TV Choice


In recent months, seasons in fact, there has been some debate as to the selection of matches for the televised tables at professional events, particularly at European Tour events covered by Eurosport.

The matter was again raised this morning on Twitter by former world champion Ken Doherty, who questioned the selection of three matches which saw top 16 players take on amateurs this morning instead of more evenly matched contests.

Is the current strategy the right one or does Ken have a point? Below I consider some of the arguments both ways…

Even before today, this is a topic that I had been meaning to write a blog about for some time as it is often discussed on social media, with fans bemoaning the regular trio of one-sided matches that we see during the first two days of European Tour events.

Indeed it is not just limited to those events, with some of the choices for the early stages of last week’s International Championship also coming under fire.

Time For Change

As a someone who has closely followed most events for at least a decade now, it is clear to me that the tour has become more unpredictable in recent years, with results that would previously have been considered shocks, no longer registering the same level of surprise as they once would have. The strength in depth of snooker is stronger than ever and we have seen that most players can now beat most of the others on their day.

That being said, clearly there does still remain a significant gulf in quality between the elite players at the top of the rankings and even the most promising young amateurs. This gap is of course exacerbated when they meet on televised tables at venues, where the top players used to the lighting, the cameras and the added pressure of being on television against players who might be in that position for the first time.

We first saw it at the World Series events a number of years ago and we continue to see it at European Tour events, with televised matches where the result is a foregone conclusion and visibly the top 16 player looks to be going through the motions, knowing that they do not have to be at their best to win.

This is regularly the case when there are alternative matches that on paper at least, promise to be far closer when taking into account the respective rankings and results of the players. Clearly there is an argument then that to most watching, a closer match would be more engaging than one where the result is predictable before a ball is struck.

Another aspect of the debate, not mentioned by Ken but that has come up a few times is that often at events where there is a surprise finalist, we see finals between one player who has been on the televised table multiple times during a weekend, while their opponent has not played on the table once before.

As well as providing the player used to the table with a potential advantage in terms of familiarity with the conditions, should there be a limit on how many times a player can be selected for a televised table prior to the final?

In both cases, a shift from always showing the highly ranked players would also provide players a little further down the rankings (but not necessarily amateurs), with increased exposure and a chance to build their own fanbases, which they cannot do if fans cannot watch them.

There is no better opportunity to do this than at the European Tour events, which are of course aimed at taking snooker to new territories, so why not take the chance to showcase dramatic matches and show new fans what snooker is all about.

No Change Needed

As ever however, the position is not so clear cut and there are arguments to be made in favour of the current system.

While readers will know me as someone who strives to be as neutral as possible on PSB (indeed I genuinely am these days as I have been fortunate to have got to know and like so many of the current professionals), growing up as a fan back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s things were different. Indeed as a child, my two favourite players by far were Stephen Hendry and Ken Doherty (ironically enough as it was his tweets that have prompted this post today), players whose matches I would always try to watch.

Although I now inevitably have a different perspective, I have not lost sight of the fact that I am a snooker fan at heart and know that most fans will have a favourite player, as is the case with any sport. I also know that 10-15 years ago, I would have rather watched Hendry in Doherty play on TV against the world number 487 than I would see any other two players meet each other, regardless of how exciting a match might be in prospect.

As a football fan I would rather watch Manchester United taken on Morecambe, than say a close match between Tottenham against Everton and in tennis I would rather see Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic against the world number 100 than I would the world number 7 against the world number 8.

Whether that is right or wrong, that is how I view sport and I am sure that I will not be the only one. There will be fans of Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy, Neil Robertson or John Higgins who would rather see their heroes in action, than a closer fought match involving perhaps lower profile, more equally matched players.

It is also arguable that the top players are more likely to produce a moment of magic, a 147 or an incredible clearance for example, so they should be the ones on the televised tables where such moments might be captured on camera. Certainly, it is not difficult to imagine the criticism that both World Snooker and the broadcaster would come in for if Judd Trump were relegated to a non-televised table in favour of a battle between the world number 31 and 36, with Judd going on to make a 147 on a back table, particularly at a full-ranking event.

To some extent, World Snooker (responsible for the selection this weekend rather than Eurosport it would appear), cannot win as there will always be someone that is not happy. There will always be matches that on paper might not excite, but prove to be full of drama and vice versa. Remember last season when Oliver Lines and Kacper Filipiak were given a televised table to the praise of many, only to be a turgid match that didn’t help the case for more evenly matched pairings.

Different match-ups will appeal to different viewers and because of that perhaps it is understandable that they generally go with the highest ranked players, because ultimately that is probably the ‘fairest’ criteria that can be applied. If the world number one were to be regularly on non-televised tables because he would be expected to win most of his matches, then that player would arguably have valid grounds to make a complaint.

With an objective criteria, rather than the subjective opinion of somebody at World Snooker, clearly there is less room for argument and potential controversy.

My Thoughts

Those are some of the arguments that spring to my mind either way, but what do I think of the approach that has been taken in recent seasons?

In terms of the full-ranking events, generally speaking I am satisfied with the selection of matches and believe that the top ranked players should be on the main tables. The fans ultimately want to see the best players and for me they have earned the right to be on the television at the biggest events.



The position is different in respect of the European Tour events however, with just one table and players required to win seven matches to take home the title, there is a stronger case for increased variety during the six last 128 matches selected at each event.

I do think that there are times when it is justifiable to screen a top player against an amateur, but certainly not every time and that is demonstrated by the fact that even I as a committed snooker fan, do not always feel the need to watch these matches.
If I feel that way, then why should the more casual sports fans be motivated to watch, particularly when with the amount of matches to choose from, there are usually more interesting choices available.

What do you think? Please let me know in the comments section below.