It’s a semi-final line-up few would have predicted in the Wuxi Classic. In fact, scrap that: it’s a semi-final line-up nobody would have predicted.

But the four men in action today all have one thing in common: they are all committed to the sport.

Stuart Bingham, Mark Davis, Ricky Walden and Marcus Campbell each love their snooker. They love playing. If they weren’t playing today they’d probably be practising.

There have been some unlikely semi-final match-ups down the years. The old ITV tournaments produced a few.

In 1990, the last four of the Mercantile Classic looked like this:

Steve James v Steve Davis; Warren King v Silvino Francisco

The same year’s British Open featured this semi-final line-up:

Alex Higgins v Steve James; Bob Chaperon v Robert Marshall

In fairness, this event used a random draw.

Anyway, there’s £75,000 available for someone. I suppose the logic suggests a Bingham v Walden final as these two are already ranking title winners.

But sport is the great theatre of life, and the ending isn’t pre-ordained.

Mark Davis and Marcus Campbell, as I wrote yesterday, have worked very hard to get to this position.

For those who have never been at the qualifiers, it’s no fun at all. They don’t feel like tournaments. There’s hardly anyone watching. There’s no atmosphere. It’s a trial.

Mark and Marcus have been mired in the qualifiers, at various unglamorous locations, for the best part of two decades.

I don’t care what anyone says: they deserve their moment in the sun. I hope they enjoy it.



Newspaper headlines suggested today that Ronnie O’Sullivan was planning a breakaway tour but these were misleading. He isn’t.

What O’Sullivan wants is a series of tournaments featuring hand-picked players he thinks the public would like to see.

He wants these to run alongside existing World Snooker tournaments, although with the tournament calendar now so packed it would be hard to see how clashes could be avoided.

Not all the quotes made it into the original stories but I have been given access to them.

This is what O’Sullivan said:

“Other players like John Higgins and Mark Williams may feel the same as me soon. Get them with maybe Stephen Hendry, Ding Junhui, Neil Robertson and Judd Trump and you have a show.

“These are the players people want to see, the rest like Ali Carter are making up the numbers.

“I don’t see myself as in competition with World Snooker, they have big tournaments, but if I’m not in main events I need to do other stuff.

“Stephen Hendry retired for similar reasons, a year down the line who knows who might be up for it.

“People switch on the TV to watch certain players, like with John McEnroe in tennis. They know the characters, know the person, are excited by what they do and waiting for something to happen.

“I am not the only one who feels this way, I am the only one who has had the balls to say it. I believe there is another way, and I can open a door for other players.

“They could be fantastic, proper tournaments. Only eight players would have the status that bring something to that, that the public would pay to see, that I would pay to see.

“I think seven or eight now on tour would be interested in that concept.”

O’Sullivan is right that there are a handful of star names that draw the crowds. This is true of any sport.

But the danger is that a slew of tournaments featuring a small number of players would soon become a bore.

Without a ranking system or joined-up structure underpinning them they would just look like a series of exhibitions, although this is not to say they wouldn't attract the paying public.

An exhibition featuring Ronnie against, say, Jimmy White is a good night out and the Snooker Legends organisers have made a success of their events, of which these two crowd-pleasers are a part.

I can fully understand why O'Sullivan's idea would appeal to players: well paid events for little real pressure.

But would the public really take to them?

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn was distinctly unimpressed. He said: “Ronnie is looking for something to do and tour players are not allowed to play in unsanctioned events. We won’t sanction anything counter-productive to us.

“Tour players playing in events set up by Ronnie is a non-starter. I expect him to support the game that made him a world champion, not undermine it.

“He’s a great player and we want him on tour, but there would be zero tolerance for him or others joining him on this kind of thing. I am talking heavy sanctions.”

On the face of it this isn’t very constructive. Why not work together?

But neither of these big characters seems willing to back down now. In fact, the O’Sullivan v Hearn turf war is developing into a rather tedious clash of egos.

If O’Sullivan feels the players’ contract is too restrictive then he has every right not to sign it. However, World Snooker sources are adamant he asked for appearance money, which they flatly refused to pay.

O’Sullivan can beat anyone on the snooker table but he won’t beat Hearn off it. He has various people in his ear telling him he’s worth more than everyone else but all they have done is left him without playing opportunities and, therefore, financially poorer.

Ironically, he seemed to be at his happiest early in his career when he was managed by, yes, Barry Hearn.

This latest plan will probably fall flat too. World Snooker won’t sanction tournaments that clash with their own and the other players won’t risk disciplinary action by competing in rival events.

I was there in the thick of the TSN breakaway tour and all that it ultimately did was damaged snooker and seriously depleted not only its reputation but also its cash reserves.

However, if O’Sullivan can bring new events to the table then World Snooker should not withhold a sanction just because he doesn’t want to enter all of their tournaments.

One thing worth mentioning in closing: there already is an event which features the game’s biggest names playing a series of matches for big money.

It’s called the Premier League and O’Sullivan has opted not to play in it despite winning it ten times, including all but one time under the shot clock rules.

Had he won it this year it would have been worth around £80,000 to him. It’s an event he genuinely enjoys and I think it’s one he’ll miss when it starts in August.

Perhaps the real test of this long running saga is the extent to which it misses him.


Mark Davis and Marcus Campbell would appear to be late bloomers judging by their steady progress over the last 2-3 seasons.

They had both been saddled with the dread tag 'journeyman' for years before finally breaking into the top 32.

They have done it by consistently making it through the qualifiers and then getting some good results at venues and in PTCs.

With so many tournaments now, consistency is rewarded and confidence can be found. Both Davis and Campbell turn 40 this year but are experiencing the best spells of their careers.

They are through to the quarter-finals of the Wuxi Classic today. Davis faces Graeme Dott, whose 85 to kill off the decider against Rod Lawler yesterday included a good, do-or-die brown into the pack.

Campbell meets Mark Williams, who has started the new season better than he finished the last.

If Davis and Campbell are to make the next step up then these are matches they need to win, against proven tournaments winners.

Neither has ever been in a ranking event semi-final before but in snooker, no matter the age, no matter the career background, it's never necessarily too late if you believe in yourself.



Judd Trump has enjoyed himself since exiting the World Championship in a disappointing fashion, losing 13-12 from 12-9 up to Ali Carter.

Trump has holidayed in Las Vegas and Dubai, spending some of the money he won during a busy and productive season.

And he should take time to have fun. The worst thing he could have done was got back on the practice table a week or so after losing to Carter. The defeat would have been fresh in his mind.

He needed to get away from the snooker table.

Well, now he’s back and against Dominic Dale in the Wuxi Classic today was superb. Back-to-back centuries followed by a 75 clearance launched by an audacious long red made it 3-1 and he didn’t take long to wrap things up after the interval.

Trump starts the new season second in the world rankings. Mark Selby’s consistency is such that he will be hard to overhaul at the top of the list but it’s a long campaign with many titles to contest.

The biblical parable of Samson losing his hair and thus his power did not apply for Trump.

He may be shorn of a few locks but he avoided becoming another seeded scalp.



World Snooker this evening issued a statement so coded I wondered at first if it was to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing’s birth.

As with so many things, it is really all about Ronnie O’Sullivan, even though he isn’t mentioned anywhere.

O’Sullivan apparently wrote on Weibo (a sort of Chinese twitter) that he would like to play at the Shanghai Masters as a wildcard.

World Snooker responded: “World Snooker allows for wild cards in certain events outside of the UK in order to give local players opportunity and experience in world class events and to develop talent in important markets. Wild cards are only available to amateur players from the host country or region, and they are selected in conjunction with World Snooker, the WPBSA, the National Governing Body and the Promoter of the event.

In short, O’Sullivan will not be a wildcard for the Shanghai Masters. Did anyone genuinely think he would be? It would have been an absurd situation.

Speaking of absurd, I was always told that wildcards were a strictly commercial idea, designed to attract money and interest locally. The World Snooker statement somewhat contradicts this.

In my opinion – and I’m sure many players would agree – wildcards should not be used to provide training opportunities for amateurs. They should be to produce a commercial gain for snooker. If there is no commercial gain, they should be scrapped.

Here is the answer to what has been gained commercially from the wildcards this week: nothing.

The crowds have been miniscule for wildcard matches, compared to the legions who turned out to watch Ding Junhui (and went home disappointed).

It is an outrage that Ali Carter, who just last month reached the World Championship final, was shunted round the back out of range of the TV cameras so that Zhou Yuelong could play Michael White on TV.

This is nothing against Zhou, a fine prospect at just 14. I thought his century break was marvellous and a clear sign of his potential.

But world ranking events should not be used to train Chinese players. Qualifiers have sweated blood to get through to China and are being penalised by having to play talented wildcards under far less pressure for no additional financial reward.

All this in an era we are told is supposed to be a meritocracy.

The problem is one of precedent. World Snooker was so badly run in the past that when the China Open returned to the schedule in 2005, the only way it could be paid for was to agree to wildcards.

The Chinese wanted 16. They got 16. World Snooker has since got them down to eight.

Now that the tournaments are financially underwritten by the Chinese, they can continue to call the shots.

But there is no evidence the Chinese public is interested in these matches so their worth to the tournament surely now has to be questioned.

As for O’Sullivan, he once again raised the prospect of appearance money, payable by local promoters to players such as himself.

As I’ve said before, I would have no problem with this. An independent promoter should be free to pay any player whatever he wants to play in his own tournament, as happens in sports such as tennis and golf.

World Snooker, however, were correct to turn down O’Sullivan’s request for appearance money. A governing body should treat all players equally.


Ding Junhui is the standard bearer of the Chinese snooker revolution but the Wuxi Classic will be an especially special tournament for him.

In the vast land that is China, Ding hails from Wuxi. The invitation tournament was originated because of him.

This by no means guarantees him victory today against Mark Davis, though. Ding has at times seemed to feel the pressure of home expectation, losing to players he would normally be expected to dispatch.

Or is this merely Ding all over? He does seem to be among the more inconsistent of the star names.

Last season he played very well to win the Welsh Open (leaving aside the fact Stephen Lee may have beaten him but for that untimely mobile phone) but had just a semi-final and quarter-final to show from the rest of the ranking events.

Like most players he had other things going on. He bought a house in Sheffield. He was unwell at the World Open.

Nevertheless, few would have predicted his collapse from 9-6 up to Ryan Day at the Crucible.

Afterwards he was livid, hitting out at the crowd and swearing, for which he was fined.

Perhaps it was also a reaction to a campaign more disappointing than some of those he had previously enjoyed.

Well, it's a new season and thus a new start. But Neil Robertson is already out and top 16 players coming in cold can be expected to be a little rusty.

Ding got lucky against Mark Davis at last season's UK Championship, fluking the pink out of a snooker in the decider. The next time they played, at the Welsh, he ran through him in under an hour.

His hometown supporters will be hoping for similar today. But experience will tell them that Ding is a difficult player to predict.



If it’s the first day of Wimbledon it must be the start of the ranking tournament season.

Three years ago that would have been unthinkable. But the Wuxi Classic, one of five ranking events staged in China this season, starts in Wuxi City on Monday.

There are a few absentees. Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins haven’t entered while Matthew Stevens has withdrawn citing a back injury.

This is the first tournament I can ever remember Stevens pulling out of. It’s bad news for him but, inevitably, good news for Joe Perry, who he was due to play.

It doubtless seems like an early start for some top players but if they’d ever had jobs other than playing snooker they’d know that seven weeks – which it has been since the world final – is a holiday period unheard of in most professions.

There is a £75,000 top prize on offer, plus ever valuable ranking points.

I don’t know who will win the title but I suspect it will be someone who has been practising properly, though it is also true to say that some players need to practise more than others.

The qualifiers may, for once, be at an advantage because they have at least had competitive outings whereas most of the top 16 are coming in cold.

That said, some of the elite band have played in the first Asian PTC, won by Stuart Bingham, who will obviously be full of confidence.

Mark Selby, as world no.1, is the top seed. He plays Barry Hawkins, who beat him 10-3 in the first round at the Crucible.

But Selby was unable to play properly in this match due to his neck injury, which he says has “90% cleared up.”

I’m pleased to hear this but you don’t want to play professional snooker with even 10% pain in your neck.

There have been a number of players to suffer from neck/back/shoulder problems over the years and they always tend to be the hard practisers and players who play in everything.

Selby, though, is pretty tough and clearly determined not to allow his condition to force him out of any more tournaments.

On the face of it, there’s no reason to believe the main titles won’t be shared around again between the same faces who have won them for the past few years.

It would be nice to see a few new winners, too, but almost all of the qualifiers are vastly experienced campaigners.

The one exception is Michael White, who has qualified for the final stages of a ranking event for the first time in his career.

White won the world amateur title – or a version of it after it was rescheduled from earthquake-hit Pakistan to Wales – when he was just 14. He is now 20 and a rising star in the pro ranks.

He’s a good friend of Jamie Jones, who so impressed at the end of last season. They both come from Wales, a place with a proud snooker tradition, and are of the right age to grasp the proliferation of opportunities in this new era.

Eurosport’s coverage of the Wuxi Classic starts at 7.30am BST on Monday.



Stuart Bingham is the player who perhaps best exemplifies the ‘have cue, will travel’ attitude.

All throughout his career, he has actively sought out snooker at any level to play in. If there was a pro-am on, Bingham would be there and would invariably be the winner. No tournament is beneath him: it’s the same game after all.

So here we are not yet even into July and Bingham has won two titles this season: first the large Pink Ribbon pro-am in Gloucester and today the first Asian PTC in Zhangjiagang, China.

Bingham defeated Stephen Lee 4-3 in the final. The event was dominated by Chinese players but the latter stages were mainly contested by professionals.

These ranking points could be very important at the next cut-off. Bingham began the season 16th on the ranking list and 14th in the projected seedings.

His love of playing and preparedness to go wherever he needs to is admirable. Stuart is one of snooker’s genuine good guys and all the success he has had he has earned the hard way.



How equitable should the split of prize money be on the professional snooker circuit?

Barry Hearn has virtually doubled total prize money since becoming World Snooker chairman two years ago and last year was a bonanza for a significant number of players.

For the first time in snooker history, ten players earned in excess of £200,000.

A total of 18 players earned at least £100,000 and 32 earned at least £50,000.

However, around half failed to earn the average UK wage, which at the last estimate was around £26,200 according to official figures.

So what, you may argue. The money is there to be earned by players who do well. Sport isn’t a charity. Snooker’s pay structure is similar to other sports.

All valid points, but so is the assertion that there is a serious divide between the haves and have-nots in snooker.

Take the Q School. This costs £1,000 to enter but players who get through (who have their money returned) have to win two matches in most events to earn any money at all. In last week’s Australian Open it was three matches.

Remember, they have already had to pay entry fees and their expenses for travelling to and staying in Sheffield.

The other arguable inequity is the relative amount of effort required to earn money from the professional game.

Rod Lawler played 11 matches before securing his tour card. He has since played seven matches in the first two events and qualified for the Wuxi Classic, where he is guaranteed £6,000.

This is the same guarantee as a top 16 player who is coming in for his first match. With this system of guarantees it would take a poor season for a member of the top 16 not to earn £100,000 as a minimum from the campaign.

Again, you could argue so what? These players have all started from nothing in round one of the qualifiers and worked their way up the ranks, got into the elite top 16 by their performances.

They have and they deserve their rewards, but are they getting too big a slice of the overall cake for, in some cases, barely winning a match?

I’m firmly against what Hearn describes as ‘subsidising mediocrity’ but would argue that mediocrity is a relative term.

Some players are obviously better than others. 
There are exceptional players, of course, but lower down the ranks there is still considerable ability.

If you think any of these players are mediocre then offer to play them for money and see how you get on.

To be on the circuit is to be the elite. There are many amateur players who have not made the grade. You have to be something special to survive the cut.

Is it really too much to ask to give the players some prize money earlier in tournaments – even if it’s just enough to cover expenses?

This would involve cutting the cake a little (not by fortunes) at the top level but surely money at all levels of the tour should be earned by winning matches rather than merely turning up.

There’s enough pressure as it is playing snooker for a living without having to think about the financial burden too.

I’m not talking handouts. But in the PTCs if you win a match you get money. Why not in ranking events?

I think top prizes should be big because they are headline figures: literally, they attract headlines. They also reward the considerable achievement of winning a tournament.

But many players are in danger of being priced out of the game. They will be replaced but only by players who face the same financial challenges.

This is a particular problem for young players. The last thing we want is new talent unable to afford playing.

The argument against is that it is merely propping up players who do not add anything commercially to snooker. We all know who the stars are, the wealth creators who bring in broadcasters and sponsors.

But I think that’s a rather sorry way to look at it, not least because matches are now being streamed on the internet. Money is being made on these matches by bookmakers and others – but in some cases not the players themselves.

Can that really be right?

One of the main problems is the labyrinthine qualifying structure. I’m still sceptical as to whether Hearn’s stated aim of having everyone start from round one will ever happen, but it could be the key to what many would see as a fairer pay structure.

Because though it’s true that prize money has dramatically increased in snooker in recent times, it’s equally true that many are missing out.

In this way, snooker of course mirrors wider society. But the difference is we have the chance to do something about it.



In the 1970s there was Ray Reardon, in the 1980s there was Steve Davis and in the 1990s there was Stephen Hendry.

In seasons since, John Higgins, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams have all had spells of dominance but will snooker ever again have a figure who wins the lion’s share of major titles over a prolonged period of time?

Well, forever is a long time. But how about the next few years?

Mark Selby is the world no.1 but he isn’t the game's dominant player in the tradition of Reardon, Davis and Hendry.

O’Sullivan is world champion but, although he dominates the headlines, he didn’t dominate last season. Nobody did. Several players had their moments. Most of the major titles were shared around.

Why? Because there is a core group of around ten players who play snooker to a very high level and who are all capable of beating each other on the big occasions, and indeed they do so.

There is very little between them, even though O’Sullivan is still regarded by many (including players) as better than the rest at his best.

Stephen Hendry once won five consecutive ranking titles. This was extraordinary then but it would be even more so today because Hendry did not have as many players at the top of the game playing to the sort of standard he was capable of producing.

Standards rise all the time in sport and snooker is no different. Through the ranks there are now more players able to play at a high standard. Often players play brilliantly and lose early in tournaments.

But this is by no means the whole story. It isn’t just about ability but also mindset.

The reason Davis and Hendry dominated, apart from how they played, was that they wanted to. They wanted to so much that they made the sacrifices necessary to dominate.

Few players since have been as driven as that. Most come from humble, working class beginnings. When they start earning money in much greater amounts than they would have thought possible when young they become comfortable. They start to spend their money and enjoy themselves.

This is entirely understandable. It is human. Many would feel it a sad state of affairs if they didn’t.

But this approach doesn’t make champions who will threaten places in my fictional Mount Rushmore of snooker.

The Davis’s and Hendry’s were the players who stopped in on Saturday night because they wanted to be up early on a Sunday morning to practise. They were the players who won a tournament and put it out of their minds. They were relentless in their belief that nothing was ever good enough, that success could always be bettered.

Higgins and O’Sullivan have freely admitted they are not made this way, and Williams doesn’t seem to be either.

If a player can earn £200,000 a year playing snooker, if they are happy to win a title or two a year, then they may well wonder why they should change.

Even with the Davis/Hendry approach there is no guarantee a player could dominate again, such is the tough opposition out there.

If it did happen and a player emerged who topped the rankings and won most of the major prizes, would it be a good thing for snooker?

In some senses, yes. It would provide a focal point, as Phil Taylor has in darts, as the man to be shot at.

The downside, though, is that many people do get bored watching the same player win everything, as if it takes away the sense of the unexpected.

The question is, will it happen again?

Well, if it does then it is going to take one very, very special player.



The WPBSA is to investigate a story in the Daily Star on Sunday which alleges an associate of Jimmy White made money betting on him to lose matches.

John Callaghan, who regularly travels the circuit with White, is reported by the newspaper to have made more than £5,000 betting against him.

However, the Star also makes clear he also bet on White to lose matches he went on to win and do not make any allegations against the former UK and Masters champion.

It appears Callaghan is a regular gambler, betting on many players, including White. The Star reports he lost as many bets as he won.

But the WPBSA said: “The WPBSA takes very ­seriously any allegations of betting irregularities in ­relation to snooker. 

“Where any such information is received we will carefully ­examine the circumstance and liaise with the betting industry and Gambling Commission to decide whether an investigation is merited.”

There has been a culture of betting in snooker ever since there’s been snooker. It has not been uncommon for friends and managers to bet on or against their players, usually in all innocence.

But clearly those within the snooker world have to be very careful to avoid the impression of collusion or corruption.

Betting on your own player, particularly to lose, is therefore not a good idea.



Perhaps the most ominous line in the disciplinary verdict on Mark Allen is that he must attend media training.

I’ll admit a prejudice here: I’m suspicious of media training.

It has been prevalent in politics ever since Margaret Thatcher was taught how to lower her voice to sound more substantial. In modern politics, it seems to exist to teach politicians how to get around answering difficult questions.

I think the public relate better to people who are their natural selves than polished clones from a PR production line.

Despite my antipathy to media training, when World Snooker asked if any journalists were interested in providing this service to players last year I declared an interest. I wasn't asked but my method would have very simple.

In my opinion, the best media training you can give a player is to have them spend time with snooker journalists: to get to know them, to de-mystify the way the media works and to build up relationships.

I think this should be a must for all new professionals: spend a day in a press room somewhere, learning how it all works. There is more to being a pro snooker player than pitching up with a cue on day one at the qualifiers.

You can teach them various tricks of the media trade but only by developing relationships with the people who will be interviewing them will players relax and be themselves.

During Sky’s coverage of the England v West Indies Test series there was a very good set of programmes following young England cricketers in their training. They had a media day with cricket journalists in which they got to know them, chatted about themselves and generally broke down the barriers between sportsman and media.

Because the only way you will get anything interesting out of a player is through establishing trust. If the players trust that the journalists will not stitch them up or misreport them then you get better media coverage because they will be naturally more open. They will be themselves.

When I first became a freelance there was a small, established group of regular reporters out on the circuit. Far from trying to keep me out, they could not have been more welcoming or helpful.

There was Clive Everton and Phil Yates, my colleagues on Snooker Scene, John Dee, who primarily wrote for the Daily Telegraph, and Trevor Baxter, a remarkably industrious freelance who covered any sport that moved.

Together, we went to pretty much every tournament. Players would come down to the pressroom, often just for something to do, and informal relationships would be formed. It meant when the players came to press conferences they were more relaxed in our company.

Phil and Trevor covered the Norbreck qualifiers in the early 1990s. They pretty much trained Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams in how to deal with the media through their constant interviews over the course of many weeks.

The most important thing is for a player to be honest and open within the confines of remembering their professional responsibilities to the sport itself.

“I’m obviously disappointed but he played really well and I wish him all the best for the rest of the tournament,” might sound gracious but it’s of zero interest to journalists because it doesn’t provide a story.

Many stories that do get in the newspapers are about arguments and bust-ups but not all.

I used to write for a few Scottish papers. The Scots players were all excellent in providing in interviews something more than just a blow-by-blow account of how they played.

Stephen Hendry had done so many interviews that he was a great pro. When he won he spoke properly and with authority. When he lost he didn’t pretend it didn’t matter. If he said nothing at all it was a story in itself.

Higgins often chipped in with some family news or something about Celtic, knowing it would be helpful to journalists and, as it got him press coverage, helpful to him too.

Alan McManus, Stephen Maguire, Graeme Dott: all very honest. Chris Small was straightforward about the extent of his back condition.

O’Sullivan has almost always given more than just the basics and Ken Doherty and Steve Davis are examples of senior players who understand what the press want.

There are other players who not only don’t understand what the media want but quite obviously don’t care. These should be given media training before Mark Allen.

Will the media training make Allen more interesting? I doubt it.

Some of his comments have got him into trouble but the last thing we want is a succession of identikit players who all sound the same, all have the same mannerisms, all trot out the same bland phrases.

That isn’t going to do anything for snooker.



John Higgins and Shaun Murphy have completed the field for the Partypoker.com Premier League, which starts in August.

Murphy has been invited as Brazil Masters champion and Higgins receives a wildcard in the absence of Ronnie O'Sullivan, the ten times champion, who is not playing in the early part of the season.

The full line-up and details of matches are here.

I think the format - two groups of five - is much better than last year's but O'Sullivan's non-appearance is a blow to this event because he has been so dominant since the shot-clock was introduced. Financially, it's a blow to him too: the winner takes £50,000 plus it's £1,000 a frame.

The number of tournaments on the circuit has grown but the amount played in the UK, the game's traditional home, has reduced, so the Premier League is important for bringing live snooker to places otherwise starved of seeing the world's best players.



Mark Allen has been fined £10,000, plus £1,000 in costs, by the WPBSA disciplinary committee for his derogatory comments about Cao Yupeng and Chinese players in general at last season’s World Championship.

Allen will be suspended from playing for three months if he breaks any further WPBSA rules in the next six months.

The WPBSA statement read:

“The Disciplinary Committee of the WPBSA has formally considered the case of Mark Allen in relation to his comments in a press conference on Sunday 22nd April 2012 following his defeat in the Betfred.com World Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. In this conference he accused his opponent Cao Yupeng of cheating and said that cheating appeared to be a trait of Chinese players.  He named two other Chinese players as being known for cheating.

“This follows on from a previous case where Mark was fined £1,000 and warned as to his future conduct for comments he made about China and the Chinese people on twitter.

“The Disciplinary Committee found that he is in breach of the following members rules:

“1.1  Members shall, at all times (i.e. whether at a Tournament or not), behave in a proper and correct manner consistent with their status as professional sportsmen. Members shall not do anything which is likely to intimidate, offend, insult, humiliate or discriminate against any other person on the grounds of disability, their religion, race, colour or national or ethnic origin, sex or sexual orientation.

“1.2  A Member shall not make or cause to be made any statement or commit or cause to be committed any act which in the reasonable view of the WPBSA is likely to bring into disrepute the games of snooker and/or billiards.

“He was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 towards the cost of the hearing and was suspended from playing for a period of three months. This suspension will only come into effect if he commits any new breach of the WPBSA Members Rules that are dealt with by the WPBSA Disciplinary process in the next six months. He has also been required to undergo media training.

“The WPBSA Disciplinary Committee consider that this behaviour is unacceptable and offensive to China and the Chinese players. Such behaviour will not be tolerated by the WPBSA.

It strikes me the fine could have been much heavier for what were unnecessary comments.

It is true Allen had just lost in the World Championship and was therefore feeling very disappointed but to suggest cheating is an endemic trait of an entire nation is unacceptable.

Neither does the ‘free speech’ defence work. Free speech doesn’t just mean you can say whatever you like about anyone. It has to be either true or fair comment. Allen’s remarks were neither.

It’s a new season and a new start. Allen has already begun it positively by donating his £800 prize money from the Pink Ribbon pro-am to a breast cancer charity.

He remains a formidable presence on the table, already with a ranking title under his belt and more surely to follow.

How he reacts to this action will be important I think. If he accepts it and gets on with his career then he may find it is soon forgotten.

If he acts as if he has been victimised then it will be counter productive. Not least because it wouldn’t be true.

He did the wrong thing, he's been punished. Time to move on.


This blog is six years old today.

When it began in that long forgotten hinterland that was 2006 I was primarily a journalist, frustrated by the attitude of newspaper sports editors towards snooker and looking for my own outlet to provide news, some opinions and hopefully interesting features for snooker fans.

In a media sense, 2006 now seems like a golden age. It’s harder than ever to interest newspapers in snooker. That’s why most stories that do appear tend to revolve around people having a go at each other.

I am now primarily a commentator and salute Hector Nunns, now snooker’s leading freelance journalist, who does his level best to keep the sport alive in the newspapers.

Private Eye editor Ian Hislop said at the seemingly endless Leveson inquiry into press ethics that “news only becomes news when it appears in the newspapers. On blogs it’s just noise.”

He has a point. The main problem with the internet when it comes to information is the blending of fact and opinion. Indeed, this is only following what has happened for many years in newspapers.

The point of journalism is supposed to be to find out as many facts as possible and then present them to the public.

In a world of instant communication, facts seem to matter less than having an immediate opinion.

This is why on a 24-hour news channel the reporter on the scene often knows no more than the person in the studio: they haven’t had time to find out what’s going on because they are stood in front of a camera.

On the internet too, particularly now Twitter has come along, it’s a world of instant judgements: a miasma of words, but how many facts?

And so the media gorges on itself: stories fill newspapers now based on what famous people have said on Twitter. This is a very cheap form of journalism: you don’t even have to leave the office or, heaven forbid, talk to anyone. In a similar way, blogs feed off newspapers and ‘news’ gets recycled.

There are many snooker blogs, written in the main by dedicated people spending their own time promoting the sport unpaid. They should be encouraged and congratulated. Look at the effort Matt at Pro Snooker Blog puts into keeping the seedings list updated: a vital service much used by the players.

Snookerbacker even ran a tournament to provide free entry for two players to Q School. One of them, Martin O’Donnell, not only got through but made a winning start at the qualifiers last week.

There are blogs cropping up outside the UK and Living Snooker is a promising new addition because it carries the thoughts of various players.

But sponsors want their names in newspapers. They want people not interested in snooker to notice them. They want the right target markets to notice them.

One of the problems is that snooker is sneered at by large sections of the media, including on sports desks, who think their opinions outweigh that of their readers.

They ignore it all year and then when the World Championship comes around, because they have ignored it all year, they don’t know who any of the players are and so run knocking pieces complaining about the ‘lack of characters.’

The dominance of football doesn’t help and the amount of paper given over to the Olympics would fetch Sting out in a cold sweat.

World Snooker didn’t help the situation by agreeing to an absurd arrangement whereby the Press Association, the national press agency which sends copy to almost every newspaper in the country, rewrite worldsnooker.com copy rather than reporting independently themselves (or by using freelances).

All this has done is further reduce the amount of coverage in the newspapers. And the shame of it is that the truly good news of the game’s recent revival under Barry Hearn is not being told. This in turn makes it more difficult to attract new sponsors to the sport. We may all know it, but people outside the snooker bubble do not.

What point am I making? I’ve forgotten now. That’s the thing with blogs. If this were a newspaper piece I would have been given a set amount of words to get the message across. On a blog you can ramble on for as long as you like, hoping your readers haven’t fallen into a catatonic state before getting to the end.

I actually prefer blogging in between tournaments. Unless something out of the ordinary happens during an event then I don’t think there’s much to say because fans have seen it all for themselves.

There used to be weeks – sometimes months – between tournaments. Now it’s usually a day or two.

Long may that continue. I for one am delighted at the way Hearn and his team has filled up the calendar and taken snooker to new territories and given the sport a boost of confidence and some much needed direction.

Things aren’t perfect and never will be but they are considerably better than on June 12, 2006 when I first started writing this blog.

As ever, thank you for reading.



Stuart Bingham began the new season in fine style by winning the annual Pink Ribbon pro-am at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester today.

Bingham, who defends his Australian Open title in Bendigo next month, won his last three matches without losing a frame. He had two centuries in beating Mark Allen 4-0 in the semi-finals and another two as he defeated Peter Lines 4-0 in the final. He receives a cheque for £2,400.

Paul Mount is a lifelong snooker enthusiast who runs a successful business supplying equipment to medical facilities. He built the impressive SWSA two years ago and all four UK PTCs will be held there this season.

It was a shame, given the nature of this event, that World Snooker ordered Mount to cease his website’s live internet streaming of play on Saturday.

Here’s what happened: a player, who had read (and seemingly memorised) his World Snooker contract, queried whether he would be in breach of it were he to play in a streamed match.

A phone call to World Snooker resulted in one of their executives informing Mount that, to avoid any such breach, the plug would have to be pulled.

I have spent part of today reading the players’ contract. I can only assume the problem was in section 3) Obligations of the Player, sub-section b) Commercial, Promotional and Performance Obligations, point x:

“[A player shall not] be party to any agreement or arrangement (whether in connection with a WSL Event or otherwise) which may knowingly conflict with the exercise or value of any of WSL’s rights to exploit the WSL Events and any elements thereof by any and all commercial means and in any and all media now known or hereafter invented.”

In other words, because of the contract to live stream tournaments and qualifiers, this free stream creates a conflict.

I’m not a lawyer and am mindful of how easy it is to criticise things you don’t fully understand but, if this is the reason, then it seems a little heavy-handed to me. The weekend’s play in the Pink Ribbon wasn’t clashing with any alternative snooker available on liveworldsnooker.tv.

Perhaps Mount should have checked the streaming situation before the event began, but putting a tournament together from scratch involves so much work that you can understand how contractual minutiae such as this can be overlooked.

I’m sure if Mount applies for a sanction to stream the event next year that it will be granted. There’s no reason not to if it isn’t clashing with a World Snooker tournament. Mount hasn’t set up a rival World Championship. This is a pro-am designed to raise money and awareness for breast cancer charities.

Mount’s team works very hard to put it together. He is a man who has put money into the game in an era where all the talk seems to be about how much can be taken out of it.

Furthermore, the Pink Ribbon is an event which brings out the best in the players. Some who didn’t even enter still gave money. Some gave their prize money to charity.

Such enterprises should be applauded – and encouraged.