SWSA – A Blogger’s Thanks

So we have just seen the completion of the UKPTC4 event at the South West Snooker Academy, which marks not only the final UKPTC event of the 2012/13 season, but also the final professional ranking event to be held in Gloucester for the foreseeable future.

Click below for my thoughts on a venue that I have attended for a fair proportion of the professional events that it has staged since its construction in 2010…

When talking about the World Championship, Sheffield and the Crucible Theatre, I will often refer to the place as being like my second home. Indeed I have made that particular annual trip for eight years now, not to mention the qualifiers and other events that I have been to at the Crucible.

If anywhere else has a claim to be spoken about in the same terms though, it would probably have to be the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester, where I have attended on a regular basis now for a couple of years. We have seen charity pro-ams, Snookerbacker Classics, Snooker Legends events, PTC tournaments and even main tour qualifiers held at the venue, all of which have been well-catered for at what is surely the finest snooker facility in the country, if not beyond.

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My video tour of the South West Snooker Academy

As you may or may not be aware however, for various reasons outlined in the statement of owner Paul Mount (click to read here), the venue no longer wishes to stage professional events going forward. The reasons for which have been much debated and I do not intend to revisit them here.

Regular readers though will have seen me lavish praise upon the venue and its people on a number of occasions before, but on a personal level I would like to reiterate my thanks to Paul, Sarah, Janie and all of the others at the venue, who have worked so hard to make the Academy the facility that it is today.

As a snooker blogger, I have always been made to feel welcome and have been given access which is simply not available at the other events. At the Academy I can come in with my laptop, take photographs of the players during their matches, conduct interviews and generally do my bit to help to better bring these tournaments to those of you sitting on the other side of the computer screen. After all, that is ultimately why I write this blog.

Indeed, speaking for the snooker bloggers as a whole, ultimately we are all fans of the sport and in our small way, try to do what we can to publicise it to the wider world. It is sad to say that if the UKPTCs are to return to the enclosed, almost sealed-off surroundings at the EIS in Sheffield, then it makes it that much harder for us to do so and ultimately represents a real step back for the sport in my view.

Of course not everything is ideal. The location is more awkward for me personally (three hours plus, rather than the single hour to Sheffield) and there is very little to do in-between matches in comparison to Sheffield. But as a snooker facility, there is nothing else like it.

During just a couple of years we have already seen some memorable matches here. For example the close UKPTC1 final earlier this season between Stephen Maguire and Jack Lisowski was one to remember, as well as the second final between Maguire and Martin Gould. The best thing about the PTC events is that (almost), everybody is here and there is just so much snooker to be seen, that the term ‘snooker factory’ has never been more appropriate.

For me though, the venue really came into its own at the qualifiers for the 2011 UK Championship, when with so much more riding on it than at a regular PTC, the matches just felt that much more important. With a press conference area and the opportunity to interview the likes of Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis post-match, it was very much a ‘proper tournament’ and with its best of 11’s, brought a number of memorable matches.

Among them were Peter Lines’ comeback victory to defeat Ken Doherty, Sam Craigie’s re-spotted black win against Andrew Pagett and Ian McCulloch coming back to defeat an already-celebrating Luca Brecel. Most memorable of all though was the last break of the tournament, as Marco Fu produced a terrific clearance to defeat Anthony Hamilton 6-5 in the early hours.

At the time of writing it looks like we may have a Wednesday night final between Judd Trump and John Higgins, which would be some way to finish off its current run of professional tournaments. Hopefully though they will not be the last memories that I will be able to take from this venue. After all, forever is a long time (or so they tell me), so hopefully the issues that have resulted in this decision can be ironed out in time.

We will just have to wait and see, but in the meantime, thanks to everyone here, it is much appreciated by me and I am sure, all of the other bloggers and spectators who have been fortunate enough to attend over the past couple of years.