It’s time for the annual highs and lows review, and there are many talking points over the course of 2023 in snooker to recall.
On Saturday, we’ll take a look at some of the best moments from the year gone by.
But today let’s remember some of the low talking points that have engulfed the game over the course of the last year.
There has never been a bigger scandal in the sport.
In 2023, ten players from China were banned for various offences related to match fixing.
Former English Open winner Liang Wenbo and fellow established tour member Li Hang were handed lifetime bans for their inexcusable roles at the forefront of the betting ring.
Former Masters champion Yan Bingtao and 2021 UK champion Zhao Xintong were other notable players who were implicated.
A relatively quick investigation and result meant that the damaging story wasn’t drawn out over too long of a period at least.
But it was the most pertinent reminder yet that snooker is as susceptible to rotten eggs as the next sport, and the war against match-fixing cheats persists.
Scoring and Schedules
Towards the end of last season, the World Snooker Tour was promising a brand new database for live scores, schedules, and stats.
It was supposed to be launched in time for the 2023/24 season, but there have been constant delays and we’re still waiting.
Filling the void is a temporary system that often breaks down, provides inaccurate information, or no updates at all.
Why an organisation in charge of a major sport would end its contract with one provider without being ready to go with another is anyone’s guess, but the ongoing fiasco is nothing short of a joke.
The growing spin is that the new database, when finally launched sometime in the new year, will be incredible.
I’ll believe that when I see it.
The Macau Five
In October, a huge news story broke concerning five players who were allegedly about to breach their players’ contract.
Why? Because they had agreed to take part in an unsanctioned invitation tournament in Macau during the same dates as the Northern Ireland Open.
World champion Luca Brecel, former Crucible kings Mark Selby and John Higgins, and former ranking event winners Ali Carter and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh were the culprits involved.
There were some rash comments on both sides, including from WST supremo Barry Hearn who claimed they could be fined or even banned.
All-out war was averted when the Macau promoters decided to postpone their event until December, but simmering tension remains.
There have been rumours of a player revolt and breakaway tours in China, although we’re quite a way off that happening yet.
Whether you side with WST or the players, this potentially explosive story is something to keep an eye on heading into 2024.
The Tour Championship
Billed as one of the most prestigious tournaments on the calendar, this year’s edition of the Tour Championship was unforgettable for the wrong reason.
Shaun Murphy produced a terrific display to capture the title for the first time, and with it the lucrative £150,000 champion’s cheque.
It’s just a shame there was hardly anyone in to see him do it.
The World Snooker Tour has a bad reputation at times, and it should be noted that there are of course some things that they do well.
Finding suitable venues and properly promoting tournaments might not be one of them, though, as was underlined by the diabolical crowd attendances at the Bonus Arena for the Tour Championship.
There is often the sense among outsiders that there isn’t a lot of thought put into choosing venues.
While that probably isn’t true – not entirely at least – it’s obvious that more effort is needed in this area.
The Thunder from Down and Out?
What a strange year it was for Neil Robertson.
For the first time since 2005, the Australian went through a calendar year without picking up any silverware.
While he insists that he is still relatively satisfied with his level of play, positive results have been increasingly hard to come by.
Robertson failed to qualify for the Players and Tour Championships towards the end of last season – events he had won in 2022.
Another Crucible appearance ended in disappointment as he was dumped out in the round of 16.
It has been even worse this season, with only one run to the last 32 of a ranking tournament to his name.
Robertson is still officially ranked at number seven in the world but will drop off dramatically in the early months of 2024.
In fact, his provisional end-of-season ranking is down at number 32 in the world.
The 2023 snooker review will continue on Saturday with a look at some of the best moments from the last year.
Featured photo credit: WST