Happy new year everyone, I have decided to return from my period of snookerless joy and merriment to ponder a question which I have been mulling over now for quite a while, namely, what is the point of snooker’s Championship League?
There was a time when this oddly formatted event was needed and necessary, it offered players who weren’t up to much the chance of winning a few quid in more or less practice type surroundings at Crondon Park in Essex. The venue itself became synonymous with the event with its mock tudor beams and oversized armchairs, Dave Hendon, a staple there from the very start also made much of the legendary breakfasts that he feasted on every morning before a busy day in the commentary box.
The first couple of events, where 2-2 draws were possible, were not without some controversy too, at one point the match results were so hooky that Bazza himself had to pay a personal visit to warn all players that were not trying their best in every match to watch their backs, he’d got wind that they’d been colluding and he had to put a stop to it, after all, there were people out there gambling their hard earned on match outcomes and it had to be straight as an arrow.
Therein lies the main purpose of the event, underlined by the fact that now they have moved from the intimacy of Crondon to the arena venue of the Ricoh in Coventry (RIP breakfast), where incredibly, but in keeping with the Crondon tradition, nobody is allowed inside to watch. This is because it’s a bookies event, nothing more and nothing less, I remember a firm I used to be in regular contact with telling me that they took more money on a winter’s Monday morning of Crondon matches than they did on the World Championship final the same year.
It’s now in its tenth year and once Bazza took over at World Snooker he quickly ensured that it became part of the official calendar, rather than the original version which was an independent event run by his Matchroom Group, it’s sole sponsor. Again, this makes the event unique, it does not really have a sponsor but can make revenue by selling the stream to the bookies, who seem more than prepared to cough up, presumably because their profits more than cover the outlay, everyone is happy, well, everyone that is except the desperate degenerates that would gamble on two flies crawling up a wall and throw bad money after bad gambling their conkers into the ground on coin toss matches.
It’s telling that the field for the early groups this year is mostly made up of middle ranking players rather than the big guns that have come in to steal the spoils in previous years, in that way I suppose it’s nice that those who are struggling financially at least get a chance to add to the coffers.
So should snooker fans support it? Well, I’m not sure it matters if they do or they don’t, the majority of punters gambling on these matches online probably don’t even know the rules and certainly wouldn’t have an opinion on whether the Shootout should be a ranking event or not, they just view it like those table tennis or badminton matches that pop up on the streams from time to time between two faceless nobodies who bring with them the chance to have a bet.
I’m not bothered either way about it, you could get on your high horse about the morality of staging an event with a sole purpose of lining pockets and fleecing the addicts but that would take away from the fact that it also provides a useful income for players living on the breadline, of which there are many. Perhaps it should be an event only for those outside the top 16 or 32? I’m sure this would make little or no difference to the gambling community and it would possibly make for more interesting viewing for snooker fans, seeing players not used to lifting trophies competing for a life changing amount of money and a title.
So what have we learned in this past few minutes? Well not a lot, but the point of the championship league I think can be summed up in one word, coincidentally Bazza’s favourite word. Money.
Here endeth the lesson.
All the details about this year’s Championship League are here. I’ll see you at The Masters.