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Barry Hearn’s Snooker Revolution – A Discussion

Following Mark Allen’s comments on Monday, there has been a tremendous amount of discussion generated on the various blogs, radio stations and unsurprisingly Twitter. Click below for the best of the views that I received, both in support of and against Mark’s comments, as well as my own thoughts…

UPDATE: I have since been informed that Adrian has been misquoted in the article with the Shropshire Star

Following the initial discussion yesterday evening in respect of Mark Allen’s press conference remarks, this evening it came to light that fellow professional Adrian Gunnell has been quoted as being in full support of the Northern Irishman, telling the Shropshire Star the following:-

“I totally agree with him.”

“It’s very brave of him to say it because he’s put his head on the chopping block and we are gagged these days – we can’t say what we feel because we start getting fines. It is the players who voted for Barry Hearn so they only have themselves to blame. It is getting like darts in that people are encouraged to shout and they’re drinking and getting drunk.”

“There is nothing wrong with the sport, it doesn’t need these drastic changes and they are cheapening it.”

“When the vote was imminent and it looked like it was going to be pushed through, I advised everyone this would be the case but no-one listened.”

“I still feel I could happily walk away from it,” he added. “But at the moment I’ve got nothing else I want to do.”

What struck me about the comments is that aside from the Shootout and the Power Snooker event, a tournament which despite now falling under the World Snooker banner is not a concept devised by Hearn, I don’t particularly see a shift towards a ‘darts style’ atmosphere in the game at present.

Having made this observation on Twitter, I then asked for your views on the debate as a whole and to me slight surprise I must admit, the response was sharply divided where I had perhaps anticipated a more one-sided reaction.

Those in the pro-Hearn camp so to speak included the following:

  • Regardless of the issues Hearn’s reign have created, have folks forgotten the paucity of the Walker era not long ago!?
  • davehendon

    i’d be interested to know who they think should be running the game. Lee Doyle maybe?
  • andyjay77

     Tell Gunnell tonight is another sell out almost. Customers are king. Still a great event.
  • tmv23

    I understood that correct, that allen and gunell want the 6-tournament-season back? i mean… what the f… ?
  • markyboy555

    If all players played the game like Gunnell the sport would be dead!
  • BenHarrison147

    I think the only thing that’s wrong is there is too many ptcs. He’s put snooker back on the map again.
  • seanelvidge

    More ranking events = fantastic. “Darts atmosphere” = personally, don’t enjoy. Overall, Hearn = excellent.
  • 2 years ago there was hardly any snooker, every player has responsibility to develop the game.
  • What on earth is he going on about? Barry’s only been in charge 5 mins & at least he’s not dragging his heals like last lot
  • 2 years ago there was hardly any snooker, every player has responsibility to develop the game.

In particular there were a couple of responses from current professional players that whether you agree with them or not are well worth reading, the first coming from Australian Open champion Stuart Bingham:

  • Stuart__Bingham

    I’ll put my 2 pennies worth in so here goes! A lot of the players were moaning about the UK being shortened but 14 out of the top 16 got thru because we’ve been playing so much! Everyone is moaning about Barry Hearn but someone with his credibility running our game we should be thankful that he wants to! There are too many selfish people in snooker, that’s why the game was in the state it was! Most of the snooker players don’t see the bigger picture what Barry is trying to do! Everyone wants everything perfect right now but we all have to work together but it’ll never happen because as I said, too many selfish people in the game at the moment! 2 years ago we had 6 tournaments, now over 25! Hearn resign…..get real!!!

The second comes from Leeds’ David Grace, a player at the other end of the rankings who is fighting to establish himself on the main tour:

  • Here goes nothing my view on snooker. I’m a snooker player, I want to play snooker. And I’d rather be doing it in a box in Sheffield for £200 than in the club practising. Barry Hearn is a professional sport promoter with a proven track record. Who is better qualified to make decisions about the direction the game should head in, him, or the players who know nothing about business? Turkeys wouldn’t vote for Xmas and the players have never voted to do more work for the same money, why would they? New tournaments and sponsors aren’t going to appear from thin air and they aren’t going to rush to invest when all they see in the papers is negativity. The players have run the game for 30 years and was dead on its arse 2 years ago, 6 tournaments in places like Sheffield, Newport, Aberdeen, Telford. How could anyone expect the game to grow with such a UK centric circuit? Some players were and still would be happy with a circuit like that, but if they want the kind of prize money the golfers and tennis players are on then they’re gonna have to work as hard as those guys do and it isn’t going to happen over night. If you don’t want to play snooker why did you become a snooker player? Rant over

As I explained however, such sentiments are not unanimous and there are those who over the past 24 hours have agreed with Mark’s comments, or at least expressed reservations as to the purported progress that is being made:

  • Maybe it is because @pistol147 is just saying the things aloud that a lot of other players think. As a fan I agree with him.
  • Allen was a bit contradictory in saying that he believed Hearn would do good for snooker in the long run.seems a bit selfish, if he truly believes that Hearn will do good in the long run. Having said that I do agree with Allen, aside from the point that he’ll do well in the long run. It is being changed too much, and if he continues in that vein he should go. Changes do need to be made…but not at the expense of top players. O’Sullivan, Maguire, Higgins, Allen all unhappy. To clarify, there needs to be a balance. Can’t just come in and try to do same as he did with darts. Very different sports.
  • I think you’re wrong to say the game needs Hearn, Matt. It needed someone,sure, but I don’t think Hearn is necessarily best. Just don’t think a sport should be ‘owned’ by one man. No other sport is owned in such a manner.Players should ‘own’ a sport.
  • If snooker is in a healthy state pls explain why half the snooker clubs in london have closed & whats left added pool tables…clubs closing is linked to a decline in the pro game, no one playing means no one watching means no sponsors for the pros
  • Surprised that Mark has been the one to say this, theres a few that arnt happy with the way things r going
  • I have t agree with Mark Allen. We dont want snooker turning into Darts! I like the good old traditions.
  • he’s right. Disgraceful what he’s doing to the big events. Plus having these smaller tournaments show on eurosports is pathetic. I could cover it better with my camcorder. No interviews? What is Hearn playing at? Plus messing about with the uk? What next women in bikinis in between the frames? Get him out or tone it down!!

All of which begs the question then – what do I think?

For me I can understand why some might have reservations concerning some of the things that Barry Hearn is currently trying to do. The PTC events and the expenses incurred, particularly for the amateurs are a genuine concern in my view and there are issues there that need to be addressed by Hearn and the governing body going forward.

Furthermore the reduction of the UK Championship format has not only caused controversy, but perhaps more worrying has led to a sense of mistrust between Hearn and both the fans and the players given his previous promise not to alter the formats of the ‘crown jewels’ such as that event, with fears that the World Championship may be next in the firing line.

However, when looking back 18 months ago to when we had just six ranking tournaments, with in some cases a couple of months between events, for me it is impossible to argue that snooker is in a worse place than it was back in those dark days when players could barely describe themselves as professional given their relatively light workloads. As both David Grace and Stuart Bingham have astutely pointed out above, the game was allowed to drift into that situation in the past and only now are we beginning to see any change.

For sure the situation is not yet ideal, far from it in fact and following his previous comments, Mark Allen has since given an in-depth interview to his management company On Q Promotions during which he does in my view talk a lot of sense.

Ultimately however, what must be considered when attempting to assess any of Barry Hearn’s changes is that they are all part of a long-term plan and as such cannot be taken in isolation, nor can they fairly be judged now. There are also decisions such as the shortening of the UK Championship format which while I do not agree with from a fan perspective, were as I understand it necessary for a commercial one if the tournament was to remain televised by the BBC.

Looking back to where the game was before he arrived, I think that the game continues to need Barry as much as ever and continue to believe that he should be supported in what he is trying to do.

And ultimately, as Ali Carter told the press on Sunday:

“At the end of the day we haven’t really got a say in it because we sold the game to Barry and he can do what he wants.”

 

  • Telovi

    I’m new to snooker world so i don’t really knew how those past 18 month with just 6 ranking event feel like. For me this 11/12 season was a blast. With snooker kicking ass everyday, i woke up each morning to check the live score to see how my favourite player doing and later check in here to read matt’s match summary. Totalling enjoying the snooker now. Lastly the player don’t owned the game, they work for the game. Don’t happy with the job just quit. There plenty talent out there waiting to fill any empty place.

  • ddrIII

    ONe thing I always in my mind is that, back to the 2005-06 season there were also only 6 ranking events. Not only the 2009-10 season.

    Why did the players not complain in 2006? But in 2010 everyone blames Walker?

  • http://twitter.com/#!/Editha1710 Editha

    Ago two years the some players say we have to few tournaments on the tour.Virtually players say it must give a chance.Virtually all players call we want Barry Heran.And now some players call its too much tournaments.
    Sorry that i can not understand.And the cut of the frames at the UKC is not so dramatic how some players this mean.
    Its a change of the time.

  • BoroPhil

    To be fair to Mark Allen, after reading his interview, the main problem he has is with the money in the PTC events – and I can’t really see how anyone can disagree with that. It’s ridiculous that a professional sport has players dropping out of the tour because they can’t afford to play. That has to be sorted out.

    He shouldn’t have swore but World Snooker have been a bit heavy handed in disciplining him – the players should be allowed to have their opinions.

  • Matthew Lowson

    As Ali said his comments The players sold the game to Barry, but looking at players views, it could appear to be under false pretences/

    And Barry knows that as well. But the truth is that Barry does seem to have willingness to try and put the blame at the BBC for wanting single session matches its n

    This discussion wouldnt be taking place if we had two or three tournaments that

    As you Matt mentioned players playing single session matches all season long means that by the time Sheffield and the World Championship qualifiers

    It felt strange that we had an amateur match on Saturday played over a much longer distance than the UK Championships the second biggest tournament in snooker.

    Plus, like I said last night, it appears that there is a whip in force against the players. That’s why we get the reigning World and (for the time being) UK Champion being criticised by the chairman of ‘our’ game.

    Allen needs to be credited really for calling for the longer frame matches. – Better than some players in the elite who want the Prize Money to go up, but the match length to go down.

    If we had two or three tournaments where best of 17/19 was in force for two rounds at the end then this would have caused considerably less uproar.

    I think Mark was a little bit hasty to call for Barry’s resignation but I dont blame him for it – with what BH has said in Dave Hendon’s interview. It’s clear that he’s interested in a group of ‘yes’ men to support him rather than taking a cohesive approach (which Rodney Walker tried to do) and with great attacks being levelled against the top players by the chairman, arguably the only real weapon the players opposed have is their token ballot.

    I think Barry has to remember that these players will be re-electing him shortly and the least advisable thing to do is to go round annoying them.

  • Dave Thomas

    I’m in full support of Mark Allen. The problem is that “Barry.. can do what he wants.” How can different interests be represented if only one person has control. As a long term fan of the game, I feel there has to be a tangible difference between the prestige events, and those on the fringe. I want the titles to mean something. I think it was courageous for Mark to speak up for what he believes. He should be applauded for doing so, even if you don’t agree entirely with his perspective. Who’s the man, and who’s the “little boy” Mr. Hearn?

  • snooky147

    The following comments are my own as I have a family member who is a pro.
    The PTC’s in Sheffield should be axed and the money saved distributed a round or two further down. Ideally I would like to see all pro’s, who have by the way qualified in whatever way to be pro’s be paid a guaranteed minimum earning but in this economy I accept that is not possible atm.
    Hearn’s stated intentions…..1..To have a tournament going every week of the year is all very plausible but if the grassroot pro’s can’t afford the expenses involved then there is no point to it. This is the first year that the Pro’s are paying their own flights etc to countries so prize funds need to be at a realistic level in order that it is worth their while to go, not fortunes but enough that THEY DO NOT LOSE MONEY.
    2..Ranking system based on Prize money. Well to be honest that should just be a non starter. The current ranking system which I was initially critical of I now believe with a tweak here and there is the fairest one.
    3..To have all pro’s playing from the first round. Again this won’t work because companies and TV have to see the top names.
    Hearn is on the right track though but in kowtowing to the BBC over format he has set a dangerous precedent. Granted there are instances of viewers wanting to see a result in a session but not at the expense of the integrity of a tournament like the UK. He should not touch the World Championship but I fear he will anyways.
    Speaking of the BBC. It was said that the format was reduced in order that all the players would get on a TV table. Well Mr. BBC Controller that is all very well but you then have to actually show the matches. What on earth was the point on Saturday of showing the higgins/mcleod/ding/davis matches on EVERY programme INCLUDING Snooker extra. There were other matches on which were just as important for family friends and fans to see, especially seeing as Higgins and Dings Matches were covered live in full. It is nothing short of a disgrace.
    Thats all I have for now, again these are MY OWN views.

  • wild

    “The PTC’s in Sheffield should be axed and the money saved distributed a round or two further down. ”
    ———————————————————————————————–
    from what i understand the problem with that is theres a comercial agreiment with perform to stream them therefore doubt they will be axed and reduced to say 8 in the next 5 years.

  • Langward

    It is necessary more tournaments, instead of markets on sale rankings points, such as РТС

  • Qamar

    I have been following snooker biblically since I was 10 years old (I am 36 now). I have never missed a televised match and even record matches to watch later. I have followed players (like Stephen Hendry) from their beginnings. Therefore I feel I know about snooker probably more than many people. Here are my thoughts:

    Regarding Mark Allen: Let’s get it straight, he is being bought in front of a disciplinary hearing because of the language he has used – and not in regards to his views. He did use bad language therefore he should be fined – there is no place for that in any sport. But saying that – where did he do this? At a press conference for members of the press. It is then then the responsibility of the press not to publish such foul language. Had the press conference been televised (like it used to be in the old days) then children would have been watching/listening – so it was wrong of him to do what he did. Now his opinion on Barry Hearn is his own opinion. He has a right to it and that should not be a factor in the outcome of the hearing. Players like Ebdon, Higgins and even O’Sullivan have gone on record to say similar stuff. All in all – Hearn must be glad that Allen has done what he has done as it put snooker in the news – which is what he wants anyway.

    Regarding Hearn’s leadership: One simple phrase ‘Beggars can’t be choosers’. Before Hearn, snooker was dying. Now, it is ‘surviving’ on steroids. And I emphasise the word surviving. I don’t think anything worthwhile is being done by Hearn. Game will still die – the death has been prolonged. When I heard about the PTC events, I was up in arms. But they disrespect the game by putting top-name players in small ‘prison-cell’ like booths. Either you play or you go down in the rankings. How can players perform if they have a gun to their temples? Better venues and more atmospheres are required. Quality has been compromised by Quantity.

    What I would do: As much it hurts me to say this but I believe the time is now right for a breakaway body – just like darts. If Hearn does not resign then the players not happy should go and make up their own system. My ideal system would be:

    Top 100 ranked players end of season get automatic entry on tour. The remaining 28 places fought for during a qualifying pool in the summer. After that no cubicles/booths for the 128 on the tour. Just straight knockout matches.

    128 then get £30,000 wage each. That should cover their expenses of travel – plus they have prize money and sponsorship. No one can say they are unable to make a living out of snooker. Just under £4m will be needed for this each year. Create an elite list of 4 tournaments – like the grand slam in tennis – spread over 4 continents. Sponsorship, TV rights (and offer rights separately to different countries) should cover this money. The £4m.

    Get rid of the PTC events and instead have 12 ranking events – this does not include the grand slam events – they are separate.

    No more lunchtime starts for big matches. How will the game be appreciated by kids if they are at school at that time? If BBC wants shorter matches (result within a session) then for God’s sake show the match. The Trump/O’Sullivan match got cut off in the deciding frame. And they are not even airing evening sessions. So either they show the matches or let SKY come in. Skies haven’t done any wrong to cricket so snooker will also not suffer.

    Snooker is not a big venue sport like cricket or football – audience numbers are restricted – so TV rights money should cover it. If the BBC pays peanuts and abuses the game by putting on silly year-round game shows instead – then it’s time to ditch the BBC.

    Other forms: Power Snooker can work as an evening only event involving max 4 players and 3 matches. Offer broadcasters primetime sports lasting no more than 2 hours with music and celebrities – and they will bite your hand for it.
    I’m tired now. I have more ideas but for some other day.

  • Witz78

    for the guy above saying no other sport has one man running it…….

    Bernie Ecclestone is another example of an individual who controls a sport (Formula 1) and is in full control and look at the global multi billion dollar juggernaut it has become.

    Then look at the likes of football with the scandal hit and corrupt FIFA running the show, and re-evalue whats best.

    Hearn alone is the best bet for snooker, so leave him to it and stop whinging like these lazy players are.

  • dannyboy

    A sense of perspective. Given the popularity of the sport was sparked by pot black and colour tv I am wondering where the venue atmosphere has to come into the argument when you consider a global audience and the growth of the game. PTCs are fine as a bread and butter event. I think having no seeded players and a straight draw is a good thing and some of the venues in Europe have loved the format so I am not sure it is all negative. Is being in a cubicle on TV or the internet any different to the Pot black set up? For mass appeal and a wider audience results and matches need to occur in one hit. I was in York for ROS and SD and having a result and a complete match suits me (the paying public). Going for a 3-5 first session result is not of interest. Going for a 8-0 resumption is also not of interest so the case for a best of 11 frames isnt all one way.
    FINALLY the most ridiculous argument is that 100 ish players should make decent money out of the game!! Get real in proportion to tennis and golf and other individual sports – F1 as well, how many individuals make a good living in proportion to the global revenue and interest across the world. GOLF – 120 players in Europe and similar in USA? How much bigger is it than snooker? 10x bigger, 100x bigger – your guess is as good as mine but it is definitely bigger!! Same with tennis and F1. AND yet professional snooker players like Gunnell can argue that they are worthy of a decent wage at PTCs for turning up and winning one match 4-3 before losing 4-0!! How much do they want £2K, £5K – they are not worth it. I would argue that 10 – 20 players should be earning good money and 10 – 20 should be ok. The rest should be on tha edge of either get better and break into the top 20 or question if you are good enough but DONT MOAN!! In proportion to other sports I actually think the professionals have got an inflated opinion of what the are worth. Snooker players have for too long stayed on a tour where quality wasnt required and they could get by. Hearn has made the standard of the game go up and the harsh reality that a player like Gunnell can’t just do ok, but actually work a lot harder to get better. If he wins he gets a decent pay day. Holty won £10K for a weekends work, sounds pretty good to me. If you perform you get paid more than most. Start winning and you may see players dont moan!!

  • darrus

    Two questions for Qamar, just out of interest:

    1. Where are you going to find sponsors and broadcaster ready to give 4 millions a year + costs of staging tournaments etc.?

    2. No more lunchtime starts for big matches. How will the game be appreciated by kids if they are at school at that time – are you sure these matches start at lunchtime, really?
    In Russia these afternoon matches start at 5:30 pm, Moscow time. In China, where snooker has a huge fanbase, it’s 9:30 pm.
    Disregarding completely the fact that snooker is not exclusively British game nowadays and that attempts to globalize the game should be made if snooker is to survive – it’s not the way to go.

    As for Allen’s remarks – I was just stunned by his logic. So he says that yes, in the long run what Hearn does will be good for the game, but because right now he isn’t earning as much as he wants, Hearn should retire immediately.
    I can perfectly understand that for any person abstract things like “future of the entire sport” and such will always be less important that their own demands, I’m not questioning it. But for elite sportsman to come out and say “I don’t care for the sport, I just want money now” is a bit… well, emnarassing may be the word.
    Especially since he has every opportunity to earn that money by playing well and winning tournaments.

    But at least he wasn’t previously calling for shortening the long matches and moving World Championship to China like Higgins did a while ago. So at least Allen should get credit for being consistent in his views, whatever they are.

  • SJM

    Snooker players and followers need to take a reality check. The amount of money flowing into the game is miniscule compared to, say, golf or tennis.
    The 50th highest earning golfer in 2011 pocketed £1,276K in prizemoney and his tennis playing equivalent earned £310K. I don’t know what the annual earnings of the 50th highest earning snooker pro would be but I would be fairly sure they would be less than £30K – which when you take travel expenses into account is barely enough to earn a living.
    Barry Hearn is trying to shake up the game and I can understand why his abrasive manner would rub some people up the wrong way. However the simple fact is that a major increase in prize funds will not happen overnight and, in the medium term, snooker pros will need to accept playing tournaments in venues which are not the most glamorous for prizes which are relatively modest.

  • Ken Hodges

    Don’t Cheapen Snooker!!!!
    Mark Allen notwithstanding, why is it I get the impression that nobody else will say ‘Boo’ to Barry Hearn. Are they frightened to speak out?
    OK, nothing wrong with changes providing they are not designed to water things down and pander to the lowest common denominator. A process which was started by the blasting out of pop music when players made their entrance.
    Yes, TV coverage is important, but we must not allow snooker to be dragged down to the same level as ‘The X Factor’ or ‘Strictly Come Dancing’
    Don’t censure Mark Allen, we need people who are prepared to speak their mind!

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