18.12.13

2013 IN SNOOKER: THE HITS AND MISSES

There is no more snooker this year so it’s time to take stock, preferably with as much food and alcohol as possible.

It’s traditional to review the season rather than the calendar year but the whole concept of seasons has become somewhat irrelevant in this era when snooker rolls on and on. No sooner does the World Championship end as the new ‘season’ is about to start.

So as we have this chance to pause, we can reflect on 2013, a year in which there were many events, many winners, many terrific matches, controversy, drama and much more besides.

To simplify, there were hits and misses. Here are mine:

HITS

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN
O’Sullivan predicted his return at the Crucible would be a ‘car crash.’ In fact, he motored to a sensational victory, proving once again that he produces his best when the odds are apparently against him.

This was one of snooker’s most notable achievements, but just as notable was the fact nobody had stepped up and taken him on. This has changed now that O’Sullivan is playing more snooker…but the Crucible is a different prospect and he goes there clearly capable of making it six world titles.


DING JUNHUI
In winning three successive ranking titles, Ding proved that it is possible to dominate: you just have to be exceptional. Steve Davis was. Stephen Hendry was. Ding at his best is sublime and his patience and discipline got him through the various dodgy times in matches he may have lost a couple of years back.

It’s still five months until the world final. If Ding is in it then the viewing audience in China will be colossal. And if he’s in it playing the snooker he’s already produced this season then he will take some stopping.


CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS
This was a welcome new event for several reasons. First, it was for the elite. There was one table, not ten, and the game’s best were rewarded for their achievements.

ITV4 also provided excellent coverage, the crowds were good and it gave snooker in the UK a shot in the arm. One thing though: Matchroom should announce now what the criteria is for places next season. Anthony McGill came up with a good idea: invite the last 16 major tournament winners and thus avoid any arguments.


NEIL ROBERTSON
Robertson’s century tally for the season now stands at 60, just one off Judd Trump’s seasonal record set during 2012/13. The Australian completed the triple crown at the UK Championship and ends 2013 as world no.1.

More than that, he is an eloquent speaker and his positive attitude is refreshing in a sport where so many enjoy a moan.


BARRY HEARN
Hearn is Britain’s leading sports promoter. I know because he told me. But behind his boastful demeanour, Hearn is a shrewd operator with a genuine sense of what the public wants and the business savvy to make it happen.

Many top players disagreed with the flat draw system but in the early stages of this format they have been the main winners: literally – at the recent World Open qualifiers every member of the top 16 made it through.


TWITTER
Fans can now interact with players and others in the snooker world in a way impossible and unimaginable years ago thanks to Twitter.

Not every tweet is helpful or edifying but they each represent the truth of the moment for players and are a world away from shiny and false PR. Players are human beings, not robots. For good and bad, Twitter has provided a window on the range of human emotions which come with life as a sportsman.


SNOOKER LEGENDS
This has been another successful year for a successful exhibition series which showcases some of the players who did so much to put the game on the map in the first place.

The Legends nights have the right mix of fun and competition and the televised event in Bedworth last May was a good way to wind down after the World Championship.


MISSES

THE WORLD OPEN
There’s nothing wrong with this as a tournament but the complete lack of atmosphere due to low crowds was a disappointment. Participation levels in China are remarkable but ticket prices remain a problem. Quite simply, many ordinary Chinese snooker fans are priced out of attending live matches.

It was a particular shame in Haikou because it marked ITV’s return to broadcasting snooker. They are not understood to be particularly keen to show the World Open again.


JUDD TRUMP
2013 was a disappointing year for Trump’s fans as he did not win a professional title this calendar year, having won at least one each year since 2008. He had a good run in the World Championship but lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the semi-finals. This season, results have been hard to come by.

I think one of his problems is that the fear factor he had a couple of years ago when he was the exciting new kid on the baize has gone. There is also the pressure of raised expectations: before he was winning titles, 2013 would have been judged a successful year, now he’s there to be shot at. But there’s another year on the way and Trump remains both young and talented. All great players have endured slumps and found their way out.


POWER SNOOKER
Nothing whatsoever was heard about this in 2013 beyond a vague announcement of an event last March which never happened.

The truth is, there was never anything wrong with snooker as a game, just how it was being run. Now that has been addressed the traditional game is flourishing and gimmicks will recede into history.


STEPHEN LEE
Lee’s appeal against his 12-year ban for match and frame fixing will be heard on January 30. If he is unsuccessful his snooker career is over.

Snooker is no more susceptible to cheating as any other sport but neither is it immune. It has embraced the betting industry but needs to remain constantly alive to ensuring players are not led astray by those looking to make a fast buck, which appears to be what happened to Lee.


WOMEN’S SNOOKER
World Snooker launched a ‘Ladies Day’ at the Crucible where warm words were spoken about helping the women’s game but when Reanne Evans qualified for the Wuxi Classic she had to play a wildcard and, had she won, would have played Neil Robertson in a session not televised in Europe.

The good news for the World Ladies Billiards and Snooker Association is that Mandy Fisher, who has probably done more than anyone to champion the women’s game, has returned to the helm, which should hopefully help their circuit to grow again.


LIVEWORLDSNOOKER.TV
This service has taken a few backward steps this year. They dispensed with commentary to cut costs and also reduced the number of cameras used.

Always the problem on the Internet is how to make money out of something when people can get it for free. Those who have watched on dodgy streams rather than subscribing certainly haven’t helped but by and large people do pay if they feel a service is worth it.


THE BRITS
The professional circuit is still comprised of 75% British players, largely because the entire qualifying set-up has been based in Britain for decades. But all six major ranking events this season have been won by non-British players, with only two British finalists.

This does not represent the end of snooker in the UK but does point to the game becoming more global, which is the key to its ultimate survival as a big money sport.


And with all that, and plenty of snooker to look forward to in 2014, I wish a very merry Christmas and happy New Year to all readers of this blog.

9 comments:

Monique Limbos said...

I have subscribed to the perform service but I do have an issue with it, definitely. It's the territory restrictions. Why? It's a contractual thing, ok, and my understanding is it's done to protect the rights of the television broadcasters. However, only too often, it's not accessible to me because for instance ES is broadcasting part of the event, but NOT in my country. What then?
I really think this should be discussed between all parts involved. Is there really a need for such restrictions? I think not. Why would anyone watch the snooker on their screen, if they can get a far better image/sound on their TV?
I know that ES has their own "player" service and there might be a competition. But why not let the market work and compete on quality/offer?
Also, the perform service doesn't work on mobile devices like the iPad. That's a huge set back.

Ray147 said...

Dave, thanks for the many hours of hard work putting the blog out regularly. It makes for fascinating reading and I'm so glad you decided to keep doing it.
Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

jamie brannon said...

Here's my awards:

Player of the Year: Ding Junhui

Tournament of the Year: Champion of Champions

Match of the Year: Welsh Open Final between Stuart Bingham and Stephen Maguire

Performance of the Year: Ronnie O'Sullivan winning the World Championship after taking nearly a year off, producing some sensational snooker, including a first session against Stuart Bingham that was a high a standard that we saw all year.

Commentator of the Year: Clive Everton

Captain147 said...

Happy Xmas Dave

I probably agree with all your hits & misses, in particular flat DOES seem to be working, so let's start the TV coverage (apart from PTCs)at L32 or L16, so we can see more quality matches.

For me a winner this year was Eurosport. On PTC days in particular they have offered wall to wall live coverage. The ipad Eurosport is a good product (but please fix the full screen bug with the external adaptors when changing channels). Fix that, put live commentary onto the player (as the BBC does), mop up the liveworldsnooker.tv matches and it would be 5 out of 5.

Another winner was ITV. A great tournament & great coverage. I hope it returns in 2014.

A minor loser this year is the BBC whose coverage in the earlier stages is really damaged by going to a single red button channel. Yes the two streams are on the internet, but getting full screen is problematic. And there is no red button on the ipad iplayer.

And my Xmas snooker wish is that 2014 be a good year for Trump, and the same for some of the exciting players on the fringe.

JIMO96 said...

Good article Dave, plenty to agree with and perfectly put across.

For me, the triumphs of the year have been the flat 128 draws and the emphatic success of ITV and the Champion of Champions.

The success of flat draws cannot be better epitomised than by the success of Davy Morris. Undoubtedly a good player, destined to go high in the rankings, but it's only December and he's an odds on shot to be top 64 by the end of the season. On one seasons points. And that's thanks to the flat 128 system, because winning matches pays off now, whereas it didn't (for a new pro) under the old system.

ITV....all that coverage was fantastic, and all live too. No embarrassing "features", proper snooker analysis and chat, good commentary....a ranking tournament cannot be far away for snookers latest broadcaster. For all the moans about York, the amount of hours ITV devote to their coverage makes it perfect for a 128-man field. If they'd covered the UK, there'd have been no moans.

And will we witness now a flood of prestige invitationals? The players loved the CoC, so the demand is there. Perhaps a top 32 invite only event? To distance it from a "Masters" format?

Disappointments of 2013? They're getting fewer, but the main one is live streaming. Yet again, the list of things you CAN'T watch is longer than the list of things you CAN. Plus I'm going to add my voice to the growing chorus of putting live streams to EVERY table. This CANNOT surely be beyond the WSA?

Lastly, another (slightly) disappointing point of 2013 was Ding Junhui's misses at 5-5 on the colours against Ronnie O'Sullivan. I know the pressure was immense, but I gat the feeling a huge mental barrier would have been destroyed if Ding had prevailed there. As it is, ominously, Ronnie O'Sullivan still has an aura over Ding in the truly big events. And Robertson.

Have a great Xmas Dave, and look forward to many more of your excellent blog in 2014,

kildare cueman said...

My hits are

1. The commentary duo of Everton/Foulds. You could watch any match with these two at the helm.

2. The flat draw. Great to see new exciting players emerge.

3. Overseas winners of the first 6 rankers. Another step towards snooker becoming a global sport.

4. The Indian lads doing so well in their virgin home tournament. Looked as if Mehta was going to do a "Ding" by winning it, until Ding, ironically, beat him in the final.

My misses were

1. The slowdown in progress of Trump, Lisowski and Brecel. Hopefully the careers of these entertaining young players will re-ignite and the slump they are experiencing at their respective levels will be just that. A slump.

2. Ronnies book. Thought it was the same oul shite as his last one. Bit like a teenager's essay about his summer holidays.
No snooker autobiography has even come close to Joe Davis' brilliant "The breaks came my way". Really captured the era, the game(s) and the characters.
Hopefully The Nugget's book will match it whenever it comes out.

3. The Lee shenanigans. Classy cueist who thrived under the new regime, and looked as if he was about to earn some serious twine. Was probably the best player on the tour for a while just before the PL debacle. Was great to watch when his confidence was up and its a shame what happened.

Wildey said...

i agree with monique surely having recorded highlights on eurosport is not enough to block access to liveworldsnooker.tv.

Barry Pratt said...

I get the WS live service on my smartphone with adobe flash. You have to get the flash bygoing through the update section.

Sam Gao said...

Im from Australia and I'm both a subscriber of liveworldsnooker.tv and foxtel, which is the broadcaster supposed to have all tv rights. But guess what, they dont show any snooker apart from the Australian Open. So I had to rely on internet stream to watch any major ranking event. Surely Hearn can do something about this?