It may well go down in snooker history as the moment he lost the crowd, like a comedian riding on the crest of a wave only to spoil it with an inappropriately timed borderline racist joke, the day that Bazza entered World Snooker HQ with the crazy idea of making the Shootout a ranking event may be the day that previously adoring fans started having their suspicions that perhaps Mr Hearn was beginning to get ahead of himself.
It may be no coincidence that since he made this colossal cock-up the fans and indeed in some cases the players have been a little more vocal about their baize-related concerns than they had been previously, venting their anger directly at our beloved chairman about everything like playing conditions, lack of practice facilities at big events, late prize money payments and potless potters. Dare I say that it has even lost him some respect?
Make no mistake, it was 100% the wrong thing to do. It’s like making Bullseye a ranking event in darts or a crazy golf tournament one on the PGA Tour. My issue isn’t so much that it is only one frame (if they finish in time) or even that it is subject to shotclock conditions, it’s the fact that it is an event with different rules on the table, it’s not snooker and it counts towards a snooker ranking list, which is, even by Bazza’s standards taking the maverick, ‘I don’t play by the rules’ approach a bit too far.
But it’s not just Bazza that’s to blame, the board that agreed it like obedient sheep also need to stand up and be counted. The fact that a group of people with the best interests of the sport in their hands sat around a room and didn’t think this might not be a great idea is baffling, or perhaps they did and Bazza just went ahead and did it anyway. Either way, it’s not a decision that is likely to make the sceptical non-bookie sponsors sit up and think that snooker is a serious sport after all that they should get involved in.
Aside from the Chinese events we are now totally reliant on gambling sponsors, whether they be recognisable names like Ladbrokes and the sponsors of this rubbish Coral or obscure made up ones like the the sponsors of the Gibraltar comp coming up, Yoyobet or something like that. Let’s just hope the rug isn’t pulled from under our feet like they did with the ciggies.
I’ve never found this event in the slightest bit entertaining, the vast majority of the matches I have seen peeking from behind a cushion have been one-sided, pedestrian affairs. The audience consists of something of a fusion between chimps who have escaped from the zoo and chucking out time at the roughest boozer in town, the shotclock adds nothing but the chance for said crowd to go ‘wooooooooooo’ every now and again. Quite frankly that is enough reason not to watch, but now that all the players will be taking this seriously even what novelty/comedy some people found in it will all but disappear.
A lot of the top players haven’t entered this which gives a number of amateurs a chance to snatch a few quid, I suppose the best/only good thing about this is that it might help a few struggling potters with the bills if they have a run, but god forbid the winner/runner-up gets a Crucible place by virtue of it. For those who will be watching I can only assume you have nothing better to do so you have my pity and I’ll leave you to it, I’m sure you’ll be able to find the draw etc. somewhere before Thursday when it all kicks off.