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The Fountain #13, February 25th 1998

Is Snooker Going to Pot?

I thought the gloomy days of snookers seedy past were finally behind it, after all with great new players emerging every year things could not be better ... right? Wrong. Snooker, it seems, just cannot shake the problems which have always dogged it. Yet again I am looking at the game I love being torn about from all corners. Let me try and put my two pennies worth in. Snooker's ruling body is in a total state of dissarray, their chairman is one of the dinosaurs from an age best forgot when the name snooker summoned up visions of long coated men smoking cigars and exchanging heated words over payments of bets won or lost in seedy snooker hall matches. Rex Williams co-opted on to the board by the Scottish cavalier mr Ian Doyle has fallen out with his champion. It must of been a great shock to mr Doyle to find out the man who he expected to go along with all he said dare to dissagree with him. Wrongly or rightly Rex Williams has stood firm over issues which mr Doyle find so serious it has led him to publicly denounce the man he chose for the job. Let me be straight, it is not the issue that is wrong here it is the way it is handled. How can a world and now olympic sport have all of its dirty laundry washed in public.

I have personally sat in on meetings for managers and players. I remember one meeting in Preston during the UK Championships where the two heavyweights of snooker management attended, Hearn and Doyle. The two of them tore in to various members of the board and their staff, Mssrs Hearn and Doyle both frantically trying to score points from each other. The problem here is that the meeting was supposed to be for managers. There was absolutely no security and I spotted quite a few strange faces sitting in. The truth is that we have two entrepeneurs calling the shots who each have a vested interest in the game, but not for any other good but their own. Sure both mr Doyle and mr Hearn are very good at earning a living off of the back of snooker, but that is of no assistance to making snooker fit for true world recognition.

The infastructure of snooker is at breaking point, it just needs one more straw to push it right back to where it started in the bad old days. It may be that the final straw has come today with the sad news that Terry Griffiths has decided to retire from the job as WPBSA head of coaching. Terry felt unable to carry on with all of the distractions going on around the WPBSA. On top of this a number of top players have vented their frustrations in the media.

Enough is enough, something has to be done and fast. Sponsors will run a mile if snooker does not get its house in order. All of the sponsorship deals in place at present have get out clauses which allow sponsors to withdraw from their obligations should the image of snooker fall below an acceptable standard. This I imagine would include the biggest manager mr Doyle calling the chairman dishonourable. Can you really expect to make a professional sport truly professional with such an amateur organization running it? A rival organization could take over snooker very easily, provided they have enough funds to guarantee players a better income than they get at present, and who could blame the players for switching to a rival organization when you look at the mess this one is making. Just look at the state of darts right now, two rival world associations each with its own set of players. Like darts snooker does not produce enough revenue to afford such a split. Boxing produces plenty of revenue and plenty of ruling bodies with lots of reigning world champs at each weight. Are either of these two examples what snooker needs?.

Ok, so I have told you the horror story and hope I have explained just how fragile the sport is, so not to be a person only full of critisicm I feel it is important for me to tell you how things should be changed, so here goes.

Terry Griffiths for me is the one man who could save snooker from the clutches of the money men. All players should throw their support behind him and try to install a new board with Terry as chairman. Terry has told me that he does not really have the time to take the chairmans job, but I am sure that if enough players supported him and gave him the backing he would take up the cause. Terry is the type of figurehead who is capable of winning over not just players and managers but sponsors. Terry is one of the most respected men in the game and loves it with a passion.

Voting should be allowed right down to the 96 top players who are on the main circuit as it is them which have to endure the main brunt of all the decisions made for them.

All managers should be licenced with immediate effect and licensing should also mean that managers have their credentials checked out. Players or anyone with a vested interest in one, should not be allowed on to the board. Any sports person who is so incredibly lucky to be gifted with such a rare talent that they can play a game that they enjoy and get paid vast sums, should be left to do just that - play. Most snooker players work very hard. Much harder than the public really know. Yet there are many who do not really put in as much effort as they could, those who do not treat it as a job of work. This happens because when you are gifted you often do not appreciate what it is which makes you so different, but if you let it slip and do not make the effort you then realise how special the gift was just as it leaves you forever. To this we have living testimonies like Higgins (Alex), White, Kirk Stevens and Co. These players have been in the public eye so it is easy to witness their premature decline. Behind the scenes over the years we have had board after board after board who made cock up after cock up, amid rumours of corruption, favouritism and a closed shop. Players need to practice so hard to achieve anything at world class. Well, the WPBSA have had more than enough practice over the years and quite frankly they are obviously lacking talent because they are slipping down the rankings.

I have been unable to reply to everyone who has written of late and to those who have not recieved a reply I am sorry. I will be posting a new lesson in the very near future. If you have any suggestions of an area of the game you would like me to cover please write to me.

Well done to 'Ronnie O' on winning his second title this year, and congratulations also go to young Paul Hunter (who was my tip for the top several articles ago) on winning the Regal Welsh. I will catch up with seasons results next time. Untill then keep your heads down.

Regards

Richard Fountain (richfo@globalnet.com.uk)

The Fountain is a column written by Richard Fountain from England. He is an ex snooker coach and used to be the manager of Mark King. He will be writing to you throughout the snooker year and will try to give you all the inside info on this great game. Please feel free to write him <richfo@globalnet.com.uk> with any questions you may have.

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