April 7, 2010

Roll Out the Big Guns: The Countdown to Sheffield Begins

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:52 pm

Whose looking after the Asylum then?

Today saw the official launch of the World Snooker Championship  at the Royal Automobile Club in London.

Everyone there seemed to be in jovial mood, Barry Hearn, Fred Done, John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan all turning out to big up the event which starts a week on Saturday.

As ever, all of them took every opportunity that they could to heap praise upon our Baz, his free pre-launch booze up getting them all in the mood to claim ‘We love you Bazza’.

First of all Fred Done told Eurosport that our Baz was “the best sports promoter I have ever worked with” and said he wanted to sign on as sponsor for another four years, even though there are still two years to run on the existing contract after this year’s championship.

“What I like about Barry is his enthusiasm. You can see it pouring out of his veins,” Fred continued. “We didn’t get this enthusiasm last year”. They also didn’t get the free booze beforehand as Sir Rodney was careful with the pennies, apart from  his own salary that is.

According to Lord Barry, world snooker champions can expect million dollar pay days if his masterplan to revive the sport hits its targets. So that was enough to get Ronnie to say his bit too.

Sitting to Hearn’s right O’Sullivan initially gave his assessment on where snooker might go under Hearn’s leadership.

“Snooker has kind of found its level and to think we’ll be paying one million dollar prizes like in golf, I don’t think that’s ever going to be achievable in snooker,” O’Sullivan said. With Barry beginning to look a bit tetchy as this wasn’t quite the opening line that the two had agreed upon a few minutes earlier.

Barry is bringing back some old characters, but I'm not sure Ronnie is too happy about it

“But if you look at what’s happened with darts, if snooker could compete at that level then it will have become a success”. Ronnie however then was slightly taken off guard as he was hit with a flying custard pie in one of Barry’s new initiatives to make press conferences ‘a bit more rock and roll’

Through the dripping cream he was heard to continue “I don’t think we can dream of earning the kind of money tennis players, golfers or footballers get. But as long as we’ve got a busy calendar and lots of playing opportunities, if you win you’ll be rewarded” he spluttered and was then submerged in an avalanche of chicken feathers from above, another innovative idea of the smiling assassin/chairman (delete as appropriate).

Hearn then pushed Ronnie to one side and stepped in to shout: “I disagree with Ronnie” (as our hero was heard crashing to the ground in the background)

“In the early 1980s snooker was bigger than European Tour golf so something went wrong”. Surprisingly this is when Barry decided to stop getting involved.

“We’ve got to take the rest of the game up to the level of the World Championship” he barked.

“We’ve got to throw away the baggage of yesteryear and ignore all the mistakes that have been made – and there have been millions of them over the years. The lunatics have been running the asylum”. At this point a dazed Ronnie looked a little confused as he knows quite a few of them. Indeed he is one as Hearn acknowledged at one point when he put his arm around a by now frankly terrified Rocket and said rubbing his head with his bare knuckles “he’s a lunatic but I love him.” Takes one to know one Baz.

“I believe we can go to where golf is and we can have million-dollar prizes and I think the first million-dollar prize will be at the World Championship” said the tough-talking lunatic, I mean World Snooker Chairman.

“I don’t see any restrictions on us if we work as one instead of what’s gone on with niggling, whingeing, moaning, mediocrity. I believe with the right opportunities and the support of the players we can shock the world”. I don’t think Peter Ebdon (click here for his views) and Mark Davis are on Bazza’s Christmas card list anymore.

Brave Man: Ebdon voiced concerns about Hearns plans recently

Anyway, Hearn should learn next month, following a vote after the World Championship, whether his blueprint for the future of snooker (contained in full on the right hand menu) has the players full support.

O’Sullivan believes Hearn can only succeed in a sport which has seen tournaments fall off the calendar to the point where only six ranking events have remained, leaving the players largely part-time.

When Ronnie had recovered from being custard and feathered he eventually came round and said “Snooker is in the position where it can only go forward but it’s going to be hard”. He was then seen running away at lightning speed from Barry’s heavies.

Oh yes, apparently the World Champion was there too but he’s not as press worthy as Ronnie and I can’t find what he said anywhere. Sorry John, but revenge is a dish best served cold around early May time.

Dave Hendon writes on his blog here that Hearn summed things up by saying:

“The World Championship is the cream on the cake (Doesn’t he mean cherry? Never mind).

“It’s the reason professional snooker players play the game. It’s up there with the other top events in sport”

“The royalty of our sport will gather in the snooker city of Sheffield and it’s going to be fantastic. We can show the world that we can still deliver great sporting drama”

He then pulled a lever, a siren sounded, red lights flashed and Fred Done and John Higgins were deluged in green slime, to the delight of the ringmaster Hearn.

He knows how to put a show on, now let’s start talking about the snooker.

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