Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Mark Allen v Barry Hearn

Snooker is back in the back pages this week due to the staging of the second most prestigious tournament on the circuit - the UK Championship returned to York but with some changes.  Instead of the established 17 frame rounds, the WPBSA announced that the event will instead have best of 11 rounds before the best of 19 final.

Some players have taken issue with this, before the event John Higgins said it was scandalous to change the format of a long established event.

Mark Allen, from Northern Ireland, the World 12 and who won his first round match 6-4 spoke of his displeasure at the changes, "When Barry came in, one of the first things he said was that the World Championship, UK and Masters wouldn't be touched. Only 18 months later, the UK format has changed," Allen said.

Allen continued, "I don't think he's pleasing too many players, but anyone who voted for him has only got themselves to blame. I wasn't one of them.  I've got no doubt he'll tweak the World Championship. The whole tradition of the game is going to pot."

Hearn (head of the Darts governing body Professional Darts Organization and Chairman of Leyton Orient FC) has had a long association with snooker back to his days as agent to the likes of Steve Davis and Jimmy White under the umbrella of Matchroom back in the halycon days of snooker in the mid to late 1980s.  Hearn was sworn in as the new Chairman those 18 months ago and he has tried to bring new initiatives such as Power Snooker to the masses and bring bums on seats back to the events.

World Snooker says they are experiencing record box-office for this week, helped in no small part to a match up between Ronnie O'Sullivan and Judd Trump (Trump won 6-5), but the need to have shorter matches will be of benefit to someone as enigmatic as O'Sullivan who admits he finds it hard to maintain concentration and apply himself to longer formats. 

Allen's argument has credence to his style of play, a nugget of a player who is better the longer the game goes on.  Yet it seems the more flamboyant and stylish players like Trump are the future of the game, which Allen also alluded to , "In the long run, he'll probably do good for snooker, but not for my generation."  Yet a generation that still has Steve Davis playing in the televised stages of a major tournament.

Snooker is one of those sports whose fanbase is fanatical and extremely supportive, yet at times Hearn has come to the fore and tried to change it too quickly.  He has expanded the global view of the game staging events in Australia and Shanghai, where the growth of the game is considerable.  The changes though to the UK Championship is a shame as it appears that the established names were not notified until before the event, hence the frustration of some players.

As for changes to happen to the Masters at Wembley and Worlds in Sheffield - that may be a case of too much too soon - now Barry Hearn is threatening legal action over Allen's comments.

After having quelled the threat of betting in the game and match fixing, now we have the new Chairman threatening legal action over any player who does not like what he is doing.  Snooker players are not the superstars in terms of financial clout and the best players do have sustained careers for some 10 years, Allen has worked hard to stay in the illustrious top 16 and be a factor come World Championships, so does snooker really need a playground argument to be ended in a courtroom.

Hearn is the boss (a boss with too many fingers in too many pies it seems) yet Allen - whose exterior resembles that of a quiet choir boy - should not be reprimanded for once speaking his mind with such passion and belief.  A lot of what he says has a lot of basis in fact, it shouldn't lead to a disciplinary but rather a thorough discussion and explanation from said chairman.

The floor is yours Mr. Hearn, and you've never been shy to talk before.

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