An Introduction to Snooker
Historically speaking, snooker has always been considered ‘the gentleman’s game’ due to its roots. In its early days, the balls were made of ivory and twelve elephants had to be slaughtered to create just one full set, meaning very few families could afford access to the facilities. However, off the back of developments in the late 20th century, snooker is today flourishing, and an estimated 4 million adults of all backgrounds play the sport regularly. This reflection of its popularity is further boosted by an arguably even more devoted spectator set, with a remarkable 45% of the British population tuning in to see 15 minutes or more of the World Championship final in 2005 and well over 7 million people staying tuned from start to finish.
Such statistics are also indicative of how British-centred the sport of snooker remains. Indeed, just three men from outside the UK have won the World Snooker Championships; Horace Lindrum from Australia in 1952, Cliff Thorburn from Canada in 1980 and Ken Doherty from the Republic of Ireland in 1997. The pinnacle of snooker’s popularity in Britain was arguably the legendary final of the 1985 World Snooker Championship between Dennis Taylor and Steve Davis, when after an astonishing 14 hours and 50 minutes of play and 35 frames, 18.5 million people watched Taylor sink a sudden-death black for the victory. That was at one point a record audience for a British sporting event and remains a record post-midnight audience for a British broadcast.
However, the rise of the global circuit and expansion of television coverage has produced an influx of both fans and talent from outside Britain, particularly from the Far East and other Commonwealth countries. This was exemplified in 2005 when the Chinese player Ding Junhui won the UK Championship at just 18 years old. Ding’s rising profile has had an important knock-on effect in his home country and, when he swept to victory in the final of the 2005 China Open, World Snooker reported an incredible 110 million people watched on CCTV footage. Therefore, to get involved with snooker is to participate in a sport which is both remarkably British but spreading on a yearly basis.
This spread has ensured that snooker is now an extremely profitable enterprise for professionals. Whereas the first World Championship in 1927 saw the victor Joe Davis pick up £6.10s (equivalent to £200 today), the winner of the 2004 Championship received a cool £250,000 of the £1,378,920 prize money purse. The riches don’t stop there either, with career earnings entering the millions for a select few and Stephen Hendry topping the list with well over 8 million in career prize money as of 2007.
This guide will attempt to give you an insight into just how snooker has developed from its inception in the 19th century to the growing brand it is today. It will also extensively cover the rules and regulations, give you a sense of how the sport is organised at a competitive level and offer plenty of links and information on how to get involved, keep updated on all the developments and educate yourself on the sport every way imaginable. So, if you’re seeking a way into this ‘gentleman’s game’, please read on!