The Betfred.com World Championship was today launched in fine style by the two top seeds this year, John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan, at the Royal Automobile Club in London.

The two stars took part in a raft of media interviews and played a frame of snooker for the Killing Cancer charity. The frame itself was not a classic but, at £50 per point they raised £4,000 for a very worthy cause.

Higgins and O’Sullivan joined WPBSA chairman Barry Hearn and Betfred founder Fred Done for a lively press conference as the countdown to snooker’s biggest event continues.

Done described Hearn in an interview for Eurosport as “the best sports promoter I have ever worked with” and said he wanted to sign on as sponsor for another four years, even though there are still two years to run on the existing contract after this year’s championship.

“What I like about Barry is his enthusiasm. You can see it pouring out of his veins,” Done said. “We didn’t get this enthusiasm last year.”

O’Sullivan was also keen to give his backing to Hearn, who is attempting to push through wide ranging changes to the way snooker is governed after years in which the sport has slowly declined.

“It has to be voted through,” O’Sullivan said. “Look at all the new playing opportunities – what more can you ask?

“I’m sure the players will see sense. If they don’t then it’s all over as far as I’m concerned.”

Hearn described Higgins and O’Sullivan as the sport’s ‘flag bearers.’ He said Higgins “is a great character when you can understand what he’s saying with that accent of his.” At one stage he put his arm around Ronnie and said, “he’s a lunatic but I love him.”

And he disagreed with O’Sullivan’s assertion that snooker could never enjoy the financial success of golf.

“For years, the lunatics have been running the asylum,” Hearn said. “Things have to change and if they do then, in time, we can get to where golf is. One day the World Championship could have a £1m first prize.

“But we all have to work together. All the whinging, moaning mediocrity has to stop. We need to be uplifted. You have to love what you do every second.”

Hearn assured traditionalists that the World Championship will not be messed with, although he is considering musical walk-ons.

“You don’t change the crown jewels,” he said. “You put the World Championship at the top of the pyramid and build everything else around it.”

Higgins and O’Sullivan were once teenage newcomers chancing their arms at the game they had taken up as boys in the height of the UK snooker boom.

They are now two of the game’s leading ambassadors and best known faces. This comes easier to Higgins but O’Sullivan did his round of interviews as well and the day proved to be a good advert for snooker and the direction in which it is heading.

I asked Ronnie if he could see himself going to the Crucible at the age of 52 like Steve Davis. “Yeah, to watch,” he said, incredulous at the idea he would still be playing then.

Despite his well documented blow-ups, you can tell that, deep down, his love for snooker is still there, even if it isn’t there all the time.

A word on the podcast with Hearn, which should be available to download this evening: this was done after he had completed his other media interviews and, because he had meetings to get to, was slightly shorter than I had envisaged.

I didn’t have time to ask all of the questions sent in but got through a fair few in rapid fire fashion.

Alas, I neglected to press record until ten or so seconds into his first answer, so it starts with him in mid sentence. I’m not sure podcasting is going to be a new career for me.

I’ll give Hearn the last word because, like everyone else, he can’t wait for the 17-day Crucible marathon to begin.

“The World Championship is the cream on the cake,” he said. “It’s the reason professional snooker players play the game. It’s up there with the other top events in sport.

“The royalty of our sport will gather in the snooker city of Sheffield and it’s going to be fantastic. We can show the world that we can still deliver great sporting drama.”


Greg P said...

I don't think there's really much need for music at the Crucible because the atmosphere is already great there.

One thing I would like to see is interviews with the semi-finalists at the end of the match.

jamie brannon said...

Hearn will be on 5 live on Thurs Apr 15th anwsering questions from listeners about snooker and darts.

Anonymous said...

Snooker © The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared
Hello Dave
How are you! The Barry and Steve circus has got off very well in London. It was sad Dave that only the futures “Commercial Rights” “Share holders” were present.

Was the absence of BBC and Eurosport punters show some discord in the ranks Dave or just an oversight in Steve and Barry’s part?

Snookers TV viewing will not change Dave but the target that Barry and Steve have set as the takeover date will be easily met with money and promises to spare.

I think that Barry should be given the full 100% “Commercial Rights” plus a bonus if the game is still TV friendly in four years time with only the same present one year promises. Mr hey you

Anonymous said...

I love snooker so much! Look forward to the World Championship! I live in Belarus. All my family are snooker fans! Come on,Ronnie!

Claus Christensen said...

I get all excited just reading Barry's comments. If the players reject him it will be a sad day for snooker. However, I can't figure out how many players share Ebbo's views. I guess we will find out after the "cream on the cake".

Anonymous said...

Because many of them listen to their self-interested 'managers' who want to protect their own cosy positions

Snooker will be a laughing stock if it turns up its nose at this chance

Anonymous said...

More lies

Anonymous said...

Music at the Crucible is fine as long as the players respect it (i.e. no repeat of Mark King dancing to Ice Cube)

Dave H said...

It's pointless, really, as it only takes a few seconds to walk into the arena

Anonymous said...

The conspiracy of mediorcity attempting the stop Barry reminds me of a line from The Simpsons 'Monorail' song:

'What about us braindead slobs?'

'You'll be given cushy jobs!'

Anonymous said...

I agree, the presentation at the Crucible works fine as it is, it's the other tournaments that need help

Anonymous said...

i think you could tweak the crucible without harming it any