Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Legendary Northern Ireland snooker referee Len Ganley to retire

Len Ganley with snooker legends Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins (left) and Terry Griffiths

To armchair snooker fans his face would have been as recognisable as Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor.

But now Len Ganley is hanging up his white gloves for good.

Despite retiring as a snooker referee in 1999, the Lurgan man — who became a top television figure in the snooker boom of the 1980s and 1990s — has been busy running snooker academies and charity work. But now he has decided to take a well deserved break and step down.

The move comes one year after thugs beat him up and robbed his house of £180,000 worth of snooker memorabilia he had collected over 30 years in the game.

Now Len, approaching his 69th year, has said he can’t carry on after that brutal attack, which left him with a broken jaw and no teeth. He also suffers from chronic diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, and said standing for hours at a snooker table or golf tournament is just no longer feasible.

The ‘gentle giant’ said this will be his last year at the famous Crucible theatre in Sheffield, where the World Snooker Championships are taking place.

He said: “I’m retiring gracefully and this is my last World Championship. This will be my last year at the Crucible, but I’m making it worthwhile.

“I’ll be sitting in the players’ lounge, getting sets of snooker balls and other bits and pieces signed for auction at charity events.”

Famous for pestering people to part with £10 throughout the Snooker World Championship games, raising £22m in 42 years, he will be donating the money raised during his last charity drive to the Buddy Bear Trust.

Based in Dungannon, Co Tyrone, the Buddy Bear Trust helps people and families living with cerebral palsy and other motor disorders.

He said his charity work has been among his greatest achievements.

He added: “It’s all about what we can do for the children.”

Len’s top five moments

1 The 1983 UK Snooker Championship final between Alex Higgins and Steve Davis.

2 The 1985 Snooker World Championship final, when 18.5m people tuned in to watch Dennis Taylor beat Steve Davis with the last shot of the last frame.

3 The lights going out in the Queen Elizabeth stadium in Hong Kong.

4 When Stephen Hendry made the 147 in 1995 on Ganley’s birthday.

5 Being on the Great Wall of China and my mule sinking into the sand. I was 29 stone at the time. Or when Barry Hearn put a £50 bet that I wouldn’t jump between him and Steve Davis, from one boat to the other, we were about 50ft in the air and I just bounced off into the water.

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