Potty About ChangesHi there!
Well another Snooker season is over and to the naked eye nothing has changed, but believe me it has and it has changed a lot. Most people reading the first line will think I am mad, but let me justify my previous statement. Stephen Hendry is still the top and to my mind proved this season without doubt he is the all time best, and although some people say he isn't as talented as say Jimmy and Ronnie, I believe they are wrong because he would not have been at the top so long on dedication and determination alone. No, Stephen Hendry is the best ever and that is official, well official from me!!!.
Anyhow why has Snooker changed so much?, well firstly although Stephen is still streets ahead on points from the others the game has drawn much closer. This season has seen lower ranked players growing in confidence, players are not feeling intimidated by the big names and big arenas. When someone draws a Hendry or a Wattana they no longer expect to go and get whitewashed, they feel that if they play well enough they could win and that they can become a top player. All of this is true and with big names like Wattana, White and Davis all fighting just to stay in the top 16 you have to agree.
Another reason why Snooker has changed so much is the overall image of the game in general, more countries than ever before are receiving televised Snooker this year (160 Roughly), I believe Snooker has emerged through the dark times which existed after the highs of the late eighties. Now Snooker seems to have one common aim, Wordlwide coverage, I know there are still many countries which do not participate especially the USA, but it is changing. We are on the verge of becoming an Olympic sport, that will unlock untold amounts of publicity and funds. Snooker also represents fantastic value for sponsors, I see no reason why some of the larger companies cannot use Snooker as a very cheap advertising medium. When you consider how much it would cost to sponsor a golf tournament and then compare the figures to snooker the results speak for themselves.
The final reason for my claim is that snookers ruling body have now passed the new qualifying school, which will mean that players who live outside th UK can qualify to play on the main circuit in their own parts of the world. Now I do not say that the proposed system will be perfect for everyone, but for the overseas players it is many times better than it has been. I am sure once players see the improvements they will be more encouraged to turn pro. The new school will come into effect in the 97-98 season, and I am sure it will be a tremendous success.
The coming season should be exciting, I predict we will see another new young tournament winner this year, I do not think Stephen Hendry will win his seventh world title!!!. I think that young faces like Matthew Stevens of Wales and Paul Hunter of England will continue to progress quickly up the ranks. One other young player who was tipped to do well Quinten Hann of Australia, has proved that you need more than raw talent to succeed, after showing much promise in the opening rounds last year he gave up. This shows me that noone with little or no dedication and respect for the game can make it through, mind you this should suit the Australian ruling snooker body as they banned hann last season from playing in Australian competition.
On a sad note I must mention the death of Malcolm Hulley, Malcolm was the company secretary to Snookers ruling body the WPBSA, and although I only met him on a few occaisions he struck me with his warmth and down to earth manner. I know Malcolm was only in his post a short while but even in that short time he made many friends, me included, my thoughts are with his family.
Qualifying starts this June in Blackpool for the 96-97 season and I will be there in August, until then we can sit back and enjoy the European cup Football and the Tennis!!!.
The Fountain is a column written by Richard Fountain from England. He is the manager of Mark King, a new and promising player who is provisionally 37 in the new rankings for 95-96. He will be writing to you throughout the snooker year and will try to give you all the inside info on this great game. Please feel free to write him <firstname.lastname@example.org> with any questions you may have.