Advantages Good week of snooker
Disadvantages No one likes change
It’s very much the changing of the guard in snooker right now as the generation that took over from Davis and Hendy are, themselves, becoming old hat as the young bucks revel in the new rules and regulations in the snooker world according to Barry Hearn. Even Ronnie O’Sullivan is beginning to look past it, his disinterest and aloofness no disguise this time, defeat at the Barbican, York this week to the brilliant young Judd Trump meaning the Rocket hasn’t won a ranking tournament for two years now. Most people thought the arrival or the likes of Robertson and then Trump would be the spur he needed now that his dad is out of prison but it was not to be and Ronnie is now number 15 in the world and close to having to qualify for events, a disgrace for someone with such unrivalled talent. He will never forgive himself for not breaking more of Davis and Hendry’s now lapidary records when he does get old and has more kids. There is no way he is going to want to go to places like Butlins to pre-qualify for events.Off the table and there is resentment brewing from the established players that the new style circuit is set up to suit single young men, many of the new events that pay well away from the United Kingdom, events ALL players must play to maintain their world ranking. In the gentleman’s days of dinner suits and cigars the top 16 got automatic entry to the top tournaments and so hogged all the tournament prize money and ranking points and so very hard to fall out of the 16. But the season is now nine months long and some of the players with families just don’t want to be away that long, John Higgins and Mark Williams beginning to slip away as they pick and choose their events. Getting married and having kids always takes the hunger away from top sportsman, why they do it. Roger Federer hasn’t won a slam since he had his twins two years ago. Some of the senior snooker pro’s have been angling to get appearance money to show up to more events as a compromise but the younger names are the draw now, something the old pro’s have yet to grasp. Ronnie had to be paid 25 grand to turn up for ITV’s exciting Power Snooker event and that caused resentment amongst the younger players who are grafting for their place in the top 16.
The mouthpiece for the first signs of rebellion cam from the Young Turk that is N.Ireland’s confident cheeky chappie Mark Allen, the Graeme Swann of snooker, who released some of the locker room steam last week by attacking Barry Hearn over the way he has tinkered with the classic tournaments when he promised not to when he took over the sport, angry with the way the UK Championship - the second biggest event of the year - has had the matches shortened to the best of 11 in the early televised rounds. The feeling seems to be that by all means introduce new tournaments and ideas but don’t mess with the fabric, or should I say baize, of the game. Allen actually swore during his press conference when making his points and also not happy with the way Hearn is applying his darts model to snooker, encouraging the spectators to get closer to the players in some events and certainly drinking a lot more than them, that noisy atmosphere not always conducive to snooker, some players looking visibly embarrassed at the Power Snooker event last month. There is even a rumour that Hearn will tinker with the very successful World Championships at the Crucible.Allen called on Hearn to resign, saying "It's time to let someone else have a go." I suspect Allen is alone on that one as a lot more players are being given the chance to earn decent money under Hearn with more events on the calendar. Hearn immediately hit back at Allen, calling him a little kid with a big mouth. Allen ‘taped up’ his own mouth in the next press conference in cheeky protest. I think Hearn is great for the game and with good ranking points to be had in the 14 satellite PCT events pretty much anyone can get up the rankings to earn places in the big events, a woman now ranked for the first time in the top 100.
In the good old days of snooker, Alex Higgins would be puffing and twitching away in the corner on his seat smoking the sponsor’s cigarettes or hammering their spirits with gay abandon. But now it’s a conservative sip of water at best from the players to appease the likewise squeaky clean and boring insurance sponsors. But Hearn wants some snooker events to have some Twenty20 buzz and bring back the manliness to the sport, perhaps attracting sexier sponsors, the breweries believed to be willing to get involved again now that the tobacco companies have long since been banned.= = = The Venue = = =
The seat prices were excellent with the top end tickets for the Final as little as £25 for the afternoon session and £30 in the evening or £45 for both for the Sunday, seat pending. You could buy all-day tickets earlier in the tournament to see any of the four matches for just £20. If I lived in York I would have made the most of that value.
The Barbican in York is again the new home of the UK Snooker Championship, Preston no longer, returning after five years away, all week good crowds enjoying the intimate arena for a likewise tournament. It’s very much an ‘actor’s space’ and snooker just as lucrative for the venue as pantomime this time of year it seems. The crowd are very white and polite and the snooker has been young, energetic and fun, great winter evening TV viewing. BBC Sports Extra comes into its own when the snooker is on. I have been glued to the red button.
The prize money is greatly up in the game under Hearn and although only £5000 for the high break the total prize money is £625,000 and £100,000 grand for the winner. Prize money and sponsors had been going south of late but the controversial involvement of betting firms sponsorship to the sport has all but saved it. This doesn’t help that nagging feeling that match and spot-fixing hasn’t gone away, extraordinary that John Higgins got away with it still to this day.
The highlight of the opening televised round was Ronnie O’Sullivan V Steve Davies, the ‘Nuggets’ barnet as worn and patchy these days as some of the tables he used to play on in those dodgy Essex snooker clubs. 55-year-old Davis is still as keen as ever and determined to win a tournament in his fifth decade. He played well against Ronnie and took the first frame but he began to falter at 1-4 down as Ronnie won out at 6-1. Twice champion Ding Junhui of China squeezed through against Rory McLeod, the tours token black player. Rory rarely wins in televised games. The commentators say because he I nervous whereas I say it’s because he is not good enough to be there.
Mark Williams (Wal) 6-4 Joe Jogia (Eng)
Stephen Lee (Eng) 3-6 Ricky Walden (Eng)
Judd Trump (Eng) 6-4 Dominic Dale (Wal)
Mark Allen (NI) 6-3 Adrian Gunnell (Eng)
Mark Selby (Eng) 6-0 Ryan Day (Wal)
Stuart Bingham (Eng) 4-6 Marco Fu (HK)
Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eng) 6-1 Steve Davis (Eng)
Ali Carter (Eng) 6-4 Robert Milkins (Eng)
Shaun Murphy (Eng) 6-3 Li Yan (Chn)
Martin Gould (Eng) 6-2 Peter Lines (Eng)
John Higgins (Sco) 6-5 Rory McLeod (Eng)
Ding Junhui (Chn) 6-5 Mark Davis (Eng)
Neil Robertson (Aus) 6-1 Tom Ford (Eng)
Graeme Dott (Sco) 6-1 Matthew Selt (Eng)
Stephen Maguire (Sco) 6-3 Stephen Hendry (Sco)
Matthew Stevens (Wal) 6-2 Marcus Campbell (Sco)
Winners receive: £12,050 eachTwice champions Mark Williams continued his decline by losing 6-3 to unknown Ricky Walden. My tip and current world number one Mark Selby was seen off by Marco Fu. Ali Carter announced his pending retirement on twitter after losing to Mark Allen 2-6. Jud saw of the rocker in a thrilling 5-6 win and the all alleged match-fixer contest saw Stephen McGuire see of fellow Scot John Higgins 6-4.
Mark Williams (Wal) 3-6 Ricky Walden (Eng)
Martin Gould (Eng) 4-6 Shaun Murphy (Eng)
Marco Fu (HK) 6-3 Mark Selby (Eng)
Ali Carter (Eng) 2-6 Mark Allen (NI)
Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eng) 5-6 Judd Trump (Eng)
Ding Junhui (Chn) 6-5 Matthew Stevens (Wal)
John Higgins (Sco) 4-6 Stephen Maguire (Sco)
Graeme Dott (Sco) 3-6 Neil Robertson (Aus)
>Shaun Murphy lost to Ricky Walden and World Champion Neil Robertson saw off twice winner of the K Championship Ding Junhui 2-6, the shorter matches seeing off most of the world’s top ten.
Losers receive: £16,450Ricky Walden (Eng) 6-3 Shaun Murphy (Eng)
Mark Allen put his money where his mouth clearly is and made the final, Barry Hearn having to hand over a cheque for at least 46 grand as he goes head-to-head with the exciting Judd Trump.Losers receive: £23,250
Mark Allen (NI) 9-7 Ricky Walden (Eng)
Neil Robertson (Aus) 7-9 Judd Trump (Eng)
Trump 10 Frames (£100,000) Mark Allen 7 Frames (£46,000)
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