“Sorry it took so long to climb those steps, this burnout’s a killer,” was Barry Hearn’s opening gambit in his speech at the World Snooker Awards in London last week.

It was a good line and got a big laugh. It also underlined Hearn’s attitude to players complaining that their workload is too arduous since the circuit rapidly expanded under his chairmanship.

Hearn has previously suggested players “go and tell the working man on the street they are burnt out,” the assumption being that the working man on the street would give them short shrift.

Jason Ferguson, the WPBSA chairman, appears to agree. He told prosnookerblog: “my father worked down the mines all his life, he did 12 hour shifts digging coal out, he did it year-in, year-out and I never heard him complain once.”

To be fair to Ferguson, he takes a more nuanced view than Hearn. He also said: “Some people might say, oh poor things, they are doing something that they love, they are out there, in front of an audience, everybody likes them, they have become celebrities, what are they moaning about? But we have to face it, it is a gruelling schedule, and it is tough. You have got to be fit, you have got to be ready for it, you’ve got to be mentally strong for it, it’s not just mentally strong in terms of fitness and playing the game, you have got to be mentally strong to deal with all of the different countries that you are going to, different foods you are going to. It’s hard going. I think that some of the players have suffered from burnout this year, but others are relishing it. I’m fortunate, I’m a very good traveller, I travel to Asia, I get off the plane, put my tie on in the toilets in the aeroplane and go to the first meeting as soon as we land and that’s how it is. I can do it, but some people don’t travel so well.”

The fact that players themselves can’t agree on whether burnout was a significant factor in results we saw at the World Championship is revealing.

But this is the point Ferguson was making: burnout affects some players but not others.

Hearn’s point about how hard other people work is valid but snooker players are not merely turning up for work: to be successful, they have to produce a high level of performance. This requires a mental toughness which will be eroded the more snooker is played.

There are some jobs you can do where you turn up not at your best but can get through the day and go home having been paid the same as if you had been firing on all cylinders. Snooker is not one of them.

I spoke to a well respected senior player about all this recently. He said what he found tiring was not so much the snooker as the travelling, but that the travelling naturally affected performance.

Do the players deserve sympathy? Not really. They are in a privileged position. They are playing professional sport for a living with the opportunity to earn big money.

Nobody is forcing them to do it. If they don’t like the travelling or being away from home they are free to get other jobs and live more conventional lives.

It is up to them to better organise their schedules. I don’t criticise any player for choosing not to enter a particular tournament. That is up to them. They have to balance their lives and careers.

They didn’t used to have this problem because there weren’t anywhere near as many tournaments. They used to complain that they wanted more.

Some would say there is too much snooker. I disagree. Eurosport’s figures have risen significantly since the increase in tournaments because people become used to watching snooker regularly.

It’s our old friend supply and demand: if there is a demand for a product then it is met by supply. This is the reason Coronation Street is shown five times a week not six times a year.

The packed calendar has benefited snooker financially because promoters from around the world who wish to stage tournaments – and World Snooker have met with several of late – know they can’t get them on the cheap with space in the schedule at a premium.

It’s all a bit different to the 2002/03 season. The players, who used to run the game, voted in their wisdom at an EGM to reject two proposals to put money into the sport and appoint the only bidder for commercial rights investing nothing.

The ten year contract these chancers were awarded was broken after ten months. One of the tournaments they put on was the European Open in a hotel in Torquay, untelevised. This was actually a great event but nobody saw it outside the few hundred people who came along.

Now, snooker is a major television business and is being taken to places where people want to watch it. Expansion on the continent of Europe is particularly important over coming years. Those who treat the European Tour events with disdain are ignoring the potential to grow snooker in these regions. It is starting from a relatively small base because of squandered opportunities in the past.

If players, most of whom still are British, want a proper professional sport then they will have to be prepared to travel. That may bring with it tiredness and burnout so they will need to give real thought not just to their schedules but how they live their lives.

It’s a profession, not a hobby, so treat it professionally.

And with that I’m taking some time off. All this snooker takes its toll, you know.


kildare cueman said...

Burnout is good. Stops the same 2 or 3 players from dominating. The players who excel in the first few events will be tired, allowing fresher players to win the next few, and so on.
This season was a good example with different winners for each event.
Maybe it'll get to the stage where players that can handle the burnout will win more in the same way that a player who can hanle pressure will win more.

Kenn Fong said...

First, let me say i am by no means disrespecting people who earn their living doing intense physical labor perhaps under dangerous conditions or mind-numbing menial tasks for short money.

Cheers to all those who have never had to do that and to those who have never had to fly across a dozen time zones which disrupts your internal body clock and eat unusual food (perhaps not prepared in the most sanitary conditions or with spices and methods to which you are not accustomed).

I am not saying that snooker players should be compared with coal miners or high-rise constructions workers. But the stress of intense concentration is measurable. Of course, I'd rather be subject to this kind of stress rather than the stress of a fire-fighter or bomb disposal technician.

Anyone who has seen the Crucicble fortnight recently can see how the situation and the contest exacts a price.

Anonymous said...

Yes quantity not quality. Let's have some more best of 7s, even best of 5s if they can squeeze another mickey mouse event in. This year's world championship shows what happens when you have too much snooker.

Anonymous said...

I think Hearn and others are missing the point with his "burnout jokes".

Yes a man will work something like 46-47 weeks of the year and perhaps will be falling over the line come Fri aft/eve, but most just need to get through the working week to get paid. With snooker though the players can't afford to be in this dog tired mode as they will be unlikely to play to their peak performance which they need to do so to compete for titles. Players do need to pick and choose these events so they can be fresh. I'm sure next year the likes of Selby, Murphy and perhaps even Bingham who never seems to miss any event may decide to schedule their events around the big 3 or 4 events. If every player played in EVERY event,yes they would be burnt out and mirror the working man and fall over the line with perhaps a decent income, but won't be making their most of their chances to earn a much higer income. I doubt Ronnie would have been world champion had he played in every single event last season.

Anonymous said...

Must admit have been having withdrawl symptoms for the last week. I don't understand the fuss - once they go over to a money list the £200 - £10,000 prize money available for PTCs will be immaterial for top players and so top players can just avoid entering (I can't see the £49 for last 96 losers in the Australian open exciting too many players).

I have sympathy - if you look at the 2 year money list there aren't that many players making over £50k - and not many people on that salary can afford 3 trips to China / one trip to Australia / 10 trips to Europe out of their taxed earnings.

Anonymous said...

Dave- hope you have a good holiday

jamie brannon said...

We've got to be careful of thinking that loads of snooker will always mean higher viewing figures. Cricket has become far less popular in recent years, partly down to an uncoherent, excessively crammed calendar.

I think Dave is right to say that there's no sympathy for the burnout claim, but that's not to say it doesn't exist.

Most jobs don't require the readjustment to different timezones and cultures that a top-level sportsperson often has to go through.

In addition, as we are all individual, it should be appreciated that our threshold for fatigue will vary. Some of us can get burnout just through a few days' activity.

If we the had the option to pick and choose our work, wouldn't we take it? Yes. However, it is perks like this that mean you can't expect any sympathy in return, not that any players seemed to be looking for it.

Rob said...

Didn't Hearn cite burnout as the reason Steve Davis lost 10-1 to Tony Knowles all those years ago?

Anonymous said...

S.Davis admitted in a recent BBC interview that he missed tournaments in the build up to Sheffield so he was fresh for The Crucible. That was at a time when there were less events than now. Players must have rest periods between events in order to be able to re-energise and be in a position where they are likely to be mentally fresh enough to produce close to their usual standard in the big events. There is too much snooker now, and while it's OK to say that players should be more selective - but how do they do this when all these events carry a tariff which will affect their world ranking?

Anonymous said...

End of day its the same for everyone but a number of players have the luxary of deciding how much they want to play, if higgins, willuams & co would be happy entering the WC only hoping to pickup the big prize then let them, playing a qualli or 2 makes no odds if they're confident a rest will make them unbeatable unless that is its all BS which personally i think it is

y could apply BO to any sport, F1, footy, tennis, some more physical than others but all demanding & cross many continents but how many actually admit its a problem instead of an excuse

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with anonymous at 11:34 am. at time Barry Hearn discourse is crass demagogy. Burnout is a lot more about mental and emotional pressure than it is about how many hours people actually "work". Players like Mark Selby who are extremely intense in the way they play and compete nearly always at the business end of tournaments under high expectations - his own, the fans and the sponsors - are more likely to suffer burnout than a lower ranked player who's occasional bad performance (they all have bad days) will probably go largely unnoticed. Barry Hearn's comparison between hard work physical professions - like miners - and snooker players isn't a valid one. There is no denial that miners (or similar professions) have it hard, but in a totally different way to top sportsmen and mental/emotional burnout isn't the main risk they are exposed to.
Also it's foolish to deny how much traveling across time zones every odd week affects the body and mind. Everyone who has/had to travel nearly day in/ day out for a job will know that. Some cope better than others, but there is little people can do about it.
Hearn is doing a lot of good things, but really he should give his players a bit more respect and listen to them: they are his most valuable asset after all.

Anonymous said...

Why should the calendar be cut back just to give Mark Selby a rest period? And to be fair Hearn has listened to them: that's why the game is transitioning to a prize money list. The players will no longer be "blackmailed" into playing the PTCs: Ronnie currently tops the prize money list despite only playing one season (where he missed loads of events) and two tournaments this season. Winning just one ranker a season will keep a top player in the top 16 (as much as it counts these days), so it's a non-issue now. Hearn has effectively given the players full control over their timetables, so he probably just doesn't want to listen to the likes of Selby whining on about it.

Anonymous said...

The problem is there is too much snooker now. Players need to better manage their schedules but Hearn should at least throw them a bone by not putting ranking points on everything (irregardless of the new money list which is also a nonsense) or by having a Euro PTC and the Wuxi qualifiers a few weeks after the end of the Crucible. Players and fans need a proper rest.
PS I have no sympathy for Higgins, Selby and all those players who used burnout to justify their lackluster Crucible displays.

Anonymous said...

Nobody said that the calendar should be reduced. There are other solutions. In tennis - an example Barry Hearn likes to refer to when it suits him - only a predetermined number of best results count towards the ranking (plus the majors).
And even if, indeed, the money list does give the players more flexibility, denying the issue and showing contempt is not only rude, it's daft as well.

Anonymous said...

How many players fancy a 14 hour stint down a&e 5 or 6 days a week, grow up guys y not living in the real world !

Anonymous said...

Do the players actually play thet much more today ?
Take 1985 i seam to recall the season was as follows scots masters, goya matvhroom trophy, rothmans gp, uk champ, world doubles then xmas break folled by mercantile credit classic, masters, irish masters, world team event, british open, WC. If ive got this right thats 11 events, so is there really that much more today, poor little rich boys !

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Yes here is. There were 23 events carrying ranking points last season, 1 in Australia, 8 in China, and another 7 in Europe which means a lot of traveling (something that was the exception in the past) Plus for the top boys the PL and the Masters and for all who wanted or needed the money. the CL, the six-reds.

Anonymous said...

Everyone needs a break from time to time else performance suffers. Doesn't matter if you drive a lorry or cue. What varies person to person is how often you need that break.

As everyone says you have the choice of which events to enter. We may well only see the best players at half a dozen events next year. That could be a win win situation for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Beats me, why they have scrapped the PL (for the Champion of Champions) and kept the CL for this season. Don't see why they need the APTC's either when China has more than enough events.

Cliff_Satchel said...

Scrap the APTC!?! you know the PTC's are open to amateurs right, who can qualify for the world tour via the ATPC? you know china has 100s of players in the pipeline, they not likely to feature in the WR events are they. APTC is essential to make world snooker, world snooker!.

Anonymous said...

Many people seem to pointlessly blame Barry for what he has done without actually reflecting on why he has done what he has done.

These are the issue he was faced with and has attempted to solve;

Issue 1- Lack of tournaments

There's now 30 events a year thanks to him opening up snooker. Many though criticise why there is too many tournaments going to China, Barry is doing something that has been always resisted by previous administrations for years. Following supply/demand.

Its not his fault the UK no longer like snooker that was more to do with negligence of previous administrations. If there is no demand for a tournament here he cant hold one. Simple as.

Issue 2- Burnout

When the money list comes in this will not be an issue. Top players will be able to choose and select their events. If you want evidence well Ronnie who has played only one event is in 5TH in the 1 year rankings.

Issue 3- Lower ranked players earn little compared to the top 16

Loads have suggested in various blogs that more of the prize money should be pumped into the lower qualifying rounds. This is impossible would you be able to convince a sponser to pay an extra £50,000 to players who didn't win a match?

Barry got round this issue. From next year all players whatever the ranking will have to play 2 qualifying rounds. So there's no excuse that a player ranked 85 has to play 5 rounds to earn something. Its all equal now. If a player is in the bottom end it his fault, there is no more excuses.

Snooker seems then to be always afraid to change and adapt. Over the past players and boards were happy to stay on a boat that was slowly sinking just so that they don't have to get off their backsides and do something else. Finally there is changes and think it is far too late to still complain about Barry making changes when everyone can see the clear benefit he has already brought to the sport.

Anonymous said...

CL is an ongoing deal with Perform so Barry wont want to scrap that as its a matchroom event. PL got bad viewing figures last year mainly due to Ronnie's absence. I feel bad for Gould who would have qualified for the PL this season.
The APTCs are great for all the Chinese amateurs especially as a lot of them cant get visas to play in the UK PTCs. As Barry says organise your schedule properly, play the events which you want too and use the smaller events as warm-ups for the big ranking events.

I will take a couple of years for the players to figure out what works for them

Anonymous said...

I think the CL is all about money. The bookies are obviously doing very nicely off it and it is pretty cheap to run: players play for a few hundred quid rather than few thousand. The top boys obviously enter because a PL place was on offer, so I would be surprised to see a top 16 player enter it next season, especially now that they are probably all convinced Ronnie won the WC because he wasn't "burnt out". It may not matter though, because the same people who were willing to bet on Mark Selby playing Neil Robertson will probably bet on Michael Holt playing Mark King.

As for the APTC, their main function is obviously to offer a tour qualification route in China, which seems fair enough. Although now we have 2-year tour cards I am not convinced we need the PTC as a route onto the tour (which was primarily introduced as a mechanism for players who had just served a year on the tour and disadvantaged by starter points to keep their place). Let's scrap the the PTC places and have two open Q schools, one in the UK and one in China offering 12 places each. I would scrap the crappy amateur European tour thingy (which looks like a second-rate PIOS) and allocate each of the three places to play-offs for the Americas, Africa and Oceania. That way Europe and Asia would be well catered for, and the other three continents would also have a qualification route and the tour number could be kept to 128, rather than this silly 133 deal where some players have to play an extra match.

Claus said...

I don't get the anons saying there is too much snooker. As a fan there certainly isn't too much on tv and the players do NOT have to play all the tournaments.

It's pick and chosse, do what you want. Exactly what is that "too much snooker" aimed at? Please remember the pathetic state of snooker a handful of years ago. The Walker years seem to be quickly forgotten. We had 7-8 tournaments and ridiculous pauses in between.

Now we have more snooker and the only thing that will further improve it is even more snooker! Burnout smurnout. They don't have to enter, you know.

Anonymous said...

Agreed Claus. People who complain of too much snooker should go do something else instead of moaning about something which is a massive positive for the sport.

Anonymous said...

There is only too much snooker is someone is greedy enough to want to play in everything.
Otherwise there iare less tournaments than there are in PGA golf.
The top layers wat everything, not only to dictate what tournaments there are but also to who plays in them.
No wonder the game will never hit the heights of golf or tennis where you don't see players etching out classless tweets where they don't actually know how words are used properly.