That’s quite enough blogging for one year.

In 2009 the blog had more posts, more comments and more readers than ever before.

It was sometimes right, sometimes wrong but always certain.

It’s also been fun despite the problems that have afflicted the sport. Ultimately, for all the political intrigue, for all that passions often get inflamed, snooker is only a game and being around the circuit and the people on it is first and foremost an enjoyable way to spend time.

Sometimes it’s exasperating too but we won't dwell on that right now.

Instead, I'd like to wish everyone reading this a very Merry Christmas, wherever you are and however you’re spending it.

There’s much to look forward to in 2010. With Barry Hearn now at the helm of the professional game there will doubtless be much happening and much to comment on come the New Year.

But it can all wait until then.

Right now it’s time to reacquaint ourselves of the true meaning of Christmas: fighting through crowds for last minute shopping, drinking copious amounts of alcohol and arguing with the family.

See you next year!



Overall I enjoyed my day out yesterday at ONEFORSEVEN in Cardiff, even if the city resembled a giant ice rink.

The harsh winter conditions undoubtedly had an effect on crowd turnout and a few big names also pulled out but several top stars took part, including Mark Williams, Mark Selby, Ken Doherty, Mark King, Matthew Stevens and the eventual winner, Ryan Day.

This was not, as some had predicted, the ghost of Pot Black Timeframe (for which many in the snooker world have undergone therapy to forget).

The format pitted eight players playing a single frame against one another. Each frame could last no longer than 21 minutes. The aggregate score for each player over the seven frames was used to calculate the overall winner.

The miss rule and free ball were thrown out and players had ball in hand after fouls, which certainly speeded things up. Not one of the 84 frames played lasted longer than the allotted 21 minutes.

Music was played throughout and the crowd were encouraged to make noise. This made it more a snooker club atmosphere and didn’t seem to put the players off.

I dare say ONEFORSEVEN wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it would be wrong to write it off without having seen it.

The players I spoke to enjoyed themselves. I’m sure Ryan will enjoy the £14,707 winners’ cheque he received – not even a semi-final prize in some ranking tournaments.

Players don’t just want to play hard tournament snooker and nothing else. They want to let their hair down (those that have any) from time to time and relax, just as spectators like to see them in less serious mode every so often.

The challenge now for the ONEFORSEVEN organisers is to gain interest from broadcasters. This may be harder than they think. The four table set up would be difficult to cover, although one appealing aspect for TV is that, unlike major tournament snooker, it is possible to discern how long the action will take.

There will, of course, be howls of protest that anyone had the nerve to tamper with the traditional form of snooker.

But the bottom line is that variants on a theme such as this and Six Reds do not threaten the established game in any way. They are merely offshoots that may have a role to play in broadening snooker’s appeal.

Most other sports have tried similar experiments. Some work, some don’t but not trying at all doesn’t get you anywhere.

Certainly the kids in Cardiff enjoyed being given the freedom to get up close to the players rather than sit silently in their seats for hours on end – not a pastime most children enjoy.

At the end, where Day, Liam Highfield and Alfie Burden were all in realistic contention for first place, there was a genuine sense of excitement and everyone got to their feet and gathered around the respective tables to see how it would end.

And remember: snooker was originally invented by messing around with the rules of other cue sports.

I’ve no doubt there were those hidebound to tradition who were appalled by this in the 19th century. If they’d had their way we’d still all be playing billiards and nothing else.

I don’t think ONEFORSEVEN is going to replace what we see at the Crucible any time soon – it’d be hard bearing in mind there is barely sufficient room for two tables in the famous Sheffield theatre.

Personally speaking, my favourite form of snooker is in major tournaments of the 15 red variety, just as I prefer Test cricket to Twenty/20 and one day internationals.

But if experiments such as this can help snooker’s future fortunes, even in a small way, then they should be given a chance.



What have been your favourite matches of 2009?

I can immediately think of three featuring John Higgins: his 13-12 victory over Mark Selby at the Crucible, 6-5 defeat to Neil Robertson in the Grand Prix semi-finals and 9-8 victory over Ronnie O'Sullivan at the same stage of the UK Championship.

O'Sullivan's 10-8 defeat of Selby in the Masters final was gripping viewing while Mark Allen's comeback against Higgins in the World Championship semi-finals was as compelling as it must have been nerve wracking for John.

I'd be interested to read the 2009 memories of snooker fans so please leave them below.



Mark Davis pocketed a Christmas bonus of €10,000 by winning the inaugural 888sport.com Six Reds World Championship in Killarney tonight.

Davis, the world no.47 from Sussex, defeated twice Crucible world champion Mark Williams 6-3 in the final.

And it means his six year-old son, Jack, and daughter Millie, aged two, can enjoy an extra special festive period.

“It’s good timing and the kids will be pleased because they know they’ve got a good present coming,” Davis said.

“I played well all through the tournament. I had some luck, which you need with this shorter format, but I made some good breaks in the final.

“With the standard of the players who came here it was always going to be a bit of a lottery as to who won. I’m just happy to be the last man standing.

“I enjoyed the whole week. It was a good tournament and very well run. Killarney is a lovely place and it’s fair to say I’m a big fan of six reds snooker.”

Davis, 37, had previously won two minor invitation events, the 2002 Masters qualifying event and 1996 Malta Masters.

To reach the final he beat fellow main tour professionals Gerard Greene, Jamie Cope, Mark Joyce, Joe Swail and Mark King.

He twice trailed Williams by a single frame but from 2-2 was the stronger player, knocking in breaks of 71 and 65 on the way to clinching victory.

Williams edged Sheffield amateur Adam Duffy 5-4 on the black in the quarter-finals before completing a comfortable 5-1 semi-final defeat of Barry Hawkins.

“I’ve had a good week,” the Welshman said. “It was more relaxed than the ranking tournaments and Mark played very well from 2-2. He deserved to win.

“I think all the players have enjoyed this tournament. It’s something different and I’m a fan of the six red format.”

Reigning 15 red world champion John Higgins saw his bid to complete a unique double ended by a 5-1 defeat to Mark King in the quarter-finals.

Ken Doherty, beaten by Duffy in the last 32 and one of the tournament organisers, said he was pleased with the first staging of the short form World Championship.

“The feedback I’ve had from the players has been very positive and we’ll definitely be back next year,” he said.

“There’s no doubt that six reds snooker has its place and we hope to be even bigger and better in 2010.”



Jimmy White will today be unveiled as the remaining wildcard for next month's Wembley Masters.

White, the 1984 champion, has recently had his popularity boosted through an appearance on ITV's 'I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here.'

He will play Mark King on the opening day, January 10.

This will be a disappointment for Liang Wenbo, the outstanding favourite for the wildcard having reached the Shanghai Masters final earlier this season.

Nobody can argue with White's popular appeal, especially in London.

However, he is currently 62nd in the provisional rankings so many will question whether he really deserves this call up.



Stephen Hendry is, of course, among the star attractions here at the Six Reds World Championship.

The seven times Crucible champion is much in demand for autographs and pictures from spectators and some of the amateur players.

Hendry is a great pro at all this stuff. He learned it at an early age and accepted it as part and parcel of being at the top of any sport.

He told me he wasn’t completely convinced by six reds snooker but that he was enjoying the tournament and happy to play in it:

“It’s certainly cut throat and there’s not room for many mistakes.

“Purists who want to see big breaks aren’t going to get that because the highest possible break is only 75 but if you had a six red event with all top players it would be intense.

“This is a bit of fun, although the competition is serious once you get out there.

“I’ve known the tournament director, Con O’Sullivan, for a long time and am friends with Ken Doherty so I was very happy to come out here and take part.

“It all takes me back to the start of my career at Pontin’s when you’d wait in the tournament office for your name to be called out and a table number.

“It’s a good event for the public because they don’t usually see top players in this environment, up so close.”

I’d echo that. There is something bizarre yet compelling about watching the likes of Hendry, John Higgins and Ken Doherty rubbing shoulders – sometimes literally – with amateurs from all over the world in the open plan, 13 table set up.

The tournament has also given players from all over the world the chance not just to meet their snooker heroes but also to play them.

Lucky Vatnani, from India, is one such player. He was very excited yesterday about the prospect of playing Hendry. In the event he almost beat him before letting slip a 3-1 lead and losing 4-3.

All of the pros have made it through to the knockout phase and I would expect one of them to win it.

Snooker devotees needn’t worry. Six reds isn’t going to replace the traditional game and neither is it going to harm it.

The players in general see this week as a chance to compete for a €10,000 first prize, come to a hospitable part of the world and wind down after the rigours of the UK Championship.

The atmosphere backstage is relaxed and players are socialising in ways they perhaps wouldn’t at a ranking event – last night’s poker evening was well attended.

And what of Alex Higgins? After two 4-0 defeats he beat James Stewart – for whom today was not such a wonderful life – 4-0 before producing a little bit of Hurricane magic to come back from 2-0 down to be 2-2 with main tour player David Hogan.

Higgins stroked in a terrific long pink and added the black in frame three before a good clearance gave him the fourth.

Sadly for his many fans – and he still has them – he was beaten 4-2.

Eurosport starts its live coverage tomorrow afternoon. Our own Mike Hallett may be playing as he’s made it through to the knockout stage.



Reanne Evans pulled off an amazing victory over John Higgins in snooker’s battle of the sexes at the Six Reds World Championship, in association with 888sport.com, in Killarney tonight.

Evans, the reigning women’s world champion, made a superb 51 break to secure the decider and complete a dramatic 4-3 defeat of the current Crucible king.

A tired Higgins had lost a gripping UK Championship final to Ding Junhui just 48 hours earlier and failed to find his top form.

But Evans played well from the start and came close to winning 4-2 before Higgins scrambled the sixth frame on the pink.

He was in first in the decider but, with standing room only for a sizeable crowd at the INEC arena, broke down on just three and Evans killed off frame and match in a single visit.

“John wasn’t firing on all cylinders after the week he’s just had but you have to take advantage,” said West Midlander Evans.

“This is one of my best ever wins. John is world champion, provisional world no.1 and will always be remembered as one of snooker’s greatest players.

“I was pleased with how I finished it off. There were a lot of people watching but that helped me to play well rather than put me under pressure.”

Higgins won his opening match, 4-1 against James Corbett, and is still likely to qualify for the knockout phase.

Evans is almost certain to be through having already beaten Aaron Doran 4-1 before her clash with Higgins.

In another surprise result, 2008 Shanghai Masters champion Ricky Walden was beaten 4-3 by Irishman Declan Brennan.

Six reds snooker is played using the same rules as the established game but with nine fewer reds. It has been described as snooker’s version of Twenty/20 cricket.

The tournament runs until Friday. Entry is free for the first two days with tickets costing €10 on the final two days.

The 130 players from as far afield as Brazil, India and the United Arab Emirates have been split into 23 groups for the round robin stage, played over the first two days, with the knockout phase getting underway on Thursday.

The last two days are being broadcast live on Eurosport and the winner will pocket a cheque for €10,000.

Results and group draws available at: www.6redworldchampionships.com


Last season's World Championship was the second most popular sporting event for users of the BBC red button service.

It attracted 3.96m viewers, more than any BBC event other than Wimbledon.

In October, the BBC axed one of its two Freeview channels available through the red button, limiting snooker viewers on this platform to only one table.


So I'm in Killarney for the first ever Six Reds World Championship, sponsored by 888sport.com.

To declare an interest from the off: I was asked to be tournament press officer and am here in that capacity.

There will be 130 group matches today and the same number tomorrow before the knockout phase begins on Thursday with the final on Friday.

Eurosport will screen live coverage on Thursday from 3.15-7pm UK time and on Friday from 3-7pm.

John Higgins is here despite his exertions in Telford, as is Stephen Hendry.

However, there were withdrawals from Shaun Murphy, Peter Ebdon and Mark Allen.

Even so, the likes of Mark Williams, Ryan Day, Matthew Stevens and the one and only Alex Higgins are among the huge international field.

I will also be keeping an eye on the progress of my commentary colleague Mike Hallett.

I'll be posting updates from behind the scenes on twitter.

You can follow the results on the official website and from Janie Watkins on global-snooker.com.

Among the matches today are John Higgins v women's world champion Reanne Evans and Michael Holt v Alex Higgins.



The emergence of China as a force in snooker was one of the most important developments of the decade about to end so it was perhaps apt that Ding Junhui won its last ranking event tonight.

His victory in the Pukka Pies UK Championship was hard fought. He beat four members of the world's top five in Telford, culminating in a dramatic 10-8 victory over John Higgins in the final.

Ding's fourth ranking title makes him the most successful player to come out of Asia.

Higgins missed a simple brown to lead 8-7 but it was through carelessness rather than pressure. Ironicially, he slipped up because he was playing for position on the blue to give him extra insurance. He took his eye off a seemingly unmissable brown and the match turned at this late stage.

Credit, though, to Ding for the way he held himself together at the end.

He is a fine young player who has now won ranking titles by beating then four greatest players in snooker history in finals: Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, Ronnie O'Sullivan and now Higgins.

China remains important to snooker's future growth. It won't all rest on Ding's shoulders but he remains the standard bearer.

His victory capped a superb tournament that was well attended and marked out by some very exciting matches.

But what a shame that, yet again, it was a midnight finish. These used to be a novelty, now they are commonplace.

This is too late for kids, too late for those with work in the morning and too late for casual viewers - the very people snooker needs to attract.

Starting at 7pm would at least mean that, come 10.30pm, a casual viewer may stick with the match because there are only two or three frames to go rather than a more daunting five or six.

Not a word of how the match ended will appear in most editions of the morning newspapers.

And the peak viewing audience figure is almost certain to be around an hour before the end.

Let's hope Barry Hearn forces a rethink in future.



While John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan were locking horns last night in their extraordinary semi-final, Ding Junhui had his feet up in his hotel room and the ferociously talented Chinese potter enters today’s Pukka Pies UK Championship final refreshed and ready to land the title for a second time.

Ding, the 2005 UK champion, has reached the final off the back of three good wins over last year’s winner Shaun Murphy, Ali Carter and Stephen Maguire. He is appearing in a second successive ranking tournament final following his run in the Grand Prix two months ago and has been highly focused and highly effective throughout the week in Telford.

In the balls, he is as good a break builder as O’Sullivan and Higgins. He’s a heavy scorer with more than 150 centuries to his name after only six years on the circuit.

Ding seems to have rediscovered the self belief he lost off the back of demoralising defeats to O’Sullivan in the 2007 Masters final and in the first round of that year’s World Championship.

He has played Higgins nine times but only beaten him twice. Even so, the Scot still has to come down from the amazing drama of his semi-final.

Higgins led O’Sullivan 8-2 but lost six frames on the spin in what threatened to become the most disappointing result of his long and distinguished career.

In the end, he fell over the winning line in a nervy decider and he needs to somehow pick himself back up and concentrate on today’s best of 19 frames clash.

That is easier said than done, which is why Ding needs to hit him early and do some damage in the first session.

If he can get on top and carry a good lead into the evening it will be hard to see him losing.

Ding’s upturn in fortunes has been a long time coming. He has exhibited mental strength and played extremely well in high pressure situations just to get this far.

A second UK title is within his grasp if he keeps believing.



So ends a night of extraordinary drama in which John Higgins...just...has booked his place in the Pukka Pies UK Championship final with his 9-8 victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Higgins won the first world ranking title of the decade, the 2000 Welsh Open, and if he beats Ding Junhui tomorrow he will win the last.

Right now, he’ll just be relieved to be through.

Leading 8-2 he was playing superbly but O’Sullivan was at 92% pot success at the time which tells you that although he had been largely shut out, he was still playing well.

They came back after the interval at 8-4, Higgins still confident of victory. Then came an incident which symbolised the turnaround even if it didn’t directly cause it.

After being called for six successive misses while snookered on all colours, O’Sullivan inadvertently touched the black with his hand.

Higgins asked for him to be put back in but the referee, Jan Verhaas, stated that it could not be called a miss because no stroke had been played.

On Eurosport commentary I agreed with him, but it was clear that this is a grey area and nobody seemed to know for sure.

Verhaas thought it over and called a miss. O’Sullivan intervened and Verhaas changed his mind and reverted to his original decision.

This is one of those arcane areas that needs to be clarified. I’m sure any referees reading this will have their own views.

I'm not for a minute saying O'Sullivan did this, but what is to stop a player being called for misses getting out of the situation by deliberately fouling a ball?

The match continued and Higgins grew edgy – understandably. Even at 8-2 he would know, somewhere in the back of his mind, that the one player in the world today capable of coming back from so far behind – apart from himself – is O’Sullivan.

And he did. All the way to 8-8.

He was in the balls in the decider but missed a pink and Higgins made what was, under the circumstances, an excellent 56 break to leave him a ball from making frame and match safe.

He later potted it to lead by 47 with 43 on. O’Sullivan chose not to play on. Considering he had fought so hard from 8-2 down this surprised me.

Perhaps by then he believed he didn’t deserve to win. Who knows? It was a night of high drama where anything was possible.

It was also a great advert for snooker: two world class players locking horns before a packed audience in one of the game’s biggest events.

The match lived up to the billing. It was superb entertainment.


I always enjoy reading Simon Barnes in The Times.

Here's his take today on the UK Championship:

It is rare that a sponsor can itself be an attraction to a sporting event. But the Pukka Pies UK Championship is a glorious thing, quite impossible to say without a smirk. It’s not exactly Asprey’s, is it? It’s snooker, of course, and it reminds me of my days at Fisher’s snooker hall in Wimbledon, eating bacon sandwiches and drinking stewed tea as I and my colleague on the Wimbledon News played for the Pot White championship.

Snooker’s great beauty is that its greatest tensions and its toughest battles are gloriously soporific: hypnotising the viewer into a Zen-like state of empty-mindedness. The patterns, the collisions, the colours; all the rivalry, all the anxiety, all the desperation is refined into a calming click-clack of dancing spheres.

Snooker is an enthralling game, and perhaps the only one in which one might find enlightenment. It’s all about calculation, about mathematics in action. It comes down to the impossible: who could ever calculate the square root of Pukka Pie?



Some incredible snooker from John Higgins and Ronnie O'Sullivan today has set up what will be their first ever meeting in the UK Championship.

They've been the two outstanding players of the decade so it's fitting they should meet in its last ranking event, even if it's in the semis and not the final.

Standards have improved over the years but so have conditions. The balls split far more easily than they once did on these super-fast cloths, which makes break building easier.

But the key word there is 'easier' - they still have to be knocked in and Higgins and O'Sullivan today produced between them some really outstanding stuff.

Bring on Saturday!


I was very impressed by the way Ding Junhui completed his 9-8 victory over Ali Carter in the Pukka Pies UK Championship last night.

He didn’t flinch and he didn’t falter as two sizeable breaks from 8-7 down got him through to the semi-finals.

The 22 year-old Chinese was in the doldrums for a couple of years but his run to the Grand Prix final in October has brought about a huge injection of confidence.

Ding was knocked back by two heavy defeats to Ronnie O’Sullivan: in the 2007 Masters final and later at the Crucible.

And his road back to full snooker health can surely only be achieved if he beats O’Sullivan on a big stage – Sunday’s final being the perfect time – to truly exorcise those demons.

But O’Sullivan first has his work cut out today against Mark Selby, who started the season slowly and was 8-4 down to Jamie Cope in the first round but fought back to win 9-8 and played much better to see off Stephen Hendry 9-5 in the last 16.

The Leicester Jester is difficult to play against because of the various facets to his game. He’s a very heavy scorer – only John Higgins made more centuries last season – but also possesses a rock solid tactical game.

Selby is also prone to making jokes and some players, keen to concentrate, can find this off-putting.

O’Sullivan was undone from 8-5 up in the 2008 Welsh Open final when he allowed himself to become frustrated by Selby’s more methodical approach.

However, the Rocket had learned his lesson by the time the pair met in last season’s Wembley Masters final, which O’Sullivan shaded 10-8.

He was also the model of patience in beating Peter Ebdon 9-3 in the second round but although he was generally solid, Ebdon made a lot of mistakes.

So O’Sullivan will have to raise his game to see off Selby, who is full of confidence and returning to form.

Selby’s hotel room was burgled while he was playing Hendry, resulting in his car being stolen.

With trademark nonchalance he seems to have shrugged this off. Nicking a place in the semis might be a consolation.



Ali Carter today became the 32nd player to compile a century of centuries in professional competition.

He had been on 98 since the Welsh Open until coming to Telford this week.



When an unstoppable force meets an immovable object something has to give. But who will win out between the fast, attacking Ronnie O’Sullivan and the gritty, grinding Peter Ebdon in the second round of the Pukka Pies UK Championship today?

Famously, indeed controversially, the tortoise beat the hare at the Crucible in 2005 when Ebdon mounted a rearguard action to recover from 8-2 down and win their quarter-final 13-11.

Ebdon denied that he had slowed the pace of play down deliberately – at one point he took five minutes to make a break of 12 – but, all the same, he got under O’Sullivan’s skin and did a proper number on him.

Ebdon has won 11 of his 28 meetings with O’Sullivan, not a terrible record by any means against the world no.1.

But O’Sullivan demonstrated great patience in beating Matthew Stevens 9-3 yesterday, exhibiting some sublime safety play and gradually getting better as the match went on, winning nine of the last ten frames.

O’Sullivan may not look forward to playing Ebdon but would enjoy beating him.

Looking for a fifth UK title, O’Sullivan has arrived in Telford in cheery form fresh from turning 34 last weekend.

He is in a good mood following the coup that saw his friend Barry Hearn installed as chairman of the WPBSA.

And though his game is not at 100% yet, he’s not a player anyone wants to draw.

Ebdon had a good win over Judd Trump in which he won all five frames played in the final session. O’Sullivan, though, is a different prospect entirely.

Ding Junhui certainly has the game to end Shaun Murphy’s title defence but has only beaten him once in six meetings.

Ali Carter was delayed until midnight through a combination of a stubborn opponent in Rory McLeod and the roll on/roll off format whereas his second round opponent, Stephen Lee, has had a day off between matches.

Rank outsider Peter Lines is appearing in the last 16 of a ranking event for the first time in ten years but twice champion Mark Williams surely represents a match too far for him.



It's been an entertaining start to the Pukka Pies UK Championship.

The snooker has been exciting - Selby v Cope, Maguire v Holt, Hendry v Davis and Higgins v Walden in particular - there have been large crowds and the conditions look excellent.

Steve Davis and others reckon the middle pockets on the Star tables, in use this season, are a bit tougher than the Riley Aristocrat tables in use last year. It may only be fractions but that's what the game often comes down to.

Still, we've had 17 centuries in the first two days and with Ronnie O'Sullivan, Ding Junhui and Ali Carter all in action today we may well have more.

Watch out for Carter: he needs two to get to 100 for his professional career.



Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis first contested the UK Championship final 20 years ago.

The following year, 1990, they took part in what remains one of the best finals ever played.

Hendry won both matches and leads Davis 43-18 in career meetings but the two players are arguably more closely matched now then they have been since those two Preston finals.

There's no doubt Hendry is struggling to follow a good performance with one equally as strong. He still plays very well in spells but at other times things are just not happening for him.

Davis remains a battler, as he proved in beating Michael Judge 9-7 to qualify, and beat Hendry the last time they played in a ranking event, in the semi-finals of the 2005 UK Championship.

It's a classic pairing between the two greatest players of all time. The snooker they produce may not live up to the billing but it is still a match to relish.



Graeme Dott has withdrawn from the Pukka Pies UK Championship after experiencing dizzy spells during the first session of his match against Mark Williams.

Dott trailed 6-2 after Williams compiled six half century breaks.

He had felt unwell during the afternoon, went back to his hotel for a meal and decided he could not continue.



So enough of the off table stuff...

The Pukka Pies UK Championship starts in Telford tomorrow and the standout tie of the first round pits world champion John Higgins against the dangerous Ricky Walden.

Walden currently sits 13th in the provisional rankings having won last season’s Shanghai Masters. He has played Higgins twice before and beaten him on both occasions.

Higgins, though, has been very consistent this year, reaching the semi-finals at least of the last four ranking events.

Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis have 11 UK titles between them and contested the final in 1989 and 1990.

They are meeting yet again in the first round, with Davis well placed to get one over on his old rival who, in Davis’s words, “has bashed me up down the years.”

Hendry certainly has a good record with 43 wins against him to Davis’s 18 but is struggling for form and Davis has a victory under his belt, having beaten Michael Judge 9-7 earlier this week to qualify.

It’s a first round with several matches that are tough to call, but Grand Prix champion Neil Robertson should beat Tom Ford and Ding Junhui will be heavy favourite against Mike Dunn.

Where will the shocks come?

Well, Crucible semi-finalist Mark Allen, rusty through lack of matches, could be vulnerable against the experienced Stephen Lee.

And Stephen Maguire, who like Allen hasn’t played competitively for two months, won’t have it all his own way against Michael Holt, who played well to beat Dominic Dale 9-4 in the qualifiers.

Mark Selby, who has fallen to 15th in the latest rankings, faces a tough opening test in the shape of Jamie Cope, whose long potting and all out attacking game can be very effective.

Peter Ebdon, the winner three years ago, will have to call on all his years of experience to handle another dangerous young potter, Judd Trump.

World no.6 Ryan Day is also up against it as he tackles Liang Wenbo, this season’s Shanghai Masters runner-up.

The outright market makes Ronnie O’Sullivan favourite for the title but he has his own problems having drawn Matthew Stevens, the 2003 UK champion, in the first round.


The first ever Six Reds World Championship later this month will be shown on Eurosport, who are covering the last two days live.

And the tournament will be sponsored by 888sport.com.

A host of big names are taking part in the event in Killarney, which runs from December 15-18, including John Higgins, Stephen Hendry, Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Alex Higgins.


Barry Hearn and Steve Davis were today co-opted to the board of the WPBSA by remaining board members Lee Doyle and Hamish McInnes.

A meeting on December 16 will install Hearn as chairman.

I think everyone will agree that Doyle and McInnes have acted responsibly in listening to the players' wishes and resolving this as quickly as possible.

It means we can start the Pukka Pies UK Championship tomorrow with the focus only on the play on the table.

Things are certainly going to change - we all hope for the better - because Hearn is not a fan of how the WPBSA is currently set up.

Hopefully everyone in the sport will pull together to give him the support he needs.



Very sadly, Stephen Maguire’s grandfather, Paddy, has died on the eve of the Pukka Pies UK Championship.

But for Paddy, Stephen may never have become a top player. When he was a boy, he practised at his grandfather’s house after Paddy knocked down a wall between two rooms to install a full sized table.

He was a charming man and understandably very proud when Stephen won the UK title in 2004.

Sadly, Stephen will have to miss the funeral to play in Telford.

“My granddad told me he wanted me to go to the UK Championship. That’s what he wanted me to do, and I will be carrying out his wishes,” he said.

“Naturally this is a sad time. But I can console myself thinking he did see me win and about how much he enjoyed being in York that night I won this title.”

Everyone at Snooker Scene sends our sympathies to Stephen and his family.


Yesterday's AGM has brought coverage and comment in UK newspapers and other media outlets.

Here is a selection...

Phil Yates in The Times.

Clive Everton in The Guardian.

Ronnie O'Sullivan gives his reaction in the Daily Express.

Hearn talks to The Sun.

He says he wants to keep the World Championship at the Crucible in the Daily Telegraph.

Comment from the Daily Mail.

And from the BBC.

Report from Sky Sports.

Account of Walker's exit from Eurosport.

More from the Mail.

Hearn promises a new era of openness to the Press Association.



Barry Hearn has issued the following statement following the AGM:

"Obviously I am delighted with today’s decision of the voting Members of the WPBSA and I relish the opportunity to revitalise the sport of snooker in the ensuing months ahead.

"There is a lot to be done and I can’t wait to get really involved, but there is still the question of my actual appointment to the Board being legally resolved.

"I am sure this will happen in the next few days and then the fun starts!

"At this stage all I can promise the membership of the WPBSA is total transparency, coupled with a regular supply of truthful information.

"Today is the beginning of a new era in snooker – we start NOW."


So Sir Rodney Walker has been deposed as WPBSA chairman but – and far be it from me to water down the widespread jubilation there appears to be in the game at this moment – the road ahead may be rocky.

Walker, Jim McMahon and Mike Dunn have indeed been voted off the board of the WPBSA. However, Walker and McMahon remain directors of World Snooker Limited, the commercial body that runs alongside the main board.

I think they should both resign from it because the players clearly don’t want them...but that doesn’t mean that they will.

The WPBSA board now has only two members: Lee Doyle and Hamish McInnes.

The constitution apparently decrees they co-opt a professional first. This should not be a player associated with either rival camp.

I would suggest an experienced, uncontroversial player who commands widespread respect, like Alan McManus or Nigel Bond.

They should immediately co-opt Barry Hearn to the board. The players have made it clear today that they want Hearn in as chairman. Failure to co-opt him would destroy the game's credibility and lead to an EGM to remove Doyle and McInnes.

Once in place, Hearn and his fellow board members should co-opt other responsible members and begin the process of renewing this bruised and battered sport.

There should not be recriminations or triumphalism. Sir Rodney should be thanked for his efforts as chairman and we should look only to the future, not the past.

Hearn’s first priority as chairman should be an independent financial audit of the association to discover its true position, because only then can he put together a business plan.

There should also be a review of senior staff to see if the WPBSA is getting value for money.

There should be a review of the tournament structure, with input from players, and of how to expand the ranking system.

There should be meetings with private promoters, many of whom have been ignored by the outgoing administration, to try and start up new events.

There should be an investigation into the financial position of the World Snooker Academy, the accounts for which have never been disclosed.

There should be a review of the WPBSA’s media strategy – assuming it has one – to ascertain how to return the sport to the newspapers.

There should be meetings with broadcasters and sponsors to reassure them as to the way forward.

In effect, the entire sport should be relaunched.

Make no mistake, miracles will not happen overnight. Tournaments will not magically appear, but one of the things that certainly helped tip the balance in favour of Hearn was a declaration from IMG today that they would be happy to work with him on the new world tour plans announced last week.

Hearn has great energy. He relishes a challenge and I have no doubt he and his team will roll up their sleeves and get stuck in almost immediately.

Not everything they will do will meet favour with everyone, but with Steve Davis acting as a guiding hand, I think any fears that snooker’s integrity will be threatened are unfounded.

This is a day of hope, a day many feared would not come.

Professional snooker is still a relatively young sport. It’s already had one boom, who is to say it can’t have another: in Europe, the Middle East and Asia?

It’s still morning in the snooker world and there’s still much that our game can accomplish.

And it starts today.


The WPBSA has released the following statement after today's AGM:

"Following an AGM, held in Sheffield today, at which Sir Rodney Walker, Jim McMahon and Mike Dunn were not re-elected to the board of the WPBSA, and at which no other individual stood for election, the remaining board members, Lee Doyle and Dr Hamish McInnes, will now co-opt further individuals to the board, as a matter of priority. The first such appointment will be a professional player, as governed by the constitution of the WPBSA."

Two points:

1) Why are the WPBSA not announcing the actual voting figures?

2) They'd better not co-opt Peter Ebdon, a player associated entirely with the board that has just been rejected (he stepped down earlier this year with Sir David Richards to save the WPBSA money).


Unconfirmed reports from Sheffield suggest Sir Rodney Walker has been defeated in his bid to remain WPBSA chairman by 32 votes to 24.

More follows as I get it...

EDIT: World Snooker has confirmed Walker, Jim McMahon and Mike Dunn have all been voted off the board of the WPBSA.

UPDATE: It seems the actual figure was 35-24 against all three board members but the WPBSA is refusing to disclose them.

Why? This is indicative of the needless secrecy that needs to end. Now.



There hasn’t been a WPBSA AGM so eagerly anticipated by the snooker world in a decade.

Tomorrow at 12pm in Sheffield, a city more used to on table battles, players will meet to decide whether to keep things as they are now and hope for a turnaround under the current regime or take a chance on a new way forward.

The last crucial vote was an EGM to remove the board shortly after the rejection of the Altium deal in 2002. The board survived 48-36.

Prior to this there was a period where there seemed to be a crunch vote every few months.

These were not always straightforward affairs. There was one AGM in a hotel in Birmingham held just before Christmas that descended into farce when the scrutineers, on their way to count the votes, found their path to the lift blocked by a conga of old aged pensioners.

Many of these votes were close with all manner of promises and misinformation having swirled around for weeks, as is the way of political campaigning.

Indeed, in the lead up to the current AGM a rumour went round that Barry Hearn, who has said he would be prepared to become chairman if Sir Rodney Walker is defeated, was planning to cut the professional circuit to just 32 players, something Hearn categorically denies.

There’s no evidence this was sanctioned by anyone high up in the governing body, although it could be an example of what Walker meant by ‘misleading, inaccurate and downright untruthful’ comments he alluded to last week.

Both sides have been crunching the numbers and there are indications the vote will be close.

It’s hard to see how it can’t be considering the constituency of voters is just 72: the top 64 from the past two seasons plus the five current WPBSA board members.

It’s not known whether Jimmy White sent in a proxy form before heading into the Australian bush. In such a small group of voters, it could ultimately make all the difference.

Walker, as incumbent, started favourite but there has been a groundswell against him in recent days.

Many players are simply fed up with the way things stand now and the ‘time for a change’ mantra is a difficult one to resist.

Then again, the only figure I will believe is the one that comes tomorrow. The BBC exit poll from the 1992 British general election forecast a hung parliament. In the end, John Major’s Conservatives won with a record vote.

But the exit poll wasn’t wrong – huge numbers of people had simply been unable to admit they were voting Conservative.

Walker is apparently behind right now, but that’s assuming everyone is telling the truth about their intentions. In a secret ballot, you never really know.

The great irony is that Walker was not under any obligation to stand for election this year. He was due to next year but said he brought it forward because he wanted to show the BBC and others that the sport had firm leadership and stability as key contracts were renegotiated.

This is commendable but his administration’s refusal to recognise the newly formed Snooker Players Association has brought us to this point. It was the SPA who persuaded Hearn to effectively throw his hat into the ring.

After becoming WPBSA chairman in 2004, Walker very quickly set about bringing stability to snooker, both financial and political.

Rows continued, as they do in all sports, but snooker’s fortunes appeared to be turning around.

Walker helped bring in replacement sponsors for the game’s three biggest events – the World Championship, UK Championship and Wembley Masters.

He presided over the renegotiation of contracts with the Crucible, the BBC and a new deal with Eurosport that has brought the game into the living rooms of a legion of new fans across Europe.

Walker’s administration also secured the long term future of two ranking events in China, both financially underwritten by the Chinese.

He proved to be a first rate front man, always poised in public, particularly in the moving speech he gave at Paul Hunter’s funeral.

However, 888.com and Saga both exercised early termination clauses in their sponsorship agreements and Walker was forced to dip deep into the reserves of money he had spent so long building up.

Prize money has fallen and there are only six ranking events currently on the schedule for this season.

Controversially, Walker took money in the form of commissions on contracts he had negotiated in his salaried role as WPBSA chairman, despite an earlier WPBSA report by renowned sports lawyer Mark Gay labelling such commissions unethical.

Steve Davis has said he is voting against Walker “for this reason alone.”

Hearn is a gregarious, energetic, what-you-see-is-what-you-get figure who first got involved in snooker in 1974 when he bought a chain of snooker clubs.

As manager of Davis, he was one of the leading figures of the 1980s boom. He is often credited as being behind it. This isn’t true, but he was one of the first to spot the sport’s off table potential and made fortunes as boss of the Matchroom stable through endorsements, exhibitions and, of course, prize money.

He deserves credit for trying to expand snooker’s global appeal, taking tournaments to China, Thailand, Dubai, Hong Kong and various other parts of the world.

He was treated with suspicion by the snooker establishment and gradually came to concentrate on boxing, pool, football, darts and even fishing.

Hearn’s great talent is in making something out of apparently very little: identifying niches and marketing them with vigour and enthusiasm.

I have no doubt that if he became chairman he and his team would at least inject a bit of fun back into the sport and certainly improve its standing in the media, which has ebbed away over the last five years.

But Hearn admits snooker’s fortunes cannot be turned around overnight. The sport’s reputation will have to be built back up and its image updated before a string of new high profile tournaments appear.

Hearn isn’t making a desperate bid for power. He’s happy to help if asked; happy to carry on with his other commitments if not asked.

The truth is, Barry Hearn doesn’t need snooker.

We’ll find out tomorrow whether snooker feels it needs Barry Hearn.


Congratulations to Tony Drago, a professional for 24 years, who has become the the 31st player in snooker history to compile a century of competitive centuries.

Drago achieved this milestone during his match with Mark Davis in the third qualifying round of the Pukka Pies UK Championship last Saturday.

Few players have as pure a love for the game as the Maltese, who returned to the pro circuit this season after one year as an amateur.