Look Out World - Snooker Is Coming!!
At last a breath of fresh air for snooker with the anouncement of the 1996 World Cup, unlike the World team championship it will truly be a global competition. The format will be just like the football World cup with teams seeded and then other teams qualifying to meet them, for the first time countries like Malaysia and Saudi Arabia will be competing. I believe that the first World cup should be a giant step toward making snooker a truly worldwide sport, and who knows - maybe soon an olympic sport.
We have seen many shocks this season mainly produced by youngsters upseting the form books by beating some of the giants of the game, this was highlighted by the superb win of Mark Williams in the Regal Welsh Tournament. What really annoys me is that when I sit in on WPBSA meetings at Blackpool, Stephen Hendry's manager Ian Doyle often tells us that snooker needs its stars like Dennis Taylor, Jimmy White etc. He is refering to the current ranking system which operates on a one and a half year basis, which Mr Doyle feels makes it too easy for the top players to be caught, therefore great personalities like Dennis Taylor and co are at risk of being cast out of the top flight. But how do players express their personalities? Not by playing hundreds of qualifying matches watched by a handfull of people. No, as I can verify players like Mark williams do have personality, in fact Mark is one of the more colourfull characters around and I was really pleased when he won his first tournament. Now Mark will have every opportunity to show people that he is not one of the "robots of snooker", there are other players who have ability as well as character and they should be given every chance to learn how to entertain the crowds. I agree with Mr Doyle that players who are past their prime in playing ability often have so much ability to entertain, this is highlighted by one of the all time greats Cliff Thorburn, after seeing him lose all of his qualifying matches in January I believe we have seen the last of this great man. But snooker is a sport and sport has to be won and lost on ability not how many laughs you can get out of the audience. the sad truth is that in this day snooker is fast becoming a young man's game and if you watch the players who let's say are on the way down, they tend to try and stop players from winning instead of trying to win themselves. Most players who are over 35 tend to make less competative breaks over say a hundred, now I know there have been exceptions to the rule over the years, but these days the kids pot balls from any position and the older players struggle to contain them. The only answer to this is to put on a seniors tournament for the over fourties, this would be good fun and good entertainment.
There was as mentioned in one of my previous articles a plan to make a qualifying school, this would have made life a whole lot easier for the overseas players to get into the top flight of snooker. But the plan has been thrown into turmoil because the playing membership did not vote for it, as far as I understand certain top players who are in a large management team refused to vote it in. This is bad news for snooker as we must help the overseas game to develop and expand, for at the moment snooker is controlled totally from England by the WPBSA, but if we allow things to carry on the way they are then it may not be long before some other country decides to form a break away association, and who could blame them?.
Now on a lighter note we are only two months away from the World Championships, and this year promises to be one of the best, with record prize money and a great line up of players. This year the final qualifying round has been seperated from the normal Blackpool qualifiers, so in March we are all off to Telford's international centre. Seeds 17-32 will play the sixteen qualifiers and the sixteen winners will take their place versus the top sixteen at the home of snooker - the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. One other variation this year is that the sixteen qualifiers will not know who they are playing until Sat 23 March at 5.00pm when there will be a live draw made on BBC's grandstand of the final thirty two players. The draw will be made by John Spencer and Ray Reardon. As far as who is going to win well there will not be too many people betting against Stephen Hendry retaining his title but you never know ...
Please keep writing to me especially if you think you should have a tournament played in your country, as I love to hear from people who are starved of top flight snooker.
The Fountain is a column written by Richard Fountain from England. He is the manager of Mark King, a new and promising player who is provisionally 37 in the new rankings for 95-96. 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org> with any questions you may have.