The Sport Of Snooker: Another One Bites The Dust?

Antony Herbert@LeeUwishWritingAnalyst IIINovember 6, 2009

Most things have a general life span. Once the object of affection becomes banal or repetitive it begins to reduce in popularity. It reaches a peak and spirals on a continuous road of decline until it falls into oblivion waiting to either become resurrected or to be resigned as just a footnote in the history books.

Sadly the sport of snooker in its current form appears to be heading for the latter. Although the sport itself in the UK continues to gain constant televised exposure, it is in crisis.

The most recognisable aspect of the decline is the reduced amount of ranking tournaments available to players. No fewer than seven ranking tournaments have bitten the dust in recent years including the British Open and the Irish Masters, both which drew great levels of enthusiasm and spectatorship.

Remaining are less than half of what was previously witnessed on the circuit. Including the internationally famous World Championship just six ranking tournaments remain. Consider then that these tournaments similar in length to tennis tournaments last generally two weeks at most then that accounts for a maximum of just twelve weeks of play a year. These matches are vitally important and crucial for players to build upon their rankings just as in any other sport.  

Such a position the sport has found itself in is ridiculous. How on earth players are supposed to fight for ranking positions with so few points available is beyond a joke. A player can have the best of ‘seasons’ and climb a mere couple of positions and paradoxically a player who suffers six first round defeats wont actually fall down the rankings as much as they would in other sports.

Players such as Alan McManus have regarded Snooker players’ current inclusion as ‘part-time’ action. It has become a sport that requires minimal attention and provides little in the way of inspiration for players who come into the sport. Although they adore playing it, just as with any other sport it is not a full time career.

Many things appear to have contributed to down fall in snooker.

Firstly it was of course a sport where like Formula 1 it received a lot of its revenue from cigarette sponsors. The fall out from these sponsors from sport left a gaping hole for snooker and had a detrimental effect on various tournaments. Snooker has since struggled to find as many sponsors as it once had in its hey day of the 1980’s.

Snooker’s management have criticised the lack of promotion made by the players also. While this may be true with the most popular and influential player Ronnie O’Sullivan taking a back seat recently it should not be up to the players to manage a sport.

The players themselves have shown an interest in setting up an independent players union to help with the management and promotion of the sport, but if the sport is already being mis-managed by the people appointed to these roles what chance does an independent player union have? The progression back to a sport that enacts formidable excitement from any angle has to be first directed by the owners.

Snooker has also been widely regarded mainly as a sport confined to the United Kingdom with most of its players heralding from the British Isles. The likes of Neil Robertson and Marco Fu have provided some international interest but a lack of variety outside of the UK has been portrayed in a negative light. Although this is something that has been continuous with the sport since its inception, it is something being referred to as a possible saving grace for the sport. With greater international exposure the chance increases of finding more sponsors, and therefore more tournaments, greater inspiration and a greater spectacle for the fans themselves.

Yet this is a double edged sword as to create the impetus needed to tempt foreign players to the sport it already has to have defined success and confidence in itself. Why would a prospective player ditch a current career to risk it all on a sport that might be on its way out sooner rather than later?

At present the job of a snooker player does not require them to be fully committed due to the lengthy gaps in between tournaments. If you compare this to most other sports the difference is pretty substantial.  

It is therefore the responsibility of management and possibly partly the players to improve the vision of snooker. There needs to be a visible attempt to revive it and bring some life and passion back to the table.

If the uninterrupted down turn in the sport continues then the world of snooker could cease to exist in the next few years.