Players are ready to stand up and be heard, according to new WPBSA Players board member Shaun Murphy.
The 2005 world champion was voted onto the WPBSA Players board at last week’s AGM alongside Mark Davis and Matthew Selt.
Discussions have already been held regarding future changes, although on the latest episode of his podcast Murphy was intent on clarifying the reach and limitations of his new role.
“The game used to be under the umbrella of the WPBSA – the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association,” Shaun Murphy told co-host Phil Seymour on the OneFourSeven Snooker Podcast.
“When Barry Hearn took over the sport, that was splintered off into two. So you have the WPBSA and the World Snooker Tour was created.”
“The World Snooker Tour, under the leadership of Barry Hearn, who has recently retired, and Brandon Parker, who is very sadly missed, developed the commercial strategies for the game and made it what it is today.
“Obviously on the back of the halcyon days of the 1980s and ’90s, but Barry and Brandon really have taken the game from £3.5 million prize money across the season up towards £15 or £16 million now.
“They look after the commercial side of the game. The WPBSA looks after everything else – the rules and regs, the player issues, and all of that stuff.
“That itself now has been split off into two, so you’ve got the WPBSA – which looks after World Women’s Snooker, WDBS, WSF – and WPBSA Players, which has the sole purpose of looking after members and players’ issues, and being the conduit between the players and WST.
“That’s the board that myself, Mark Davis, and Matt Selt have just joined along with Nigel Bond and chairman Ken Doherty.
“Obviously we’re only a week in, but there’s been some robust debate already.
“We’re looking forward to taking players’ issues – and obviously with our own campaigns as well, we’ve all got individual things we’d like to see happen in the game – and run with it to see where we go.
“Of 96 eligible votes, 78 were cast. I think that’s around 80% turnout, which I think anyone in any voting system would tell you is a ridiculous voting turnout.
“Imagine that in a General Election, if 80% of people voted. It would be crazy.
“I’ve been part of the votes before where they’ve struggled to get a quorum, where they’ve struggled to get enough people in the room to make the meeting happen.
“I was voted onto the board of the WPBSA – before WPBSA Players even existed – in 2017. I don’t think 20 votes were cast in that whole thing.
“For so many players to get off the sidelines and get involved exactly speaks to your point.
“I think what’s happened in recent months with the Macau Five and those rival tour situations, there’s quite a lot going on behind the scenes.
“Some of which I can talk about, and some of which I can’t, with promoters pretending to be players’ representatives out in China.
“There’s a lot of lies being told. There’s a lot of underhanded tactics being used by a lot of people.
“I think the players have woken up to their own commercial power, and they’ve realised that they can have a say in this game.
“Barry Hearn has retired. He has stepped away and is in a named position only now.
“Steve Dawson is running the sport along with Simon Brownell at WST. They’re a little bit more open to debate I think.
“I think the players have gone, ‘do you know what? I think we can have a good robust debate, a professional debate around these topics. I’m going to get involved, cast my vote, and see what happens.’ – it’s great, great news.
“Apathy, as I said before the vote, is a killer. It was great to see that apathy was not present.”
Shaun Murphy was later asked to divulge in more detail what the WPBSA Players board might strive to achieve in the near future.
“You very quickly have to understand who is responsible for what,” the reigning Tour Championship winner stressed.
“The Players Board is as it sounds. It’s for the players, by the players.”
“We are not commercial agents. We are not necessarily that commercially minded, and we’re looking at it from the point of view of players trying to improve players’ issues.
“We want to improve things like, how long it takes players to get paid from Chinese events. Currently, it’s between eight to ten weeks, which we think is ridiculous.
“They are the types of issues that we’re going to be looking at.
“We’re currently into a massive debate over the future of the game in terms of bringing back a full tiered system across all events versus the flat 128 draws.
“It’s just not as straightforward as you might think. There’s lots of issues in and around that.
“I tentatively, almost tongue in cheek, throw in scrapping snookers and having the spotted cue ball.
“I do think the spotted cue ball would be a great addition to the coverage, I have to admit.
“These are obviously very little things, these aren’t things that were in my manifesto. But yeah, it’ll be interesting to see.
“You run into that brick wall of course, where you realise that a player’s aspirations and a player’s dreams don’t always line up with the commericalisation of a sport.
“WST are a profit-making business. They’re not there to service the whims and wishes of the players. They are there to make money through the promotion of snooker.
“So those things don’t always align. I guess our job as board members is to keep the players as happy as possible.”
Shaun Murphy and Phil Seymour’s OneFourSeven Snooker Podcast has been nominated at the Sports Podcast Awards 2024.
You can vote for them in the Sports Talk category here.
Featured photo credit: WST