising stars.

Liveworldsnooker.tv and affiliated betting websites offer coverage, with commentary on the final day.

European PTCs, which are televised, tend to be won by regular tournament winners. The UK ones have been won by players a little further down the rankings.

It’s a chance for someone to win £10,000, plus ranking points and a huge boost of confidence.

Meanwhile, Hearn’s Matchroom organisation is this week celebrating its 30th birthday. I trust Barry hasn’t got sentimental and given anyone the day off.

It was a stroke of luck that one day a young ginger-haired introvert called Steve Davis walked into one of Hearn’s snooker clubs, but he would have been successful in some sphere or other in any case.

Hearn is a shrewd businessman with his finger on the pulse of what the general public wants, largely because he has never lost the common touch.

But his main asset is his charisma. When he walks into a room he owns it. He has built a remarkable sporting empire, finding niches and spotting openings long before anyone else.

Poker, pool, fishing, ten pin bowling...all have made him money. His stewardship of the PDC has seen darts reach new heights and, now in his 60s, he has come back to snooker in a big way, throwing his energies into revitalising the circuit.

He has attracted criticism from some. Not everyone likes the way he talks but Hearn has talked the talk and also walked the walk. Most of his critics have not.

Hearn has done it with the loyal support of his staff, hard workers but always courteous and good fun.

He and Davis made each other rich. There was one major hiccup when Stormseal, who Hearn brought in to sponsor the UK Championship when he promoted it, went bust and he had to cover the prize fund himself.

But since then Matchroom has gone from strength to strength and Hearn doesn’t seem to have lost any of his enthusiasm or his capacity for hard work.

He is an ideas man. They don’t all work but it’s better than having no ideas at all.

Snooker once distrusted Hearn and feared he was getting too big for his boots. He became disillusioned and went off to boxing and other sporting realms.

How times change. The game badly needed his return to give it a kick-start. He has done that but the job isn’t complete.

He said he had a five-year plan. We are starting year three. It’s amazing how many people can’t grasp this and want everything to be perfect immediately.

The UK PTCs have been scaled back, sensibly, and funds put into other events.

The circuit is busier than it has ever been. That in itself is a fact worth celebrating.

Eventually, I suspect the UK PTCs will be reduced further and probably scrapped altogether if there are enough bigger tournaments to fill the gaps.

In the meantime, good luck to everyone at the PTC this week.


50 UP

By capturing the Australian Goldfields Open yesterday, Barry Hawkins became the 50th player to win a full ranking event.

Here is the list of 50 winners by number of titles:

Stephen Hendry

Steve Davis

John Higgins
Ronnie O’Sullivan

Mark Williams

Jimmy White

John Parrott
Peter Ebdon

Ken Doherty
Neil Robertson

Ray Reardon
Ding Junhui
Stephen Lee

Stephen Maguire
Shaun Murphy

James Wattana
Paul Hunter

Cliff Thorburn
Dennis Taylor
Tony Knowles
Doug Mountjoy
Alan McManus
Graeme Dott
Dominic Dale
Ali Carter
Mark Selby
Judd Trump
Ricky Walden

John Spencer
Terry Griffiths
Alex Higgins
Willie Thorne
Silvino Francisco
Joe Johnson
Neal Foulds
Tony Meo
Mike Hallett
Steve James
Bob Chaperon
Tony Jones
Dave Harold
Nigel Bond
Fergal O’Brien
Chris Small
David Gray
Matthew Stevens
Marco Fu
Stuart Bingham
Mark Allen
Barry Hawkins

Some great names here and a few surprise winners too. It should also be pointed out that the UK Championship did not become a full ranking event until 1984, which thus diminishes the tallies of players such as Davis, Griffiths, (Alex) Higgins and Mountjoy.

Indeed, it wasn’t until 1982 that any event other than the World Championship counted towards the world rankings, well past the prime of Reardon and Spencer.

The youngest winner remains O’Sullivan, who won the 1993 UK Championship the week before he turned 18.

The oldest was Reardon, who was 50 when he won the 1982 Professional Players Tournament.

Hendry has of course retired and thus cannot improve on his 36 titles and Davis has not won a ranking event since 1995. O’Sullivan is not playing at the moment so (John) Higgins is best placed to encroach on Hendry’s position at the top of the list, but still needs to win 13 more ranking titles to overtake him. At the age of 37, this seems unlikely.



You won’t hear a bad word said about Barry Hawkins and his humility in the moments which followed his victory in the Australian Goldfields Open today was a genuine delight to witness.

The enormity of what he had achieved only seemed to register with Barry as he was being interviewed in the arena. Mention of his wife, Tara, and young son, Harrison, threatened to bring forth a flood of tears but he just about held it together.

Like last year’s nice-guy winner in Bendigo, Stuart Bingham, Hawkins has more than put the years in. He was one of those players everyone knew was good enough to win a big title but this was no guarantee he would actually do it.

In fact, he played superbly in the final. He was positive, went for his shots, took the game to Peter Ebdon and refused to let him dominate.

He outplayed him in every department. Right to the end he tried to win rather than closing the shop, worried he would lose.

As a teenager, Barry was an office junior. His life could have been very different: perhaps more stable but also a lot more boring.

Because though sport is unpredictable, precarious and often gut-wrenchingly disappointing, it can also throw up days like this, the memories of which will last a lifetime.

It’s been a long trip for Hawkins and the other snooker foot soldiers who have supported the three events played in China, Thailand and Australia.

He heads home today with his first world ranking title and the confidence to push on this season and get himself back in the top 16.

Barry isn’t one for tweeting or controversy or complaining. What he does is plays snooker, and today he played the match of his career.

Well done to him.



A squawking crow could be heard somewhere in the Bendigo arena yesterday and tomorrow’s final will feature the Hawk.

At his fifth time of asking in a ranking event semi-final, Barry Hawkins today reached his first final with a high quality 6-4 victory over Mark Davis.

Hawkins is nicely settled in his private life having just got married and, judging by his suntan, the honeymoon was not spent in his native Kent.

This personal contentment may well have taken some of the pressure off the world of professional snooker. Also, Hawkins landed £32,000 last season for winning the Shootout, a televised event played against the clock.

Regardless of the nature of this tournament, it must have given him a boost of confidence, not to say bank balance.

The clock will tick away to its heart’s content when Peter Ebdon gets stuck in as he attempts to win a tenth ranking title, which would take him level on the all time list with Jimmy White in joint sixth place.

But Ebdon’s sedate pace of play isn’t why he’s in the final. You can play as slow as you like but you still have to pot the balls that matter.

He’s there because he isn’t missing much. He seems to have played better as the week has gone on.

Ebdon has only beaten Hawkins once in six ranking event meetings. But few players have greater self belief or deeper reserves of mental energy.

All that organic carrot juice seems to have made him even tougher, as if that were possible.

If Hawkins wins then it will be similar to last year when Stuart Bingham triumphed: a first time win for a popular player who has more than put the years in.

The crowd for the last couple of days has been excellent. The Australian snooker community get one chance a year to see the sport close-up and have embraced it.

Why? Because they are fans of the game, not cheerleaders for particular players. Neil Robertson’s exit, though disappointing, made no difference.

Let’s hope they get a final as absorbing as last year’s.



Marco Fu is through to the semi-finals of the Australian Goldfields Open.

There are few leading players harder to predict. Fu is world class at his best but there are also times where he fails to turn up, in a snooker sense.

Snooker, albeit the players’ livelihoods, is a game. Its various successes and failures are very public.

Life, on the other hand, happens largely away from the prying eyes of the media and fans.

You can look at a list of results and wonder how player X could possibly have lost to player Z but this does not factor in any personal issues which may have affected performance.

Fu was one of a number of players who were managed by 110sport, which fell apart last year.

The financial worries this must have caused certainly will not have helped any of the players involved.

More happily, Marco has got married to his girlfriend, Shirley. I remember when she came to the Championship League in the depths of the British winter. She’d never seen snow before and while we were sat around indoors whining about the weather, she was outside taking photos.

Marco has long been one of snooker’s good guys. You won’t hear him having a go at people in private, never mind in public.

His problem, all through his career, has been consistency. At his best he can beat anyone. At his worst he can look average. There is often little middle ground in his performances.

When he first broke through he quickly replaced James Wattana as the leading Asian player but has since been usurped by Ding Junhui.

He has had a lot of coaching in his time and this may have knocked his natural rhythm, but at his best he is a very heavy scorer.

At the World Championship last season he was poor, well below his best. But his record against the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins proves how good he can be.

Humble in victory or defeat, Fu will take either on the chin whatever happens this weekend.

If he does win the trophy it will hopefully be a springboard for a productive season to come.



It’s fair to say things didn’t go as hoped for tournament organisers in Bendigo who were holding out for a Neil Robertson v Ding Junhui final in the Australian Goldfields Open.

Ding lost a 5-4 marathon to Peter Ebdon while Robertson, the home favourite, lost 5-1 to Mark Davis.

Robertson came out flying, making an 88 break in the opening frame. He was nicely in on 39 in the second when he suffered a violent kick on the black.

From there, the match turned. Davis grew in confidence and uncertainty bedevilled Robertson.

Full credit must go to Davis, who is now playing the best snooker of his career at the age of 39, when most players are in decline.

He now plays Martin Gould, appearing in his first ranking event quarter-final since the 2011 PTC Grand Finals.

Gould does not seem to have adjusted well to life in the elite top 16, perhaps now looking over his shoulder rather than straight ahead.

But a tense win over Cao Yupeng in the decider has given him every chance of progressing from the top half of the draw.

The other quarter-final in this half pits Barry Hawkins against Matt Selt.

It was in Bendigo where Selt reached his first ranking tournament quarter-final 12 months ago. He has now reached his second. His own brutally honest assessment is that he hasn’t played well yet, but he will have played better and lost so he should just take it.

The newly married Hawkins is one of those players long capable of winning a major tournament without ever quite having done so. He did win the Shootout last season, which was high profile but does not carry the prestige of a ranking title.

All four players in the top half must surely be fancying their chances. Davis is probably favourite on current form but it remains wide open.

In the other half, Shaun Murphy is the next to experience the ‘Force’ that is the redoubtable Ebdon.

Murphy is a patient sort. Even if things get dragged out, he is capable of scoring heavily and even Ebdon can’t slow him down from his chair.

Stephen Lee faces Marco Fu, wildly inconsistent but, it would seem, playing well this week.

These two played in the final of the 1998 Grand Prix at Preston. Lee’s performance that day was sensational. He made two centuries and eight half centuries to win 9-2.

Here we are 14 years later and he will start favourite again, although Fu is a player who you feel is never far away from delivering a really high quality performance.


Judd Trump is an unlikely person to be at the centre of a Twitter storm.

A polite young man, he is not one for courting controversy.

He didn’t enter the Australian Goldfields Open but must have been watching on Eurosport earlier today when Peter Ebdon took nearly five hours to beat Ding Junhui 5-4.

“How Peter Ebdon is allowed to play that slow is a joke,” was Judd’s observation on Twitter.

Within seconds he was being roundly insulted for stating his opinion.

It seems odd that members of the public can spend all day, every day on Twitter or internet forums criticising and commenting on every aspect of a player – their playing style, their appearance, even their personal lives – but when a player himself ventures an opinion he is treated to vitriol.

Trump remained silent when other players used Twitter to openly state he was lucky and therefore not as good as people have said.

Last time I looked he was second in the world rankings and UK champion. Not bad for a 22 year-old.

It’s natural he will attract jealousy: he’s young, talented and popular. Not everyone likes the ‘playboy’ image he has cultivated but this is mainly ironic.

And, anyway, he can live his life however he chooses.

Of course, even moderately paced potters will seem slow to Trump because he plays the game so quickly.

Ebdon is archly methodical. His average shot time today was 38 seconds, compared with Ding’s 26.

There is no slow play rule in snooker. There is a rule which covers time wasting, in the discretion of the referee who can warn a player to hurry up.

I can understand how a player such as Trump would be frustrated watching a much slower player but I also feel Ebdon deserves immense credit for the effort he makes.

It’s not always pretty but his record speaks for itself: world and UK champion, nine ranking titles, more than 300 century breaks.

If everyone played the game the way he did then snooker would not be the commercial prospect it is but there is surely room for different playing styles, different approaches and, yes, different speeds.

There should also be room for different opinions, and Judd Trump is as entitled to his as anybody. As a player, he has an insight worth listening to.

As long as opinions are expressed without undue personal malice or in a defamatory way then players have as much right as anyone else to tell us what they think.



“We’re not machines and I think people forget that sometimes. We’re humans and we all suffer from nerves and a bit of trepidation and a bit of worry.”

So said Shaun Murphy after struggling to get over the winning line in the first round in Bendigo against Marcus Campbell.

He’s absolutely right, of course. Players are not robots, though some have played so well for such sustained spells at times that they have appeared to be remote controlled.

It’s also true to say that when commentators point out the human frailties of players, said players often don’t like it.

‘Careless’ is a word that has, unlikely as it seems, taken on cult status on Twitter due to its gross overuse in commentary.

However, careless is an apposite word to describe a failed pot missed not because of pressure but through lack of concentration: insufficient care taken leading to a mishap.

This type of missed pot typically follows two or three really good ones where the player has to concentrate. Perhaps subconsciously they feel they have done the hard work and inwardly relax. Blacks off spots with the cue ball ideally placed are unmissable for top players and thus often missed because they have let up on concentration.

Put simply: because the player cannot envisage missing, he takes it for granted. By taking it for granted and not giving 100% to the shot, he misses.

Other pots are missed because they are difficult, because of a kick or miscue or because there is an edge of pressure on them: frame ball, or when a player is attempting to make a clearance.

These are the kind of situations where the natural human emotions of which Murphy speaks come into play. It is only the superhuman who repel them with great regularity, and these are the players who win multiple major titles.

Many players are remembered for the balls they missed: Willie Thorne’s blue when 13-8 up to Steve Davis in the 1985 UK final; Davis’s overcut black at the end of the 1985 world final; Ken Doherty’s final black on 140 in the 2000 Masters final etc.

None of these were ‘careless.’ They were all missed under pressure.

Davis said that when he came to the table to attempt his black his arms felt like they belonged to someone else.

It is the sudden conscious thought that the shot is important and the dread consequences of it going wrong that forces a player to play it not naturally but by thinking exactly what they are doing.

Jimmy White snatched at a black when well placed to win the deciding frame of the 1994 world final against Stephen Hendry because the significance of the moment had dawned on him.

Murphy himself has been doing some commentary for Australian TV. I haven’t heard him but suspect he’s a natural. He has a good vocabulary and is obviously a top player with first hand knowledge of how modern snooker is played.

I don’t know if he has yet used the word ‘careless’ but, if he has, he will not necessarily have been wrong.

The problem is not the word itself but its repetitious use. It is worth remembering that there are a number of other words which mean the same thing.