Shaun Murphy
Main News, Ranking, World Championship

‘Are you still driving the ship or not?’ – Shaun Murphy asks former chairman

Not for the first time, Shaun Murphy has queried why Barry Hearn continues to be the face of the World Snooker Tour.

Hearn allegedly stepped down from his role as chairman of WST in 2021 and was replaced by Steve Dawson.

But while the latter has barely been seen or heard since his promotion, Hearn remains the key spokesperson on all matters related to the main tour.

On Wednesday, the 75 year-old was interviewed live on both the BBC and Eurosport on ongoing matters related to the World Championship and the pro circuit.

Last year, Murphy questioned the whereabouts of Dawson, and the Magician repeated his sentiments on the latest episode of his podcast with Phil Seymour.

“I mean, I thought Barry had taken a step back,” a bewildered Shaun Murphy mused on the OneFourSeven Podcast.

“Why was he here? I do find stuff like that weird. You know, we’ve had a complete personnel change at WST and Matchroom and all the rest of it.”

“Barry Hearn is supposed to have stepped backwards. Why does he keep getting rolled out as the figurehead and the mouthpiece?

“Where is Steve Dawson in all of this? Why isn’t Simon Brownell and Steve Dawson – the CEO and Chairman of WST, the decision makers for the tour – why aren’t they in the studio being quizzed by Hazel Irvine and the team?

“Why is it Barry Hearn? He’s supposed to have stepped down. Now, does Barry Hearn still make many decisions at World Snooker Holdings and Matchroom Multisport?

“How much…he is supposed to have stepped back! And I appreciate that everyone is like, ‘oh well, he couldn’t have stepped back totally.’

“Well don’t say it then! Now are you still driving the ship or not?”

One of the primary topics that Hearn was discussing on Wednesday was the contentious issue surrounding the Crucible Theatre’s future as the venue for the World Snooker Championship.

The renowned businessman and promoter, father of boxing magnate Eddie Hearn, challenged Sheffield City Council to fund a modern upgrade.

The Crucible, which has staged the World Championship since 1977, has a contract to remain as host until 2027, but beyond that its future is uncertain.

“I must admit, I’m not a commercially minded person really. I have a little interest in it, a bit here and there,” Shaun Murphy said.

“But I don’t think having this discussion publicly and Sheffield City Council being pressured publicly on every social forum and every news platform out there, Barry Hearn being wheeled out and saying these things, I’m not sure these are great negotiation tactics.”

“If I’m the leader of Sheffield City Council, I’m not enjoying the fact that this is now public information, and you’re to some degree public enemy number one.

“I’m not sure it’s helping, any of this. I don’t think it’s helping the negotiation point. I think it’s really strange how this is in the public domain at all.

“I don’t want it to leave the Crucible. I do (think it’ll leave) for one simple reason – it’s our biggest event in our smallest arena.

“Those two things don’t go together. It worked in 1977 and it worked until very recently, I think.

“I just think the world has changed very quickly, and a lot. And although a lot of us like to think of snooker’s boom period as pre-pandemic, it’s actually not the case.

“By any metric you want to use, snooker is doing the biggest and best it’s ever done right now.

“The only metric it’s down is participation here in the UK. The amounts of snooker clubs have closed.

“That was because of the smoking ban, nothing else. That was years ago. There used to be a club on every corner – they’re not there any more.

“It was the smoking ban that killed it. Nothing to do with snooker.

“So participation in snooker clubs in the UK is potentially down. The clubs that survived are busier than ever.

“You walk into some clubs I know in the morning, and there’s a waiting list to get a table.

“My old club in Northampton – Barratt’s Snooker Club where Kyren Wilson plays nowadays – have got the bones of 20 tables in there.

“There’s a queue, no pun intended. By lunch time, there’s a waiting list. Very healthy.

“By any metric you want to use, it is the best and healthiest it’s ever been.

“Snooker, globally, is the best its ever been. This tournament that we are here for this week is our flagship, flag-bearing tournament.

“This is it, our biggest event that we could sell out five, ten times over, and it’s in our smallest building.

“Those two things can no longer go together for much longer. Something is going to have to change.”

Shaun Murphy trails Stephen Maguire 5-3 in the second round of the 2024 World Snooker Championship after their first session concluded on Friday afternoon.

2024 World Snooker Championship Draw

Round 1 (bo19)

Luca Brecel (1) 9-10 David Gilbert
Robert Milkins (16) 10-9 Pang Junxu
Ali Carter (9) 7-10 Stephen Maguire
Shaun Murphy (8) 10-5 Lyu Haotian

Mark Selby (5) 6-10 Joe O’Connor
Kyren Wilson (12) 10-1 Dominic Dale
John Higgins (13) 10-6 Jamie Jones
Mark Allen (4) 10-6 Robbie Williams

Judd Trump (3) 10-5 Hossein Vafaei
Tom Ford (14) 10-6 Ricky Walden
Zhang Anda (11) 4-10 Jak Jones
Mark Williams (6) 9-10 Si Jiahui

Ding Junhui (7) 9-10 Jack Lisowski
Gary Wilson (10) 5-10 Stuart Bingham
Barry Hawkins (15) 8-10 Ryan Day
Ronnie O’Sullivan (2) 10-1 Jackson Page

Round 2 (bo25)

David Gilbert 13-4 Robert Milkins (16)
Stephen Maguire 13-9 Shaun Murphy (8)

Joe O’Connor 6-13 Kyren Wilson (12)
John Higgins (13) 13-12 Mark Allen (4)

Judd Trump (3) 13-7 Tom Ford (14)
Jak Jones 13-9 Si Jiahui

Jack Lisowski 11-13 Stuart Bingham
Ryan Day 7-13 Ronnie O’Sullivan (2)

Quarter-Finals (bo25)

David Gilbert 13-8 Stephen Maguire
Kyren Wilson (12) 13-8 John Higgins (13)

Judd Trump (3) 9-13 Jak Jones
Stuart Bingham 13-10 Ronnie O’Sullivan (2)

Semi-Finals (bo33)

David Gilbert 11-17 Kyren Wilson (12)
Jak Jones 17-12 Stuart Bingham

Final (bo35)

Kyren Wilson (12) 18-14 Jak Jones

Click here for the latest live scores and session times.

Featured photo credit: WST

One Comment

  1. Daniel White

    Shaun Murphy asking a pertinent but obvious question and making a pertinent and obvious observation on Barry Hearn and the Crucible respectively.
    I’d say that progression of professionals onto the main tour isn’t exactly a thriving metric at the moment, particularly in the UK. So many younger players make almost no inroads and the same top players remain obstinately and undeniably the top pros for year after year. Pro Snooker has an age profile back at the sort of ages I’d expect to see on old YouTube videos of 70’s and early 80’s matches which might suggest a long term problem with progression onto the pro tour: there were two bonanza generations of players who joined in the 90’s and 00’s based on Snookers 80’s BBC pomp when they grew up as teenagers and little kids respectively. Since then much less progression.

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