The WPBSA has tightened its disciplinary rules to cover a multitude of offences both big and small.
The new WPBSA players’ handbook includes specific fines for certain transgressions of the rules.
Conceding a frame before snookers are required, entering a tournament and then withdrawing from it without good reason and non attendance at tournament prize ceremonies, opening ceremonies, press conferences or other contracted events that are part and parcel of being a professional sportsmen will incur the following penalties:
First offence - £250 fine
Second offence - £500 fine
Third offence - £1,000 fine
After that players face suspension from tournaments.
However, the principle of ‘spent’ offences will apply for players with a poor disciplinary record who smarten up their acts. Therefore, if a reasonable amount of time has elapsed offences will be stricken from the record.
This is not draconian. Far from it, in fact. Other sports dole out harsher punishments than snooker.
Why shouldn’t players take part in official engagements for sponsors and those who put money into the tournaments they are competing in?
Why should they pull out of tournaments without notifying organisers?
Why should they give up in frames when there is still plenty on to win?
Players need to look at the bigger picture, that is the wider game and not just their own whims and moods.
However, there is no great discipline problem in general. And many of the problems that exist stem from the fact that the WPBSA has never really schooled its players into how to behave as a professional.
Yes there are written guidelines and rules but I’d like to see an induction day for all new professionals where they are sat down and have it explained to them exactly what being a snooker pro entails, what is expected of them and how they should conduct themselves.
Wise, experienced old heads such as Steve Davis and Ken Doherty would be perfect to lead such sessions.
In most cases, the flouting of the rules is done in genuine ignorance rather than through some malevolent desire for rebellion.
There was a general chat about this backstage at the Championship League this week where it became apparent that some players had just not thought through why the public would feel short-changed at them conceding early.
On this latter point, a little common sense is needed, though. There’s a world of difference between conceding with eight reds on and conceding while ten behind on the blue and leaving it over the pocket.
Punishment should apply for the former but not the latter, even though the strict etiquette of the game says that you should never concede when you are at the table, only after your opponent breaks down.
There are a couple of other general rules that have been clarified too.
Only the referee is allowed to clean the balls. Presumably there is an inference that players may try and polish the balls to make them react differently, although this raises the question of whether a player taking balls out of pockets at the end of a frame is classed as having ‘cleaned’ it.
Players also may not attempt to split prize money, something that has certainly happened before.
In a player’s head this makes sense. If the top prize is £100,000 and the runners-up prize £50,000 and they split it then they are each guaranteed £75,000.
It doesn’t mean they won’t still be trying but it is right that this is stamped out. If the public think players don’t care who wins and loses because they are getting the same money in any case then their confidence in snooker will decrease.
Ultimately, if you want to play professional snooker then you sign up to a certain code of conduct.
Nobody wants to see snooker players turned into automatons scared of doing anything that will land them in trouble but the sport is bigger than any of them and deserves to be treated with basic respect.