May 29, 2010

Who will win Snooker's big vote?

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:09 am

Bazza's old pal the Nugget

Since the news yesterday that John Davison will be standing toe-to-toe against Barry Hearn for the right to run snooker into what all fans hope is a new dawn there has been plenty of reaction and some might say blatant propaganda about the big vote on Wednesday.

Barry still has unequivocal support from two of snooker’s big hitters, his old pal Steve Davis and the games biggest asset Ronnie O’Sullivan, whilst the likes of Mark Selby, world champion Neil Robertson and Mark Williams have all expressed support for his plans in the past. It will be interesting to hear if they are still so supportive now a rival bid has been tabled.

On the other side of the argument we appear to have another influential figure in Stephen Hendry. It seems that the former Olympian Davison will attract support primarily I would think because his bid isn’t as ‘my way or the highway’ as Barry’s is. Rumour also has it that Davison is a bit handy with a gun too.

On the World Snooker website yesterday we saw a quickly cobbled together show of support for Baz. No doubt orchestrated by the great man himself. Steve Davis extolling the merits of the new Players Tour Championship and Ronnie serving up a standard one-liner that in all likelihood was fed to him by Bazza himself while Ron was concentrating on something else.

Barry himself was unsurprisingly sceptical about his rival and said “John Davison is an excellent investment adviser but there’s a world of difference between running that and the world of professional sport”

“It’s a question of who the players think can do the best job for snooker. I think I can offer something very special to the world of snooker”

“There are big hurdles in front of snooker in terms of revitalising the sport and the integrity of the game. We can’t afford to let this situation go on”

Stephen Hendry however was a little more vocal in his support of Davison and said: “For a sport which many would like to write off, to have two bids on the table to take the game forward shows that there is plenty of life in snooker”

In a subtle swipe at Barry’s plans to ‘sex up’ the sport he said “Players have been crying out for proper tournaments and more money and the proposal put forward by John Davison certainly meets those criteria”

“John is a guy with a fantastic track record and huge experience in the sports industry. That he has come forward again to lend his expertise and acumen to snooker says a lot about what he sees in terms of potential for the sport”

“He has stipulated the time scale he will work within, which for me is more appealing than just handing all of our assets over”. Again a swipe at Barry’s plans for world domination.

The Chuckle Brothers

I think this last point Hendry makes is crucial and echoes the earlier comments made by Peter Ebdon. I can’t help thinking that Barry should have a rethink about his insistence on taking snookers commercial rights all for himself and his sons and heirs for ever and a day.

But realistically the players voting next week are voting for players that we are yet to see on the big screen, those who are probably at the moment making centuries in local clubs around the globe and winning junior events.

To put it in perspective, even if Davison wins the vote, young Belgian hopeful Luca Brecel will be 31 by the time he is up for reselection, Ding Junhui will be 39 but will still look exactly as he does now, Ali Carter will be out of short trousers and eating solids, Mark Selby will be in the rehabilitation clinic for retired clowns, Judd Trump will have learnt how to play safe and Shaun Murphy will have discovered that there is no God. Meanwhile John Higgins will be in his first season back since his ban and Steve Davis will be drawing his pension and probably will have a faint whiff of wee about him, though he’ll probably still be ranked around the high twenties.

Hendry added (bitterly) in his interview with that “Eight years ago his offer then was rejected almost entirely on the back of ill-informed individuals who spread rumours and lies that  myself and Ian Doyle had something to do with the Altium proposal when nothing could have been further from the truth”

“Thankfully this time around, there won’t be that kind of misleading distraction. Ian has retired and some would say I’m going the same way! But this is down to individual players making the right decision this time”.

“I want what is best for snooker. No-one can say that has been the case over the last decade”.

“But this time, whoever comes out the winner at the other end, there should be a shaking of hands and none of the acrimony that has belittled snooker for so long”. He obviously has never seen Barry when he loses…

“That said, which ever proposal is accepted has to succeed.“

World No.15 Mark King has also welcomed the Davison announcement and said “I don’t see how anyone couldn’t be impressed by this offer, several years ago I was one of those who made a wrong call (similar to some of his shot selections) – which proved to be a disaster for snooker – by not backing Mr Davison’s Altium bid”

“Obviously he still sees potential in snooker – and he is investing his money in pushing the game forward. The fact he has come back for another try to save the game shows a huge level of conviction in my eyes”

“All of last week in Austria people were wondering if there was going to be a counter proposal. Now that I’ve seen it, it was worth waiting for. We need serious tournaments, not every event carrying ranking status, playing on tables with pockets like buckets where the outcome is just a lottery” Kingy is clearly non-plussed by some of Barry’s initiatives too.

If the players get this wrong this could be the future of snooker

I have to say I am with him on that last point both as a fan of the game and as someone that tries to make money from betting on it. The short formats and ‘novelty events’ will prove a disaster for serious punters and from a purely punting angle this is another niggle I have about the Hearn plan, he seems to be adapting a few too many dart-isms already for my liking. One of the reasons I never bet on his awful Premier League circus.

In short, whoever they vote in, they will be putting their own personal careers in the entire hands of the winner. I have a sneaking feeling that in a lot of cases their own self interest (i.e wallets) may come before the longer term future of the sport.

For me, as much as I’d love to carry on taking the rise out of Barry for the next 100 years I feel the bid yesterday is a little more amicable and this might carry some favour with the players. It’s tough to call, has Davison got the media ‘clout’ that Barry has got? Dave Hendon states that Sky have said that they won’t work with anyone but Bazza, but given that they prefer the razzmatazz approach to some serious events is this necessarily a bad thing? I’d also doubt that the initial statement is entirely true, since when has a Rupert Murdoch owned corporation taken a moral stance on who they will and won’t work with? If the price is right he would get into bed with anyone.

Barry has a way of convincing sponsors to back events, has Davison the same influence? Barry knows how to handle the press and get snooker back into the papers, does Davison have Barry’s powers of persuasion?

If only Barry would dispense with all the talk of ‘fun’ and ‘short formats’ I’d say take that leap of faith. But real snooker fans don’t want novelty, we want as Hendry puts it ‘proper tournaments’ without as King puts it ‘pockets like buckets’.

If Barry could just see that and mix his talk of new daft events with a bit more detail about the serious events and how he sees those evolving I think he might just get some players attention back on him.

I wonder how Vicky, I mean, Mark will vote?


(Mark previously came out in support of Hearn)

Rival bid could pose a dilemma

I was surprised to hear that an alternative bid to Barry Hearn’s plans for the future of snooker will be presented next week. I understand John Davison is behind it, and I know he tried to launch something similar with the Altium group several years ago.

This could potentially create a dilemma for me, as well as all the other players who will have to wait until next week’s EGM to discover what Davison is proposing. I won’t be making up my mind until I see exactly what is on the table. I know what Barry is proposing, and I know he would do a great job and that he’s got a lot of support, and that it will be difficult to go against what he has already proposed.

But as of now, I’m still undecided. I’m going to wait and see what this rival bid is about and, until then, I don’t intend to put all my eggs in one basket.

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