Features and Interviews

2015 Highs and Lows – Part One

As 2015 draws to a close it’s time to reflect on what has been another enthralling year in snooker.

There have been many talking points over the course of the last 12 months both on and off the table.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the best moments to come from this calendar year, but today let’s focus on some of the low or controversial matters which have dominated the headlines.

The Lows

John Sutton Banned

It seems like a long time ago but in May of this year the saga surrounding John Sutton’s 2014 International Championship qualifying defeat to Jamie Burnett came to a sorry conclusion.

John Sutton UK

John Sutton had previously reached the final round in Q-School – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

The Irish amateur was deemed to be in breach of the sport’s rules concerning corruption and the misuse of inside information, and was duly handed a six year suspension.

Sutton argued his innocence throughout but was unable to convince the WPBSA Disciplinary Committee, who imposed a particularly harsh sentence on the part-timer.

If Sutton did indeed try to cheat the system then of course he, or anyone in a similar situation, deserves to be punished.

However, it did call into question the methodology behind the committee’s sentencing.

With bans for players in recent times spanning from 6 months to 12 years, there appears to be little consistency and it would be beneficial if a clearer outline on how potential match-fixers should be punished in the future was devised.

The Calendar

Either have a year-round schedule, or don’t – but if you’re going to do it then do it properly.

When the Barry Hearn era began so too did the influx of new events on the calendar.

This resulted in the traditional autumn start point of a new campaign being pushed back to June as tournaments on the Asian and European Tours, as well as new ranking events in Australia and China, materialised.

However, the Asian Tour has suffered a setback in tournaments and the Wuxi Classic was this year replaced by the World Cup.

The mix of changes led to there being noticeable gaps on the calendar right up until the Shanghai Masters in September.

It made it very difficult to get involved in the early stages of the season with the stop-start nature restricting any natural flow of enjoyment.

Once current contracts expire, more effort needs to be put into creating a more fluid roster of events.

If that means going back to the old summer break from the sport, then so be it.

Chinese Events

Mentioned already, the Asian Tour of satellite three or four day events have dwindled dramatically, with only one being staged so far this season.

There was supposed to be three in China but, through poor organisation, planning or otherwise, two have been cancelled and it doesn’t seem like there’ll be any replacements.

This comes soon after the Wuxi Classic and World Open ranking events were panned, bringing into question what is actually going on in what is hyped as the sport’s most promising destination.

Crowds are often dismal in Chinese tournaments but that’s another issue entirely as the regular Joe is priced out of ticket sales.

We constantly hear that there are tens of millions of Chinese people playing and watching snooker, but what we now have is a situation where events are being pulled from the country to be replaced by the new Home Series in the UK and Ireland – the traditional home of the sport.

Why is convincing Chinese promoters to stage events in the country so challenging, and why can’t World Snooker enforce a policy to ensure that local fans, of which there’s supposed to be a vast amount, can attend the venue at a reasonable cost?

It’ll be interesting to see how this develops in 2016 because China is obviously a lucrative spot that should be taken advantage of.

Ding Junhui

If there is a question mark surrounding China’s place on the calendar, then what is to be made of its biggest star?

Ding Junhui Missed 147

Ding’s plight was highlighted at the Crucible, when he carelessly missed an opportunity for a 147 by playing for the blue  – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Ding Junhui has endured a torrid time of it this year despite ending January as the world no.1.

Holding that position clearly came about off the back of his stellar 2013/14 campaign when he captured a record-equaling five ranking event trophies.

Since then it’s all gone wrong for the 28 year-old and he’s only reached one ranking semi-final in 2015.

The situation has become so perilous that he is currently provisionally outside the world’s top 16 and runs the risk of having to qualify for the World Championship in April.

Ding’s head appears to be all over the place and it must be worrying for his legion of fans that, what was initially thought to be a temporary dip, is increasingly becoming more permanent.

One suspects that one really good week will solve everything but there are no signs of a solid string of performances transpiring soon.

Irish Snooker

Where to begin? RIBSA, the governing body responsible for the game in Ireland, is generally one step away from its next calamity.

To cover all of them here would take a few posts but it’s really a case of one disappointment after another.

This year’s highlights include letting a promising relationship with newly elected council member and Public Relations Officer Fin Ruane go to waste.

The CrossGuns Snooker Club owner resigned his position in February following an array of questionable decisions at the hands of the men in charge.

It continued in May when, granted this was aided by a tame revolution from the players themselves, Jim Leacy was reelected as Chairman of the association.

I have never met Jim and so have absolutely nothing against him personally.

But he was at the helm of the old boys’ brigade before with debatable degrees of success – so what will make this tenure any different?

It would have been refreshing to have a new face, preferably a little younger, take the helm but it is what it is.

To be fair, though, at least the first thing that was abolished was the ridiculous scheme whereby half of the players’ entry fees into ranking events were withheld for international jaunts.

This has led to a small, but promising, increase in the numbers attending the tournaments this season, so let’s hope that minor victory can be built upon.

Come back tomorrow to read about 2015’s highs.

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