So I’ve spent the day in London where I attended the announcement of the worst kept secret in snooker – that Betfred are to sponsor the World Championship.

I thought World Snooker staged the press conference in a very professional manner and that their chairman, Sir Rodney Walker, spoke well, although I think it’s fair to say he’s not a man who suffers from low self esteem.

“We live in difficult economic times. Many sports are finding it hard to find new sponsors or keep existing ones so the fact that a company such as Betfred has the confidence to invest in World Snooker is something about which we’re enormously pleased,” he said.

Walker also said that he could not reveal the amount being invested but that it was a “four year, multi million pound deal.”

Betfred’s boss is Fred Done, a personable sports enthusiast who joked that his company could only afford the sponsorship because of all the money it took on the Grand National, which was won by a 100/1 outsider.

“We’ve paid a lot of money for this sponsorship but I like to be associated with the best. We’re sponsors at Manchester United and Wembley and now we’ve made up the trio,” he said.

The press conference was attended by reigning world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, the man he beat in last year’s final, Ali Carter, losing semi-finalist Joe Perry, 2002 winner Peter Ebdon and world no.15 Mark King.

“Betfred’s events feel like events whereas some of the other tournaments lack that enthusiasm and dynamism and personality. It will be a pleasure to be there,” O’Sullivan said.

Certainly Betfred seem very enthusiastic and I think they will be good for the tournament. They have previously sponsored the Premier League and are keen to support the World Championship not just with money but also through activities around it.

Everyone in the sport must be pleased to see a company coming forward to invest in snooker.

“I’ve often wondered in the last few years why major companies have not had the vision and foresight to see that snooker is the best value for money sport and I’m very pleased that the people at Betfred have seen the huge opportunity to sponsor it,” Ebdon said.

The players then went off to pose for pictures and journalists were informed they would return for interviews.

They all came back except for O’Sullivan, who decided to leave.

Given the choice of spending the afternoon talking to snooker journalists or going home I can see his point but he’s the world champion and as such should fulfil his duties.

Of course, O’Sullivan claimed snooker was ‘dying’ during the Masters and Walker seems to have taken the point.

“There are many things that we can be doing and will be doing to make the sport more attractive to a younger audience. There will be a lot of exciting developments going on in the next 12 months and beyond,” he said.

Details are sketchy as to what this will involve but I understand there are plans for more tournaments (good news) but that existing prize money levels will be spread more thinly and the ranking points allocation will also be altered.

Will this be a version of what I suggested back in January? Time will tell.

I also learned that making the sport ‘more attractive to a younger audience’ will involve a tournament played with only seven reds.

I must admit my heart sank when I heard this, although I will await more details before commenting fully.

One point I would make: if you really want to get kids interested in snooker, don’t dumb it down but play the major finals at a time when they can watch them, as opposed to these ridiculous post-midnight finishes.

Six – or seven – red versions of the game possibly have their place in countries where snooker isn’t popular or has declined in popularity. Hence, in Thailand in July a big 6-reds event won last year by Ricky Walden will be staged for a second time.

Anyway, we will see what World Snooker’s proposals are in due course.

Walker also revealed that the BBC are keen to open negotiations for their new TV contract later this year and that he is having discussions in Sheffield next week that are likely to conclude with the Crucible keeping the World Championship.

A very interesting day all in all.


Anonymous said...

just waiting on the ronnie droids getting upset that you dared speak "against" his actions....

cheers for the report dave

Matt said...

Very interesting to see how the ranking points allocation will change. Hopefully it will involve more points for the tour newcomers, it's just not fair at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

It sounded a very interesting press conference. Where in London did they hold it, as I thought BetFred were Manchester based?

So is it not £2 million over four years? Is this longer or shorter financially for world snooker in the contract? Also, will they actually be putting there hands in there pockets at all to help out or are they totally covered now?

Any idea how the Crucible is going to look now for the tournament? 888 had hideous green for the advertising boardings, hope BetFreds is darker?

Why does Walker make the same announcements as usual along the lines of 'we have interesting news to tell in the not too distance future...' He really is a politician giving the hacks a soundbite to write about.

We know that come August, the calendar will offer very little Snooker (Is N.I. Trophy coming back?) for the forthcoming season.

If the calendar was as long as a golf or tennis one, then I would like Snooker in general to adopt many different ideas; 7 red ball games, group stages at tournaments (like the GP a while back) et al. I wouldn't expect the experience tournaments to be used for these new vehicles they must be kept prestigiously, but if there were lots of tournaments lets inaugurate as many ideas as possible.

Good news for the TV contract as well. But, whether the BBC change their timing's or not, it really isn't going to help the game unless other companies or stations buck up their own idea about the game (as i said previously about the coverage of the China Open final) with regards televisation of it. To go forward they have to all be singing from the same televised hymn sheet as it were.

Thanks, Joe

Anonymous said...

Ugh, six reds. I hope that doesn't come to fruition. It's horrible. If kids want an "accessible" cue sport they should play pool, and graduate to snooker from there.

Anonymous said...

A nice quote from O'Sullivan at the press conference ahead of what he thinks will happen at Sheffield:

“The top players find that extra gear. Me and John are the only two with that ability.”

Marlon said...

Nice one Fred Done. You can trust him to spot a winner. Thank heavens the World Championship has a decent sponsor, it was getting embarrasing.

It seems like Sir Rod has yet again wet our appetites with promises of what's around the corner. It feels like being at school and someone goes "I know this amazing secret and I'm not going to tell you. NA NA"

If a deal or plans are in the offing then why say anything at all? It's a no win situation.
Anyway, it will probably be a new ranking event in Abu Dhabi or somewhere for which 13 people turn up.

There has to be a plan to get ranking events in central and eastern europe. If the World Series is selling out in Germany and Poland then surely it is of paramount importance for the sport on a global level and also as viable business opportunity to get over there with a big ranking event involving local wild cards. Give it a few years and those wild cards will be competing like they did at this year's China Open.

How long and how exclusive is their contract with Eurosport? Would ITV, Channel 4 or Sky not be interested in an all new singing and dancing European Open. What about domestic television rights and sponsorship in these countries?

Snooker needs this. Anything else is just a sideshow.

SupremeSnooker.com said...

I welcome this announcement as it’s obviously in the interests of the World Championship to have a recognised and credible sponsor.

However, I am concerned by the fact that no figures have been announced. There’s a reason that they’ve started handing out little medals at the end of tournaments rather than cheques, and that’s because they don’t want the casual viewer to know just how much prize money has fallen in recent years.

As for the future, Sir Rodney tells us “big announcements are coming” every once in a while- it’s rarely very exciting. I’d be amazed if they manage to stage any more than one extra televised tournament next year.

It has to be said that with the World Series selling out in venues in Eastern Europe and Germany, wouldn’t it be common sense to experiment with a major ranking tournament there?

I still believe a widespread shake-up of World Snooker is needed. At the moment it gives snooker a tired, dated image, and of a sport in decline.

Let’s hope for major change before it’s too late.


Anonymous said...

I agree that a ranking tournament in Germany would be excellent but World Snooker's apparent run before they walk attitude suggests they'd rather chance a tournament further a field than somewhere like Germany where there is a proven snooker following

As for the World Championship I'm happy a sponsor was found and its a credible company however I did feel the same with 888 and that never really worked out

Monique said...

The Ronnie "droïd" will say (tongue in cheek ... ;)) ... at least he was there. Hendry? Higgins? Murphy? Maguire? Selby?

Now seriously, he should have stayed.

??? Unless he was suggested to him that maybe ... you know ... well... "Yanno Ronnie, you don't always say the right things at the right time erhhh ... what about a run?"

(and again ... joking here)

Anonymous said...

OK so snooker has a new sponsor. But some post made late in another thread (not 'Fine Art') are worth discussion, namely:

Anonymous said...

A good point was made to me today, in that, does WSA receive the full sponsorship from BetFred, or will certain individuals pocket "Finders Fees" for bringing BF to the table?

And if so, how much?

And can everyone concerned - mainly the players - be assured that no conflicts of interest have taken place, in, for instance, a board member of WSA getting any "Finders Fee"?

I mean, this is probably just hypothetical, is'nt it?

12:09 AM

Anonymous said...

And as an afterthought.

Hopefully no boardmember was in a position - and remember, this is purely hypothetical - to negotiate a deal which is well undersold and claim any "Finders Fee", but ignore any possibilities of a chance of a higher offer whereas the boardmember (hypothetical boardmember that is) would'nt be entitled to any fee.

Understandably a concerning afterthought eh?


The 12.09 poster

12:17 AM

Anonymous said...

What about a board members company being involved?

Could they claim the finders fee?

I'd say, they'd have a 110 (per cent) claim on that ...

12:46 PM

Well, whats others thoughts on the matter, or has - and if so, why - the cat got everyones tongue?

Scott said...

Mmm.... looks like the same thing I hinted at and was castigated for a few months ago. Adapt or die, and well done for WS for trying something new. It might not work, but how do you know until you try?


Fewer balls, six-minute matches and moving its world championship around the world – snooker is about to undergo its own Twenty20-style revolution.

The sport's governing body is going to launch a new short form of the game, provisionally called "Super6s", at the world championship later this month. Each frame would have the same number of colours but only six red balls.

Sir Rodney Walker, the chairman of World Snooker, also revealed yesterday that he would consider moving the world championship from its traditional home at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre with Manchester or China a potential new host, and in a further move to increase the game's popularity he also wants a major shake-up of its ranking system, with the creation of more less-important tournaments.

The Super6s will be trialled with a contest between a legends team of former players-turned-pundits and rising stars away from the main Crucible arena, where Ronnie O'Sullivan will be defending his title. It will be broadcast digitally by the BBC and viewers will be invited to offer feedback.

"As an observer of snooker you cannot churn out the same diet year after year," Walker said. "Look at what Twenty20 has done for cricket. It brought in a whole new audience so what we have in mind we think would be appealing to a younger audience. We'll ask them to tell us what they think of it via the red button. The working party who looked into this thought that a six-ball tournament with matches that take an average of six to seven minutes to play, with maybe the best of five, best of 10 frames [could work].

"We think it would give players other than top-rank players chances of winning because once you get on the snooker table with fewer balls, other people might have a chance."

Walker added that many of the sport's prominent players had been consulted and there had been "a very positive response".


Scott said...

Sorry, forgot to add it's from the Guardian.


Dave H said...

It doesn't exactly augur well that he told one journalist it is a six red event and another that it's a seven red competition

Janie said...

there's plenty of room within the sports for different formats - there's no harm in wsa jumping on the successful 6 reds bandwagon - although they'd lead you to believe it's all their own idea!
maybe they noticed that the sponsorship on the Sangsom 6-reds in Thailand has DOUBLED this year!

I was sorry to miss the press conference yesterday, I would have liked to ask Sir Rodney how he proposes to rack up 7 reds!!

CRO Snoox said...

oh my god... i can't believe that they are even considering the 6 reds play...that's awful, that's not snooker??? This is terrible!!!

P.S. Monique you're not alone, I'm a Ronnie droid too! hahaha :)

Anonymous said...

After one year of Rodney Walker having the concept of the World Series of Snooker in his possession, he has at last admitted that he has no original thoughts or ideas and has decided to copy en masse the whole concept of the World Series. Interestingly, he is also taking full recognition of the objectives published by the Snooker Players Association with regards to the revamping of the ranking system.

Anonymous said...

The 12.09 poster

"I'd say, they'd have a 110 (per cent) claim on that ..."

How much of a clue do you need?

Or maybe the cat should explain that to you ...

oneball2 said...

What was Mark King doing there?!

Personally I think this is the best news day for snooker for a long time. The 6 reds thing isn't as bad as it seems, races to 10 or more frames could work in some tournaments and everyone knows the real game involves 15 reds so it will never replace it.

I'm glad to hear about the ranking points restructure too. I've been harping on about it on 606 snooker and break-off.com and Dave suggested a while ago about lesser events around the world carrying points as an idea for the future.

It sounds like the silent majority is finally being listened to. May this be the start of the re-emergence of snooker as a top sport in the public eye. I don't wish to come across too optimistic (especially given the nature of World Snooker initiatives in recent years) but I genuinely feel the sport has bottomed out and the future is rosey with more worldwide appeal and an easier route into the game for players who don't wish to live in Wales!

By the way, there is a great predictions contest on 606 for the World Championships. Go here:


Anonymous said...

there you go again monique. deflecting as usual ;)

when something is asked of someone...if that person doesnt fulfil then theres no need to bring others into any debate, but youre good at it. sort of


Gareth said...


I appreciate your dedication to snooker, but I completely disagree with you about the 6 reds idea.

In fact, I've wanted to have my say about the state of the game for a long time, and, in light of this, and other, proposals, this seems as good a time, and place, as any.

I was a snooker fanatic in the eighties; avidly following Higgins, White, Davis, etc. I attended a number of tournaments, watched snooker every time it was on TV and subscribed to Snooker Scene (in fact I have EVERY edition from Jan 86 to Dec 01, which I'll consider selling, for the right price!). The game was magic 20-25 years ago.

Over the course of the nineties, however, the slow, lingering, decline began. And there's still no real sign of recovery! I still watch it on TV sometimes, but I stopped subscribing to SS years ago (a reflection of the game, not the magazine). I recently attended my first snooker tournament for a long time (the China Open qualifying in Prestatyn). The atmosphere was flat, even grim! I know you can say it was only qualifying, but I'll address this point in a minute.

Ironically, the professional game itself is more accomplished today than it's ever been (though it lacks the characters it once had; a cliche, but true). Despite these advances, however, the magic is no longer there. You can quote statistics about audience share, etc., but it's much more than that. The game lacks the edge-of-the-seat compulsion, the 'buzz', that football has, and darts has succesfully re-created.

There are 2 reasons for this:

1 - Snooker, in it's purest form, is NOT a spectator sport. It was never intended to be. It was conceived, quite simply, as a parlour game for nineteenth century gentlemen.

2 - Professional snooker has been 'organized', over the past 20 years, and longer, by a succession of incompetent, self-serving dinosaurs, indifferent to the true development of the game as a modern sport. Sir Rodney is probably one of the game's better governors, which speaks volumes about the quality of his predecessors!

Because of these 2 issues, the game is in a rut, and has been for a long time. This rut, in turn, can be characterized by how it affects spectators, and potential spectators, and also the players themselves ; with both parties being equally important.


- In the 21st century, with a myriad of entertainment at the disposal of consumers, particularly the young, matches are, quite simply, FAR too long for snooker to appeal to a large number of people. A World Final that lasts TWO days, or even a routine first round match that persists for an entire afternoon, and played at a leisurely pace (in comparison to sport in general), may be appealing to older, more patient fans, but it's an absurdally unrealistic demand on most young people! You may lament this, but this is how things are, I'm afraid. And many of these young people have money!

- The miss rule makes the game look silly, whatever the logic behind it.

- Spectators aren't allowed to consume refreshments, or make any noise. Whilst the reasons for these policies are obvious, it makes attending a snooker tournament comparable to living in a trappist monastery! In Prestatyn, I was surprised I didn't have to remove my shoes, in case they squeaked! Just allowing me to drink my cold bottle of Pepsi (which, instead, had to go warm in the bag I had to leave at reception) whilst watching the matches would have significantly enhanced my experience! Truly.

I suppose these problems existed in the eighties too, but that was a bygone age, and such practices were less anachronistic, and more acceptable, back then (like smoking in the office, etc.). If snooker wants to attract as much public interest, and as much public money, as possible today, however, then it must stop being so purist, and meet the 21st century spectator somewhere in the middle. This means ditching the silly miss rule (replacing it with no points penalty, but ball-in-hand, like 9-ball pool, maybe), it means players becoming A BIT more tolerant of noise/disturbance (it would be the same for everyone), so that spectators could enjoy themselves as they do whilst attending other sports, i.e. without the library atmosphere AND, more than anything, shorter matches. If you don't want 6 balls, then how should matches be shortened exactly? Fewer frames, time limits on shots? Difficult though it may be for the purist to accept, SOMETHING has to be done to make the game more digestable! It's supposed to be a SPECTATOR sport, after all!


In its present form, the World Snooker 'Tour' should be brought up for improper trade description. It's barely international, and it's hardly a tour. In fact, most professionals play all their matches in Prestatyn, or Sheffield. So where are they touring? Moreover, the structure of ranking tournaments is elitist, by accident, if not by design; with players ranked 65-96 forced to negotiate a nonsensical succession of qualifying rounds. These players have earned their place on the 'tour', on merit, so let them go straight in to play O'Sullivan, etc. If the authorities don't think they're good enough to play the top players then they shouldn't be on the 'tour' in the first place, should they. Besides, what's more important to the game than the continual injection of fresh blood?

I agree that the game needs a new ranking system, incorporating more events worldwide, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. The 'tour' structure needs overhauling, from top to bottom!

On a seperate note, whilst I'm certain it wasn't your decision personally, please pass on my disgust to Eurosport for their decision not to show the China Open final live (after having live play EVERY day previously), choosing instead to transmit that world famous sporting extravaganza, which is so popular in the UK, the Tour of Flanders. You couldn't make it up!

Please feel free to re-publish any of the above comments anywhere.

If anyone's interested in buying the magazines please contact me at:


Dave H said...

Thank you, Gareth. Some interesting opinions there, many of which I agree with.

However, I don't believe that shortening playing formats - and thus negating the high level of skill required to win major tournaments - is the answer.

No, the answer is to have more tournaments (preferably with varied formats but without changing the rules of the game). The reason snooker has fallen off the radar is that as many as six or seven weeks go by without an event on the TV. Players can't build form; viewers forget what happened in the previous tournament.

World Snooker at present has a strategy to stage ranking events only because they have to look after the world no.75 in the same way they have to look after the world no.1. This is wrong. The top players create the wealth and the interest. They bring in broadcasters and sponsorship.

I think Sir Rodney Walker recognises this and I am led to believe his future plans involve smaller events with ranking status but also more invitation tournaments to get the top players back on TV more regularly and recreate the kind of 'buzz' you mentioned.

If he can do all this he will certainly have my support.

Anonymous said...

WS deserves most of the slagging it gets

Sir RW doesnt

thats about it. he is far from brilliant but what hes done is not a total disaster like bygone years before him

while i too agree with many of gareths points, quite a few i dont.

if you adopt so much change it then basically breaks the history of the game and in doins so would mean all the comparisons we have today from the modern game of the seventies onward would be void.

all IMHO

Gareth said...

Thanks Dave

We're going to have to, respectfully, agree to disagree on a couple of things, I feel:

1 - I don't believe there should be more invitation tournaments. Any tournament on TV - with a worthwhile prize - should be open to EVERY pro, and offer ranking points, IMO - even Wembley. The game should be opened up more, not closed down less. The bigger players should be awarded more, but only if they beat the lesser players. They shouldn't be excused from having to beat them!

2 - You're right in saying that reducing the number of balls, frames, etc. would reduce the skill factor somewhat, but this is the kind of compromise that a sport that wasn't conceived to cater for spectators has to make if it wants to attract a large audience. In fact, the arguments being made on this forum, and elsewhere, against 6 balls (reduced skill, gimmicky, etc.) are almost exactly the same arguments that were made against the tennis tiebreaker in the seventies. Yet, tennis was forced to adopt the tibreaker to thrive as a TV sport. Likewise, golf was forced to introduce the single hole play-off, cricket has adopted 20-20, etc.

At some point snooker has to acknowledge the elephant in the room: it's product isn't digestable in the 21st century. There will always be some people who can sit through a 35 frame match, but most people, particularly the young, can't. The game needs to be broken up into more managable chunks (and I don't mean 4 sessions - 3 of which are devoid of a climax), to sustain a wide interest. If 6 balls isn't the answer, then another answer has to be found.

As a matter of interest, let me ask you a question?

Could you live with a world final reduced to 19 frames (i.e. completed in one day), with first round matches in the WC reduced to 11 frames, if it meant more public interest?

I'm going to guess your answer is no, because it would devalue the championship. But that's what Wimbledon said about tiebreaks. However, a generation on, does anyone believe that a Wimbledon title today is less prestigous than it was before tiebreaks? No, of course not; everyone's adapted! And everyone would adapt to shorter snooker matches, particularly if it meant more money for the players, and bringing 'the buzz' back.

Dave H said...

I wouldn't want to see the world final reduced because it should be a proper test. However, if the World Championship left the Crucible I'd like to see more players involved and so this would mean shorter matches, at least in the early rounds.

The obsession with ranking events and the notion of 'being fair to everyone' is the main reason for snooker's problems.

Any sport should be marketed using its prime asset - the top players. Indeed the vast majority of sports are.

Every player in snooker has the chance to get in the top 16. If they aren't good enough they shouldn't moan that the top players have more playing opportunities.

But the WPBSA is run by the players - including the lower ranked ones - and this is why there has been so much stagnation.

If you speak privately to WPBSA directors and employees they will agree but are powerless to change it.

Gareth said...

Thanks for that answer Dave.

As I say, we're going to have to disagree about the length of the world final. I'm sure it would attract a bigger audience if it was completed in a single day. I can't think of any other major 1 v 1 sports in which matches are played over 2 days (golf is different). The other downside of a two day final is that if it's very one sided, the second day is dead; in fact, the final session may not even be played. That's a disaster for someone who's paid, and looked forward to, the last session, and that's the only session they're attending! It's disastrous PR for the sport too.

May I ask you another question? If it was up to you, how would you structure the pro circuit? I'm really interested to hear your view on this, and I'd appreciate it if you could be as specific as possible. For example:

- How many players would you have on the tour?
- How many ranking tournaments per season?
- How would these tournaments be structured, i.e. qualifying rounds, etc.?
- Would there still be promotion/relegation to/from the tour?
- How would you change the ranking system? I'm not asking for a specific points breakdown, but would you still rank players over 2 seasons, with an official update at the end of each season, etc.?
- Any other major changes?

As I say, I'm really interested to hear your views on this.

Thanks in advance


Dave H said...

I think the rankings should take into account more tournaments, but more tournaments cost money and the WPBSA is close to skint.

Ideally, I would have it like it is in tennis, with a tournament every week and the players allow to pick and choose the ones they play in.

I'd like to see the circuit opened up. This is the only way to develop new talent.

I'd also like to see more elite invitation tournaments just for the elite.

Snooker's biggest problem is that it has slipped beneath the radar because of the huge gaps between tournaments.

There has also been a stagnation in the rankings because there aren't that many tournaments that carry points.

The only way to change this is to award some ranking points to smaller events, and that seems to be the view Sir Rodney Walker has come round to.

Gareth said...


Is there any prospect of changing the structure of existing ranking tournaments, though, i.e. getting rid of all those silly qualifying rounds, and having a proper 'tour'?

I agree there should be a more layered circuit, incorporating smaller ranking events. Maybe the best thing would be an 'A' tour for the top 64, and an open 'B' tour - not like the PIOS, but consisting of small local events? Players would earn their place on the 'A' tour via the 'B' tour. There would be NO qualifying rounds, on either tour. For this to work, though, the official (i.e. not provisional) rankings would need to be updated much more frequently, perhaps after every 'A' tour event.

My fear is, knowing the WPBSA, that awarding points to smaller events would be similar to the minor ranking tournaments in the early 90s, which made no real difference!