Shanghai Masters 2010: Livescores Not Included

Disappointing news for snooker fans today as it has seemingly been confirmed that livescoring will not be available for this weeks Shanghai Masters tournament. Click below for another moan from myself about this and the way that the sport is marketed in general…

The news has not yet been publicly announced but judging by a comment over at Snooker Scene Blog it would appear that those who have emailed the WSA concerning livescoring have been given the reply that it will not be in operation for the Shanghai Masters.

Why is this the case when it has been available in the past I hear you ask? Unfortunately despite being available, the previous system was notoriously unreliable, particularly during the overseas events and as I understand it, Barry Hearn was so embarrassed by it that he decided that it would be better to withdraw it altogether.

At the time I agreed with this decision because the livescoring during the past few seasons has been poor and on the assumption that a new system would be in place for the start of the season proper, it made sense to focus on getting that right. A couple of months on with no replacement service however and patience is beginning to wear thin amongst snooker fans.

From a lack of photos to a lack of livescores

The PTC events staged so far are undoubtedly a positive move for snooker and for the players, giving them an opportunity to play regularly and if successful, earn far more money than during recent seasons. Just look at the haul of Barry Pinches already in 2010/11.

All of which is brilliant, but they have also been extremely difficult for fans to follow, with only the updates provided by Global Snooker via On Q Promotions’ Janie Watkins. Some have complained at the fact that the updates provided by Global recently have been less frequent than they are used to and it is frustrating, but ultimately it is not their responsibility to be providing livescores. The fact that during the first EPTC event in Furth, once Janie had caught her plane back to England there were no updates coming through from anywhere other than Jan Verhaas’ Twitter feed illustrated the absurdity of the situation.

Now onto the Shanghai Masters however the problem is in some ways even more acute. One of snooker’s seven major ranking events, televised across Europe via Eurosport in addition to the rest of the world via other broadcasters, the fact is that people want to know what is going on. Not everyone has access to Eurosport and for those that don’t, their first port of call will be to see how their favourite players are doing by checking there and then by looking at the latest scores. When these aren’t available however…

Jan Verhaas Twitter – First for breaking news (except in China)

I have often said that snooker needs to market itself properly in order to attract new fans, in particular younger fans and without question how the sport utilises the internet is absolutely crucial to this. Introducing new formats and new events such as the World Open or Power Snooker is one thing, but actually providing a solid platform under those events with a clear ranking table, clear drawsheets and working livescores is an absolute must.

One sport that I often compare snooker to is that of tennis and with the US Open taking place this week the night and day difference in how events are covered on the internet is brought even closer to home. The tournament website is excellent, with press conferences reproduced for most of the players on the day that they have completed their matches, complete with a video. For livescores they have the IBM Slamtracker which provides updates on all matches taking place complete with pretty much every statistic you could wish to see or alternatively you can view them on this page. The ATP website also has a clear page to cover the rankings complete with a very useful FAQ.

It is not just tennis either, golf is another sport that caters for its fans very well and even Barry Hearn’s own PDC Darts website is much better than what we snooker fans are used to.

Something to aspire to

As well as the basics such as livescoring however, what is also crucial for snooker to exploit is the ever-increasing amount of social networking tools such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Tools such as these are becoming incredibly important these days and if properly utilised by those at World Snooker Towers, will help to attract fans and ultimately help the sport to grow.

Another sport that has brought its fans closer to the action recently is Formula One, by making available a live timings application on the iphone for example. A livescoring application on a mobile phone for snooker would certainly be something that would interest me so that I could follow matches whilst at work.

At the very least regularly updating frame scores via the underused World Snooker twitter feed would allow people to follow the scores both at home and on the move and would only take one person to do. If this were not possible even just to put one static page on the World Snooker website with up to date frame scores on as Global often do would be enough for now until the new livescoring system is ready.

Now don’t get me wrong, it is still only September and I know that Barry Hearn knows far more about marketing and attracting fans than I do, but the situation at present is for me embarrassing for a sport that as far as the internet is concerned remains sadly stuck in the 20th century.

And don’t even get me started on the rankings!