“World Snooker has done some good work in Asia in recent years but Europe is definitely a market that they could be exploiting more. I think the interest is equal, if not bigger, in Europe than it is in China.”
So said Mark Selby on his new blog on the Eurosport website.
Anyone who knows Mark will know that he’s not a trouble maker or nursing a hidden agenda. He’s simply saying what everyone who has witnessed the European snooker boom also believes.
Take a look at this clip. It is Ronnie O’Sullivan being introduced to the crowd in Hamm, Germany this weekend.
What an extraordinary reaction, one that I know would have touched Ronnie.
The fans at the Berlin leg of the World Series in July were just as enthusiastic. Stephen Maguire said it was the biggest crowd he had ever played in front of.
The crowds were also huge at the World Series events in Warsaw and Russia. Not only that but they were genuinely excited to see live snooker.
John Higgins recently did an exhibition in Copenhagen that was sold out. O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson did one in Prague last week that also attracted a huge audience.
By signing its broadcast deal with Eurosport, World Snooker has created a huge booming market.
So why aren’t they exploiting it?
Why aren’t there any major tournaments promoted by the governing body in mainland Europe?
The fans are clearly there. You could have three ranking events in Germany and tickets would sell out within hours.
Contrast that with the recent Bahrain Championship, where audiences were embarrassing and which cost World Snooker fortunes.
Credit goes to Higgins and his manager, Pat Mooney, for setting up the World Series which has taken top class snooker to a continent crying out for it.
Next week, Mooney will meet with Eurosport to discuss venues for 2009. In the running are Ireland (possibly Goffs, former home of the Irish Masters and one of the best arenas snooker has ever had), Portugal, Denmark, Switzerland, Russia, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic.
“Pat and the team have been in discussions with all of the countries above, having received applications from each to host an event,” Higgins said.
“We would of course love to host many more, however it is down to ensuring there is no conflict with other events and promotions and also the available TV scheduling of Eursport.
“The success and momentum caused by the success of our first year has been staggering. When Pat first talked about the potential and popularity of the game in these locations I was a little sceptical to say the least, but now I am just buzzed about each and every new location.”
Mooney hopes the World Series will see the governing body following suit and investing in Europe.
“We see the ground work we have done paving the way for World Snooker to be able to react to the demands of the fans and come in and capitalise on the start we have made,” he said.
“Who knows that may even be a good model for the development of professional snooker and it reduces the risk of going into new territories blind and not knowing if the fans and the infrastructure is there.
“We always said we would ensure we compliment the main tour and share information with World Snooker and the lessons we have learned this year can only be a bonus, and are available to all.”
Snooker, contrary to what some people say, is not dead or dying.
Its popularity in the UK has declined and participation is affected by factors such as the smoking ban.
But on the continent of Europe there are millions – literally – of fans ready to support the game.
Apart from the obvious considerations of finances and sponsorship why are they not being given the chance to do so?