Monday’s announcement of a new World Championship sponsor will expose how far snooker has to go to convince the business and sponsorship worlds that it is worthy of serious investment by blue chip companies.

World Snooker instituted a sealed bids process for interested backers for the game’s premier event last September but I understand this has failed to find a sponsor willing to invest at the level the governing body was hoping for.

Instead, a one year, stop-gap sponsor will back this year’s World Championship and the quest for a blue chip sponsor for 2014 will continue.

Though any sponsor in tough economic times should be welcomed, this is a setback for World Snooker and, in particular, for Barry Hearn, who believes the championship is worth much more than Betfred were paying for it for the last four years.

I agree with him, but the business world does not. This is less a reflection on his negotiating skills than the perception of snooker.

The facts don’t seem to matter: 17 days of live BBC coverage in the UK, extensive live coverage in 60 European countries on Eurosport, an audience of over 100 million in China and streamed coverage in various other parts of the world plus all the other media exposure the tournament will generate.

The global reach of snooker has never been so broad but the sport still suffers from a cultural snobbery which seems to ignore all of this and the viewing figures it obtains.

CEOs of major companies prefer golf and tennis. They think the audiences for these sports have more money.

People with money also watch snooker but perhaps our game’s biggest problem is that the audience is so broad that sponsors don’t know who they should be targeting.

However, snooker hasn’t helped itself. By continually advocating downmarket formats and tournaments – Power Snooker, the Shootout etc – the sport is doing little to appeal to blue chip sponsors.

How many players have suggested snooker should become more like darts? They’re wrong. If the sport wants upmarket sponsors it should move upmarket. If it wants to remain the domain of beer, fags and bookies sponsors, with a level of prize money which, though good, will never hit the heights of some other sports, then it should carry on as it is – just don’t complain about it.

There’s nothing wrong with being a working class sport. Snooker has come from honest roots and is widely accessible as a participation activity and professional sport to be watched either live or on television.

Its players are ordinary men who can be easily identified with. The game has many variables and delivers high drama and entertainment.

Snooker doesn't have to apologise for what it is but it needs to take steps to persuade people what it could be.

If the snooker world wants to compete globally with other major sports then it needs to understand what high end sponsors want and the image that needs to go with it.

We need players appearing in GQ magazine, not Loaded. We need events which cater to families, not mobs of drunks. We need players embracing the places they play, not slating them.

Hearn is big enough and successful enough to take this setback on the chin and will be putting the hours and the airmiles into unearthing a long term, prestigious partner for the World Championship from next year on.

But this is a task which has proved harder than he thought and underlines the fact that snooker is not at the top of the list of sports major companies want to give their money to.

In the meantime, of course, none of this will stop anyone enjoying the actual tournament.


Anonymous said...

Who is this year's 'one off' sponsor ?

Anonymous said...

Any news on an announcement regarding Stephen Lee Dave ?

NewsfoxSport said...

Excellent piece - it proves something that I've mentioned....Bazza needs help.

One promoter cannot do the whole damn thing himself.

Short formats don't need to be downmarket - unfortunately the dudes behind Power Snooker just had no imagination or clue!

I've never understood why they've not tried to exploit clothes a litte more. They won't get Dior (?!) but smaller brands maybe.

Also, they don't target alternative and quirky brands enough.

It's all about prejudice sadly. Snooker gets hammered for being 'working class'.

In time though, I think beer companies, snacks companies and the like will hopefully see snooker as budget alternative to football.

Key question though: where are the next generation of promoters?

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more Dave. Pandering to the lowest common denominator is a guarantee for regression. I attend half a dozen golf and snooker tournaments every year and without wanting to be patronising the difference in audience profile is stark. Venture to the Crucible bar at three o'clock on the first Saturday and it's odds on there will be forty or fifty lads on the piss who will have watched a couple of frames and got bored, laughing hysterically because one of them shouted 'C'mon Alex' or whistled at Michaela. It is a depressing reflection on our society. I love the game of snooker, its incredible level of skill and its nuances which only a player or a spectator who has put in the effort to really understand the game can appreciate. But I also work in a senior role at a major blue chip company and would I recommend to my Marketing Director that we invest in snooker? Not a cat in hell's chance.

I think Barry has done a fantastic job for the game and the viewing figures will be great, but until the venues attract the 'right' clientele which Chief Exec in his right mind will want to bring his wife and kids to a barn full or boors.


Anonymous said...

Competing for a winners prize of 10000£ and having to win 7 matches for it over an unreal schedule, as well as leaving most players out off their pocket is also downgrading the sport and his exponents. That's why I never agreed with the PTCs in their current form. It would be better to have only 3 properly funded, high quality events with well though scheduling and broadcasting that those cheap ones. It's not doing any good to the "prestige" image of snooker and prestige is one of the things that sponsors definitely want to see associated with their products.
Snooker indeed has an image problem and its constant association with betting companies doesn't help. In particular when targeting markets, like continental Europe, where betting isn't big and even restricted in some countries.

Anonymous said...

Oh - so its a bookie on a one-year deal then - but at least its not Pukka Pies!

When Judd tweeted those pictures the thing that surprised me most was that Loaded is still being published? Who the hell reads it these days?

Betfred were paying what - £450k a year? Snooker wouldn't get a sponsor to put in anything like that in Germany or China. Put simply, a 4 or 5 year commitment to spend £600-£700k sponsoring an event held in a small regional theatre is a big ask for any company.

Long term, I think snooker has potential to be a significant sport - and Bazza is ill-equipped to exploit it (his tawdry ideas for all sports seem to be a 4 item formula: i)walk-on music, ii)Shot Clocks, iii)dry ice, iv)glamour models). Hopefully he'll look at things a bit differently after being shown up like this.

Anonymous said...

One has to make a difference between The UK based PTC's and the continental bunch. The UK had only a man and a dog but the european ones are a big success. It is a good promotion for snooker as many continental fans have a chance to see their snooker favorite. Antwerp had an attendance of 1,200 on finals day. Any UK event can be envious of this attendance. The Paul Hunter classic is packed for the entire event. Not to forget Bulgaria. The German Masters is outnumbering any other snooker event on the calendar. A 2,500 plus for everyday. I agree with John, my first live snooker event was in 2004 at the wembley conference centre. we had entered the premises just 10 minutes as someone vomitted in the corridor on the carpet, due to alcohol abuse at 1pm! Paul

Anonymous said...

I just hope that they won't bring someone like Pukka Pies for it, that would be laughable.Listen, it's hard enough to find a sponsor this days, Barry has done great but why not continue with the betting companies.I mean, if they have the money and they are willing to sponsor snooker let them do it.I find nothing wrong with it, as I can't really see prize money getting much bigger than it is right now, not with people like Selby and Ebdon anyway.

Anonymous said...

No surpise.

Dave - I think you have been very kind to the Boss in your article. Only recently the Boss said on TV "I own the game". Ownership has responsibilities.

Will there be consequences - e.g. less prize money or tournaments. Is this why the new calendar hasn't been published?

Or will the players now have grounds to say - maybe the Boss isn't always right. Like his insistence on flat 128 tournaments?

But please no knee-jerk reactions, like move the World to China because we can get more sponsorship money. Matches at 2am 6am and noon European time, no thanks.

Anonymous said...

is the rumour true that the premier league has been dropped by sky due to bad ratings??

Ray said...

Dave - this is one of the best blogs you have posted because your love of the game jumps out from each sentence.
I was sad reading this because you would expect the blue riband of snooker could attract a major long term sponsor. It doesn't seem as if sponsors want a sport where the vast majority of players play the game in a very sporting manner. The spectators in the auditorium are generally well behaved.
Uninterruped primetime tv for 17 days should be an attractive proposition to anyone plus the prospect of hours of unadulterated, pure theatre.
In this cynical,skewed world of ours perhaps this doesn't float their boats. Shame.
PS I hope that Wonga or that ilk are not the one off sponsors because that would be rubbing salt into working class wounds in such times.

Anonymous said...

Maybe its Ronnies sponsor who are sponsoring worlds

Anonymous said...

Barry has done wonders for the game to where it was 4-5 years ago, but Hearn has always associated himself with more working class sports - darts, fishing, pool, ten pin bowling, poker etc. I'm not saying Barry should be replaced but I think they need to get some first rate PR people in who understand the sporting world. One big advantage Golf/Tennis has over snooker is that they are massive sports in the states. Perhaps snooker should adopt to have 4 majors like golf/tennis and mirror their tours more. Snooker needs to get away from tacky walkons for the players, plus events like the shoot-out which was as tacky as it comes with louts shouting out, and to start getting some proper coverage in the tabloids and broadsheets. The game isn't helped at all with alleged betting stories that are becoming far to frequent. These 10k PTC events should also go too. Have less and increase the prize money significantly.

Anonymous said...

Oh and ps it won't be a betting company announced tomorrow for sure.

Anonymous said...

What happend to BGC, they sponsored the Masters last year and now they simply disapeard ?


Hi David. It's good to have a World Championship sponsor, in my view, whoever it is.

My feeling is, that you can not have the Professional World Championship, of any sport, not sponsored.

Anonymous said...

Top tier companies will not go anywhere near sports that have had their image tarnished by allegations of match fixing.
So, those who thought it would be a good idea to engage in such practices for short term gain need to feel thoroughly ashamed that their actions are having an effect on the financial future of the game.

Anonymous said...

Barry looks pretty pleased with himself:


"Thrilled" hmmm.... I suppose Betfair will be fairly important in providing evidence for future match fixing cases

JIMO96 said...

So disappointed, I had every faith Barry would unveil a worldwide brand, and was optimistic that I'd guessed correctly with BGC. So it's Betfair, another bookie, the industry that does as much to drag snooker backwards (with it's incessant squeals if someone places a big bet on a snooker match) as it does to promote it. How much of the £1.1m prize fund will they be putting up? £500K tops is my guess.

Snooker needs a different approach; the razzmatazz and walk on music just don't cut it. Flattening out the draws is a huge step forward but it needs to be supported with other positive measures, or the sport will slink backwards again.

Change the rules. People go on about how the standard isn't as high as the commentators keep mentioning, and that the mid '90's was a higher standard....WRONG! In my eyes, the standard has NEVER BEEN HIGHER THAN IT IS TODAY.....it's just that in 2013, there are so many players capable of winning frames in one visit, that the way to combat that is to become adept at "not losing". Step forward messrs Selby, Ebdon and (further down) Harold, Hamilton, McLeod, Pinches. As much as I enjoy the tactical side of snooker, I have no desire to see hundreds of Selby clones emerge in the next generation. Change the tired rules that benefit negative play, and make them positive. I watched Neil Robertson recently play a slow roll from the baulk area to nestle behind a red 2 inches from the side cushion, when he could clearly see 3 other reds, and Mike Hallett (more later) described it as a "great shot"??!!?

We need to get away from this; players should be forced BY THE RULES to play something more positive. Hitting a cushion every shot (even from snooker escapes) would be a good start; confining the tedious miss rule to history would be hugely beneficial (no more inaccuracies in replacing the balls, no more unfair pressure on refs, no more protracted consultations about where the balls were.....this is NOT entertainment!)

Currently watching the Maguire-Holt match, and I timed it until the awful commentators' first reference to the Holt "knuckles" story....it wasn't long. Does this non-story have to follow the guy for the rest of his career? Hallett describes Holt as "capable" and "no mug". What?? He's been a pro and a recognisable face for over 20 years for Christs sake! Not a naive rookie (which it seems, anyone outside the top 16 IS, according to the typical snooker commentator in 2013. Except Davis & White).

The style of presentation needs to be weeded out root and stem and Hallett and his tiresome contemporaries given their P45's (or re-educated from scratch).

Finally, a couple of minor irks with snooker and its' "fans". It doesn't begin and end with the beloved Crucible: todays "sponsor" announcement means only one thing for me....sod tradition and move it to China. 6am and 11am sessions suit me fine (at least the final will finish before 2am...unless Selby's in it). The only thing China can't provide is an atmosphere...but if the sponsors have as much cash as it's rumoured, what's to stop them handing out free tickets to "create" one?

My second minor ikr is the perception that if the top players aren't there. it "devalues" (HATE that word) the tournament. NO IT DOESN'T!! I can't wait to see a flat event next season in which seeds from the same section get knocked out early, and we get (for example) Burns v Poomjaeng for a place in the quarters. You hear of unknowns and unpronouncables winning big golf events week after week...are those events devalued?

Bad day for snooker. I hope it recovers soon.

The Blog said...

I think Barry is more upset about West Ham taking over the Olympic stadium!


Imperial Tobacco did so much to raise the profile of snooker and the World Championship. When the Labour Government pulled the plug on corporate tobacco advertising they did the sport a huge disservice. Smoking may damage your health but it was a positive boon to snooker. A telling irony.

As for Barry Hearn, he has done so much to give the players more events although I think his "it's my way or the highway" approach is a tad counterproductive in terms of getting players to warm to him. Still, climbing the greasy pole of success necessitates standing on a few people's heads!

Alan Craig said...

Excellent piece. About time it was said. Guys at 1.55 are spot on as well.

The game is even struggling to attract players at grass roots level in the UK never mind sponsors. And that is a big problem for the future.

Witz78 said...

So you want events with a bit of individuality and a chance for the players to show their characters ditched....

these events are played in front of decent crowds, surely this looks better for snookers image than rankers played in some far flung place in front of one man and a dog.

And how you can call for the Shootout to be ditched yet you still champion the merits of the Championship League on the sole basis it offers you a free meal ticket is laughable.

Snooker shouldnt be ashamed to be a working class sport, football is after all and look at the money an sponsorship flying about in it.

Anonymous said...

JIMO96 - don't believe the hype - I'm sorry, but the standard today is nowhere near that of the mid/late 90s or the middle of the last decade. The reason that there are so many different winners these days is that all the top players play to a similar standard. All very good but none outstanding. N.Robertson admitted recently that none of the top players would be even competing for titles based on the current standard against that of 6-7 years ago. Judd Trump is world number 1 and 7/1 favourite for the Crucible title - 6 years ago he'd have been in the 20/1 bracket.

kimball said...

Excellent article Dave, the blog response is also interesting and for sure Barry Hearn has put wheels on snooker.
It is absolutely amazing having a contract with Eurosport for 21 tournaments a year! Equally amazing
are the asian tour with eight tournaments and the growing eastblock tour + Germany.
One should keep in mind that not so
long ago the sport were nearly non-
existing outside the commonwealth.
PTC,s might be run of the mill and
you are not forced to attend but it
draws packed houses in Germany, Poland,Tjeckien, Roumania and Belgium.
It is not a commonwealth sport now,
it is global but in patches.Neither
is it a workingclass sport although
people that work like to watch it on telly or live.
It has a nice niche, because people, a bit upmarket that in general never watch "sport" fancy snooker as exciting, beautiful and
elegant and that makes for a good
argument when selling ads et.cet.
For sure, snooker has never been as
close to a comeback as now, it just
needs one or two more strokes of luck.
Barry Hearn made a huge effort in Birmingham 1991 but the timing were
wrong.There were no worldwide grass
root snooker at the time.
It has to be understood that golf,
tennis and motor has huge sponsorsupport through manufacturers. Are there any man to man sports tour except tennis that generate such pricemoney as snooker? - No!
I don't know if WSA have a special
sponsor for broadcasting in China
during the Worldchampionship, if not, they should.
Whitout a grassroot base snooker is doomed and a good factchecker is the amateur European and World championships where attendance are
steadily growing.
I have followed the sport closely
in various roles since 1982 and thought it on it's last leg many times, but not now and in ten years time it might be fantastic (again)!

Trevorp said...

I think people are failing to realise.the reason snooker is finding it hard to find sponsors is that its not as mainstream as golf or tennis.blaming the ptc's or the shootout is nonsense.although we love it snooker is not as big around the world as tennis and golf is,so no point comparing them really.


Hi David. Great news, in my view, that 'Betfair', will sponsor the 2013 World Championship.

Anonymous said...

8:08 am - "So, those who thought it would be a good idea to engage in such practices for short term gain need to feel thoroughly ashamed that their actions are having an effect on the financial future of the game"

I think you are totally misled, It is not the players but World Snooker themseleves who glorify and disclose the news on their website about how they have punished whoever it is that is supposivily participating in match fixing.

Any "clever" sports governing body would choose to censor and limit this kind of news from filtering out to the public to maintain a positive image of the sport, otherwise its obviously self detrimental and self defeating to World Snooker.

Anonymous said...

1.55 - couldn't agree more

Anonymous said...


Stifling negative publicity is the domain of this coalition and previous governments. World Snooker, by releasing information of suspected wrong doing, demonstrate that such behaviour is not tolerated. Being open and transparent is the only way to deal with such disputes.
The players have a responsibility to give of their best at all times. Their fellow professionals, sponsors and fans deserve nothing less.

Anonymous said...

No sane sponsor would want to go near a sport where boring time-wasters like Ebdon, Carter, Selby and McLeod lurk.

Time to place a time limit on all matches. If the time limit is reached, whoever is ahead by frames wins. If they are tied, whoever leads on points wins.

That will put an end to the miserable form of hide-and-seek snooker pioneered by Ebdonminator and crafted to perfection by Selbyzzzzminator.

Anonymous said...

Why does the World Championships get a grubby tacky low class sponsor like BetFair while the China open gets a prestigious multi-million pound sponsor like the Bank of Beijing? World Snooker must be doing something wrong here.....